Travelling light

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When our younger son Sam was smaller, we noticed how when he went on any journey with us, he would always pack his bag with many things in case he got bored or hungry: headphones and a player, his Gameboy and several games, comics and books, a pack of cards in case he could anyone else to play, various snacks, a drink, maybe his favourite soft toy – he was very prepared.

Are you a light packer if you’re travelling? Or do you prepare for every eventuality? The instructions Jesus gives the disciples are certainly at one end of the scale…

Jesus called the twelve disciples together and sent them out two by two. He gave them authority over the evil spirits and ordered them, “Don’t take anything with you on the trip except a walking stick—no bread, no beggar’s bag, no money in your pockets. Wear sandals, but don’t carry an extra shirt.” He also told them, “Wherever you are welcomed, stay in the same house until you leave that place. If you come to a town where people do not welcome you or will not listen to you, leave it and shake the dust off your feet. That will be a warning to them!”

So they went out and preached that people should turn away from their sins. They drove out many demons, and rubbed olive oil on many sick people and healed them.

 No food, no money, no bag, not even a spare shirt! When they arrived at the place they were visiting they would have to ask for hospitality – and if they were offered it they shouldn’t try to find anywhere better, but accept the welcome. They were to make themselves totally dependent and vulnerable.

I don’t suppose that came easily to confident, independent minded fishermen. And I suspect that’s not what we would like either. In life as a whole, we want to have control over the things we need. That’s why every household has to have its own equipment – even for things we only do very rarely. And we like to have control over the information we need – Trip advisor, product reviews – then we don’t need to rely on what other people say.

It’s not always easy to admit our deeper needs to each other either. ‘I can do this’ is somehow more acceptable than ‘I can’t do this on my own’. We like to be independent, not interdependent. My mum is having to learn to rely much more on other people for help and she doesn’t find it easy. I wonder if I will be the same at her age.

It seems like the instructions Jesus gave had a positive outcome. Making ourselves vulnerable is a very good way of building bridges with people – they may then be more willing to listen to us. But I’m sure that the deeper reason for his direction was to make sure that the disciples remembered that in what they were to do they had to stay fully dependent on God. If they wanted to be open to his guidance and his gifts, it would help to have empty hands.

Jo and I were at a meeting the other night planning a service with a group, and I came armed with many books and resources – which we didn’t use at all. It’s not always easy to rely only on the Holy Spirit!

If we’re focussed on making sure that we have what we think we need then it’s harder for us to have real openness of heart. And what we think we need isn’t necessarily what we do need.

I love these words from Mother Julian, speaking from her anchorite’s cell in the 14th century:

God of your goodness, give me yourself, for you are enough for me. There is nothing less I can ask that is worthy of you, and if I ask for anything less I shall always be lacking, for only in you I have all.

I often use part of that phrase in my prayers, which you might like to do now…

God of your goodness, give me yourself for only in you I have all.    

Spend a moment reflecting on any area of your life where you are determined to make sure that you have all that you think you need…

God of your goodness, give me yourself for only in you I have all.    

Is there some way in which you sense a call to step out in faith at the moment? What might make that a challenge?

God of your goodness, give me yourself for only in you I have all.    

What might it mean for God to give us himself? Can we be fully open to that gift?

God of your goodness, give me yourself for only in you I have all.    

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