Going On Mission

When you go on a trip, how much do you pack? Do you pack everything you might possibly need? What if you are going to stay with relatives or friends? In my family we would pack everything we might possibly need. We said this was so as not to impose on the hospitality of others. What was really meant was, so as not to be dependent on others in any way.

On the other hand, after I had lived in the monastery for a while, when I started to travel, I learned very quickly not to expect the soap and shampoo in every shower stall, which I had found there in the monastery. Community involves a very high level of sharing and depending on others for their care, and that includes finding soap and shampoo in the shower. In fact, there can be no community without it, and building a community involves a lot of work on sharing and accepting dependence on others.

If you plan your life so as never to be dependent on others, you prevent sharing, you prevent being included with others. You refuse to trust others to help you, to trust that in community you will have your needs met and survive. You prevent being accepted and dependent, and by extension, being dependent on and accepted by God. You refuse trust in God to meet your needs and the trust that in God is our true survival.

This is the issue in Jesus' instructions to his followers as he sends them out on mission. He sends them out as lambs, not wolves. 'Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals.' Don't take massive provisions, and live with the people as they live. Draw your support from them and share their provisions. 'Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages.' Jesus' sends them out to form the community, the kingdom, of heaven, and they must act in ways that build community. If they are not welcomed in a place, they are to move on. But first they are to let them know what they have rejected, and do so dramatically, to wipe the dust from that town off their feet, as having no place in God's kingdom.

And if community is to succeed and prosper among us, our goal and focus must be on community and not on the useful results of community. If we only do it for results, for utility and not for itself, for power over other people or over our environment, in other words for ourselves and not for community, community will ultimately wither and die, leaving behind a bureaucracy.

So, when the seventy whom Jesus had sent out return, they report the miraculous results of their work. 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name.' And Jesus confirms this. 'I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning.' He gives them authority to do miracles and be invulnerable. But then he says, 'Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.'

Do not rejoice in results but in that which brings results. Rejoice that God has called you and that you have followed. Rejoice that God has loved you and taken you into the kingdom, that you have trusted God and now belong to the community of trust in God. Rejoice that God is now making this community manifest in your life and so drawing others into it through you. Rejoice that you have found where true joy and true security are to be found. Rejoice that you will now survive for all eternity in that eternal kingdom of heaven.