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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Today’s Reading | Luke 9:1–17

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere. Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he tried to see him.

On their return the apostles told Jesus all they had done. He took them with him and withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. When the crowds found out about it, they followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured. The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” They did so and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. (NRSV)

First of all, there is the commission: Proclaim the kingdom of God, and heal. Pretty simple. That’s the thing about what Christ tells us to do: It’s not complicated. It’s not elaborate. “This is the good news.” “How can I help?” Jesus was pretty direct when he wanted to be, and when he told people what he wanted them to do, he was very clear.

Then there is the instruction: Travel light. Don’t worry about possessions. Keep your mind on the mission. It’s easy to wonder why Jesus would send them on this mission without supplies, but it’s a purposeful thing. If you need to ask everyone you meet for the necessities of life, you have to cultivate a certain humility. The “you are evil sinners, and by the way, can you give me a sandwich” approach is not likely to be the most successful way to sustain a ministry about the kingdom of God. Jesus wants the disciples to remember that they need the people they meet.

Then there is the curveball: If you aren’t welcomed, shake the dust off your feet when you leave. It sounds like putting a curse on someone, doesn’t it? “Shake the dust off your feet, then the flying monkeys will come and destroy them.” Sounds a little vengeful. But there’s a difference between a curse and testimony. Testimony is simple; it’s not aggressive. It’s just a statement of fact: “They gave us nothing.” And this advice also carries something very healthful—the reminder not to carry someone’s ill treatment along with you. When you step in something, the first order of business is to scrape it off your shoes.

Proclaim the kingdom of God, and heal. Travel light. Shake it off. Simple instructions for a complex world. Remarkable how effective they are.

Lord, help me to remember that when the path seems hard, it’s not because it’s complicated; it’s because it’s simple. Remind me to shake off the slights of the past and look to what is to come. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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