Community: A Place of Mission
[prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Holy One, for you are our shalom. Amen.]
Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out two by two …
He called his disciples to him; Jesus called his community to surround him – and he told them to journey light. You don’t need to pack for all possibilities – that extra tunic and bag, they only desensitize you to the realities you will find as you go. If you carry with you all you think you need, then community and connection cannot form among you. Trust in God and in the healing power of one another.
I’m sending you out to meet with others, to be with them. So, take only the basic essentials – good shoes and a staff to support your journey – and open your heart to see and to experience the hospitality offered to you along the way. Don’t go looking for better or richer places, as you’ve seen others do. Instead, wherever you find a welcome, wherever you are acknowledged and received – stay in that place.
Go to others in the same way we have lived – embodying a relationship of mutual connection. You have life and healing to offer. You have a message of grace and mercy, faithfulness and forgiveness to share.
Remember that the call to repentance is not about sack cloth and ashes. Repentance is a call to a new way of seeing the world and one another. You have learned and lived this way of being: justice, forgiveness, and reconciliation are where it begins. Now offer it to others – not just with your words, but through your actions as well. Show them God desires grace and mercy; anoint them with the oil of reconciliation and compassion; teach them to lay down their arms and to work for justice and peace through right-relationship with God and with one another.
Go, also, open to receiving from them. You don’t just have a message to share; you also have a gift to receive. In mutual connection, we give and receive freely from one another. So remember that you have a message of God to receive from them, not just one to give. Stay in the place you find yourself, build relationships to the people you find yourself with – open your ears to hear and your eyes to see; open your heart to know God is already in that place.
And if the people won’t receive you there, then leave them be – God’s message will be heard in its time. … Listen, and God’s Spirit will guide you where to go.
… and he sent them out.
Jesus’ whole message is of giving-life. He came to give life in abundance; to take away the blockages that prevent the flow of God’s abundance. And he calls his disciples to continue this mission of giving-life.
In Christian community, we understand that God’s love and grace flow through us for the world. We come together in community not solely for us, but also for the world. The Paradox is that it begins with us, but it is not ‘for us’. If we cannot be welcome, affirmation, inclusion, respect, and justice for one another, then we will not be able to do so for the world. … But it’s not about us; it is about the world.
Paradox … The deep truths of faith are found in paradox – the truths glimpsed in paradox are the ones we hold on to and seek to understand throughout the long journey. As we grasp parts of the truth and continue to live into it, more of it will reveal itself to us. … And the paradox of Community in Christ is that while it must begin with us, community is not about us – it is about God’s world. Jesus came that all might have abundant life. … not some, but all.
So, Jesus calls us to grow in relationship, to build community with all people. We are called to embrace curiosity and lean into wonder – because that is how we celebrate the diversity of humankind. Through the ministry of Jesus we hear God’s call to universal love, and the respect and love of difference. “You will meet many people, Jesus says, and not everyone will be welcoming. Leave that to God’s timing. Your task is to learn to love difference, to see it as the treasure it is.”
Community … Now, I would caution us to be sure we do not confuse the Community of Christ with an issue-oriented group. There are many groups of people – clubs, organizations, political parties; many forms and types of groups who come together around a cause: against nuclear armament, against racism, against this or for that. The danger in issue-oriented groups is that we make the one we are working against an outsider to the group. And when that happens, we grow into ‘us and them’ thinking. We begin to see those who don’t belong to our cause as ‘other.’ The world gets divided between ‘the good’ and ‘the bad’ – and we determine who is in which group. We, of course, are among the good; and the others are the bad.
Through community in Christ, we understand that there is no ‘us and them’ – there is only us. And we are called to take the log out of our own eye before we think of taking the speck of dust out of our neighbor’s. We are asked to live out justice and love, to be agents of peace within our own community first.
So Jesus sends the disciples out – in relationship to each other, to form relationship with others. And he cautions them to ‘travel light.’ Don’t take with you more than you truly need. … How does that work for you? When you pack for a trip, are you one who can fit everything into a carry-on bag? Or do you need to super-sized model?
A few years ago, when you blessed me with a 3-month sabbatical, I had the joy of traveling to many places around the Midwest. Each trip I took, I found myself packing less and less. I started with a car full – and my 4Runner can hold a lot! I packed not only the essentials, but I also took things I ‘might’ need ‘just in case.’ (Really?! I packed as if I was going to the wilderness, far from civilization and couldn’t replace something I truly needed!)
And yet, Jesus sends his followers out there in a state of utter vulnerability. “You don’t need that extra tunic or bag of food, Jesus says. Take just the basics – you will find everything you need along the way.” … I wonder sometimes just what all of my ‘stuff’ that I just ‘have to take with me’, what it gets in the way of me experiencing?
- As I turn my attention to my belongings, how am I less able to reach out with a gesture of kindness to another person?
- As I rely on my own careful planning for every eventuality, how am I less open to what God may have waiting for me?
- If I already have everything I need, how am I less able to receive the gifts of people I meet along the way?
And I wonder, as a community, what ‘stuff’ do we think we need to take with us? Is it a need for certainty? Concern about saying or doing the wrong thing, especially with someone different from us? Do we confuse our identity with the place we are or the ministry we do? A need to see clearly the path before us?
What should we ‘leave behind’ as we set out on our journey of sharing Jesus’ message of justice and reconciliation? … What are the essentials, the basics that support us on the way? … Perhaps we only need: Prayer. Hearts tuned to compassion. Minds that celebrate diversity through curiosity and joy. Eyes that see the face of Christ in each person we meet. … That is enough.
In this place we have met Christ and discovered his love not just for humanity, but for every person. We have a message to share: to give life, to heal, to liberate & to nurture people to grow in the freedom of Christ. And in living God’s message in the world, we will find it being returned to us in ways we cannot begin to imagine. Amen.