Saturday, June 30, 2012

Traveling Light

“Jesus ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics." (Mark 6:8-9)
I’m what you might call a ‘defensive packer.’
I pack for ‘what ifs' --- hoping to be prepared
for any eventuality in terms of weather or occasion.
One or even two pair of shoes might not be the right ones
so at the last minute I can be found sliding in just one more pair.
For that matter, if my journey is by car, I’m not yet always willing to rely on my GPS unit alone.  As often as not I’m printing out a map to my destination as well.
I was among the early buyers of what we then called ‘car phones.’  You may remember them --- they came in a bag and were as large and heavy as a brick. I bought it not because I wanted to stay in touch with family and friends. Rather, the story of a young woman disappearing on the highway just up the road frightened me enough I thought I should have one ‘just in case.’
I’m what you might call a ‘defensive packer.’ So you can probably imagine how I felt some years ago now when I needed to travel several hours away to a meeting.  I'd gotten up early, taken a walk, paid some bills, and gathered the papers I would need for the lunch meeting on my calendar.  I headed out of town with plenty of time to spare, arriving at the restaurant ahead of the others.  I stepped to the counter and ordered my meal.  I reached into my purse for my wallet and discovered it was not in its usual place.   I checked and double-checked all the pockets and sure enough I was not mistaken.  Finally, I looked at the young woman behind the counter and apologized, explaining I seemed to have left my wallet at home.  I took a seat in a nearby booth to wait for my lunch companions. When they arrived they graciously picked up the tab for lunch that day.  I called a colleague who insisted I stop by and she gave me $10 for the road.  When I finally arrived home I found myself ever so grateful as I thought about all that could have happened but did not in that day's journey: things like a flat tire, or being stopped by the police --- circumstances in which one's wallet would certainly have come in handy.

'Traveling light' as Jesus calls his disciples to do today certainly makes no sense, does it?  Especially since it wasn't just an ordinary lunch meeting they were headed out for.  Indeed, especially not given the potential danger Jesus was asking them to walk into.  For, in fact, we've already heard that those who had heard Jesus in the synagogue were more than skeptical about his origins and that in spite of his ability to heal, believing was beyond their grasp.  And yet, Jesus sends his followers out there in a state of utter vulnerability.
Now it is true, of course, that you and I live in a much different time than did Jesus and his disciples.  It is true that perhaps ‘hospitality to the stranger’ played a larger role in that place and time, so it was more likely that their needs would have been met regardless of what they hadn't packed for themselves.  It is also true that Jesus' first disciples didn’t own nearly as much as I do that I like to carry with me wherever I go. 

Even so, Jesus’ words always get me thinking and for that reason I know they still speak.  Indeed, I wonder sometimes just what all of my ‘luggage’ or my 'baggage' gets in the way of me experiencing:
  • As I turn my attention to guard my belongings, how am I less able to reach out with a gesture of kindness to another? 
  • 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 those I meet along the way?
So perhaps Jesus' sending the disciples out 'traveling light' makes perfect sense after all.  Maybe this is especially true when we are sent with the Good News as the disciples were --- so that both those who are sent and those who are receiving would more fully be able to receive the gifts of God.
  1. Why do you think Jesus has the disciples 'travel light?
  2. What was absolutely essential for the disciples' journey?
  3. What should we 'leave behind' as we are sent on our journeys of sharing the Good News?
  4. What is essential for us as we are sent with the Good News of Jesus?  For us as individuals?  For our congregations?


  1. Thank you - I hadn't thought about what baggage might keep us from truly experiencing God's gifts on our faith journeys. As an over-packer, I can relate to the struggle to leave non-essentials behind.

  2. Such a timely and relative blog as we encounter our summer travels. You gave me much to think about and ponder. I too tend to pack defensively and wonder what experiences I am missing out that God may have planned for me. It still comes back to me falling into this false sense of control. I clearly fool myself into thinking I can control or minimize problems if I plan appropriately. How silly I am when I forget to trust Him, pack lightly and be open to his plan. Perhaps this is something I can work on every day of my faith journey as I "travel" out my door and into my community. I will pack lightly with plans, details and organizing so I can experience what God has ready for me to experience.

  3. I have a GPS and print out maps. I had a bag phone. I pack more than I need. Always. I have another Culver's related story to tell you, which this post brought to mind.