Sent out in pairs they go walking along a dusty road: no stick for security, no purse for carrying or collecting money, no sandals even to come between their feet and the hot earth. This image from Luke’s gospel really moves me. Luke is the only one with such an expansive commissioning. Sure, like Mark and Matthew he also describes Jesus’ commissioning of the twelve and sending them out to extend his ministry of ‘word and deed.’ But Luke being Luke, he gives a shout out to the women and others who were involved in supporting Jesus and his teachings; reminding the reader that like the seventy, we too are sent out into the world to prepare the way for Jesus’ love and healing.
But how does it really work to embrace this invitation to go ahead? Jesus is rather particular in explaining the role: it is one of intentional poverty. He goes on to say that you stay with one household, and eat whatever they give you. I also appreciate the mutuality and dependency of his instructions. You don’t go barging out into the world proclaiming your unique appreciation of Jesus and his wisdom and demanding that others fall in line. As disciples, or students, of Jesus we are totally dependent on being received and fed by others even as we do our best to share a word of peace.
Naked but with a word of peace on our lips: that is a beautiful descriptor for the journey of faith. This ‘peace’ on our lips is more than just a word, more even than a blessing. It is an embodiment of God’s shalom – the unfolding mystery of the reign of God. Those who accept the invitation to prepare the way for Jesus first travel down the social latter. Don’t sign up because you want to be ‘in the know,’ want to have some of Jesus’ superstar status rub off on you, or to be associated with an elite club of like-minded believers.
For here Jesus says clearly, the insiders are the outsiders. The ones on the Jesus Way make a conscious decision to forgo the world’s status symbols and to willingly travel in a posture of humility and dependence.
In one week we go to New Orleans to work with children in the lower 9th ward. I find myself considering them in little moments throughout my days: these kiddos I have never met. What are their stories? What has life looked like through their lenses? Where were they when the waters were rising after the levies broke? Who grabbed them and lifted them up? Who loves them fiercely and who do they love?
We will only get a few days with them but in that time we are putting on a one act play with some collaborators from Grace Church in Alexandria. The play is about Moses leading the Israelites through the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army in hot pursuit. There are going to be lots of good old-school, kid-crafted costume and set designs: think Egyptian’s wearing cuffs and collars made of construction paper covered in tin foil, the Israelites with red prayer shawls and kerchiefs in their heads and all their belongings in brown paper bags, and then the ‘sea’ people with big blue fabric for making waves and hand-held sea plants and creatures. Members of Trinity River Folk, our home-grown band will be providing music. Chloe, our fearless thirteen year-old trip leader, will be coaching the kids in good projection and other theater tips. Perl will be running around like only an almost two-year old can. And the rest of us will be doing whatever we need to do to help channel the energy of forty plus elementary-age children as we prepare for the big day: performing in the Sunday morning Eucharist service at our host church, All Soul’s Episcopal Parish and Community Center.
I ask for your prayers and I rest in the comfort of knowing that there are many who support us from afar. Pray that we can travel with the peace of Christ on our lips. Pray that we will eat what is before us. Pray that we might learn something useful to God and to ourselves and our community through an experience, however brief, of ‘intentional poverty’ as we sleep on floors and foam-mattress bunk beds. Pray that we listen deeply to the children, laugh often, and take our sandals off to feel the dusty road beneath our feet and to know that we walk on holy ground.
Peace to you this day,
PS We are still accepting financial contributions for our trip. Anything we collect above basic expenses we will donate directly to the All Souls Episcopal Church and Community Center along with a cello and viola we are giving to their music program. Checks can be made out to Church in the Cliff with ‘New Orleans Mission Trip’ in memo line and given to Lisa or mailed to PO Box 5072 Dallas TX 75208.