This morning, we pick back up in our journey with Jesus through the Gospel of Luke. By way of re-cap: In Advent, we started at the beginning of the gospel, and looked forward – as Mary sang hope for what God is doing in the world – “The powers are coming down; those held down low, lifted up.” Then, through Lent, Holy Week, and Easter, we moved with Jesus toward the cross and experienced, together, Resurrection – God birthing a New Creation – life stronger even than death – the reign of God – the Spirit of the Risen Christ – alive in us.
With that Resurrection Spirit pulsing within us, this morning’s scripture takes us back to the journey with Jesus along those dusty roads – as Jesus teaches, and welcomes, and heals, and encourages, and challenges, and confronts, and nourishes – traveling the way through and to life. We will weave in and out of that journey over the course of the summer.
Remember, from the beginning, Jesus says plainly what the journey is all about: “I’ve come to preach good news to the poor; recovery of sight to the blinded; release to the prisoner; freedom for all who are oppressed; and the forgiveness of every debt.” Jesus announces the good news – and then lives it out – step by step, along the way. He heals; he teaches; he welcomes folks at table. Jesus gathers 12 disciples, and sends them out to share in the work. And even more people gather around his life-giving message – the women who are funding and supporting his ministry – and the multitude he teaches, heals, and feeds – it becomes a movement.
And in this morning’s scripture, Jesus sends out 70 more – 70 more people to bring this life-giving good news even more broadly and more expansively. We join Jesus on this journey as he sends these 70 out on a journey of their own – with Good News for a hard and challenging world. We get to listen in – as Jesus gives them some advice – some wisdom – on the road to life.
First, Jesus tells them, “Pray.” I’m sending you out with a message that is life – but I’m sending you into a world that may not be eager to hear it. Pray that God will equip and send those who are needed, equip you with all you need.
And then, Go. Get up and go into the world that needs you.
Travel light. This is the tough one. Jesus says, “Oh yeah, and for this journey – don’t take a bag, don’t take a purse, don’t take extra shoes. Travel light.” Implicit in that is the promise that what they need for the journey will be provided along the way – but that’s some trust.
And related to that: Focus. Don’t weigh yourself down with more than you need or with distractions. Focus on the task. Don’t even talk to anyone on the way to your destination. Did you notice that? That sounds strange for those sent on a mission to bring good news – don’t talk to folks along the way – but they’re to go to that house where they are welcomed – to stay and live the good news there in community. Jesus sends them with what someone has called “singleness of purpose” – don’t weigh yourself down with stuff, don’t get distracted.
And then Jesus gets to the heart of the matter. Bring peace wherever you go. The first thing you do when you arrive on the doorstep: Bring peace. And if that peace is received, great. If not, carry it on to the next house.
And where you bring and find and share peace: Share the Good News. This is what it is all about. The kingdom of God has come near to you. This new creation that God is bringing into the world – this turning the world rightside up – it’s here – right here, right now, all around you. Bring that good news. Let’s live that good news, now.
Embody it: With whomever you encounter, transcend the barriers the world puts in your way. Now this may not be as obvious to us in Jesus’ instructions, but it would have been to those who heard them first. It’s in Jesus’s insistence that they eat whatever is put before them. Jesus tells them to go out, to bring peace and good news until they find a place, a home that will receive it – and there wherever they are – whoever that may be – stay there – eat there. Keep in mind – they come from a tradition that puts high value in maintain dietary rules. You don’t eat just anything. You don’t eat with just anyone. Put that aside – there is no us and them, no out or in, no clean or unclean. When someone pulls out a chair at their table – take a seat – and eat what is set before you – wherever, whatever, whoever. Receive the hospitality that opens up to you.
And then heal the hurt you find. Tend to the needs that come your way. Engage the lives of the people you meet.
And if folks reject you along the way, shake the dust off your feet – all the extra baggage, all the mess you experience along the way. Don’t let that rejection hold you back. Shake off the dust, and keep moving. Keep moving into grace.
“Pray.” Go. Travel light. Focus. Bring peace wherever you go. Share the Good News. Transcend barriers. Receive the hospitality that opens up to you. Heal the hurt you find. Shake off the dust. Keep moving into grace.
That sounds like pretty solid advice for the journey – for them then – and it’s not too hard to imagine what that might look like today – particularly the admonition to travel light – particularly in this season of summer travel. This window has opened up in pandemic, where for the first time in a long time, folks are setting out to travel. We are remembering what it’s like – to pack our bags and set out. It’s not too hard to remember what it’s like to pack too much.
I’m just back from some travel – and we know those folks – I’m sure not us – who load up a big suitcase, and then maybe another for a long weekend away. Those large suitcases have rolling wheels now, and we watch as they maneuver those bags through airports. Awkwardly balancing them up and down escalators – banging into people and posts. It’s even harder in places where cobblestones are involved – where there’s nowhere to hide from the rumble those suitcases make.[RUMBLE] I know the best I can say is that my smaller bag doesn’t make quite that much noise. [SOFTER RUMBLE].
We remember what it’s like to watch someone who has tried to save the ridiculous and unjust baggage fee by stuffing everything into a carry-on – to watch them struggle to jam that carry on into the overhead bin where it won’t quite fit. Again, I’m sure that’s not us.
I’m remembering a friend’s dad who had the hard and fast rule for them growing up: “You pack it, you carry it.”
“Travel light “– we can understand how that could be good advice.
We’re talking this summer about Living an Imperfect Life Well. Part of the reality of that imperfect life is that it’s pretty certain that we will always be carrying around a bit too much baggage. For some of us – maybe many of us – it may be actual stuff. We live in a capitalist/ consumerist culture bent on acquisition – for those who benefit from those systems, always the propensity to acquire more than we could ever need.
And there’s other less-literal – but just-as-real – baggage. We may be carrying around worry – worry for this world, worry for our families, worry for so much that feels beyond our control. We may be carrying around a past that just won’t let us go. Regret. Or maybe, we’re weighed down by perfectionism – that unrealistic expectation that we can do everything, all the time, and do it perfectly (the opposite of Grace Abounds). Or maybe its envy. Or self-image, and that all-too-easy temptation to compare ourselves to others. Or stress. Or an obsession with all the screens in our life – our phones. Or a to-do list with a month’s worth of work that needs to be done by next week. All of us have some baggage that weighs us down – that keeps us from tending to the places that matter most. There’s this great line from the musical Rent – I’m not looking for someone without baggage. “I’m looking for someone whose baggage goes with mine.”
Jesus stands before the 70 – sending them out into a challenging world – carrying peace and good news and liberation and love – and he says, “Travel light.” It’s helpful advice – and there’s some real substance there. Look at what Jesus does.
Jesus puts at the center of things – the heart of their journey – what really matters. At the heart of all that Jesus describes, there are these moments – where the traveler is welcomed in – the table is set. A place where people gather, peace is exchanged, good news shared, the weary and hungry fed, the hurting healed – a place where barriers crumble. These are moments where the Good News comes to life – and we see it – the New Creation embodied and alive.
At the heart of all that Jesus describes there is this place to which the traveler can return again and again. This journey is grounded and sustained in community – community that embodies relationships of mutuality and interdependence and healing and life. The 70 set out on that journey and then return, the scripture says, filled with joy – having experienced the healing power of Jesus, in their hands – the love of Jesus at a table with no barrier – in rooms filled with peace.
Jesus puts at the center of things what really matters; everything else is distraction. Travel light. Let go of the baggage that holds you back. Focus on what gives life. Bring peace. Transcend barriers. Receive the hospitality that opens up to you. Heal the hurt you find. Shake off the dust. Keep moving into grace – and then and only then can you – can we – move through the world nourished and free. This is the good news at the heart of it all: The kingdom of God has come near to you. In you. All around you.
The Christian tradition has an ancient practice that embodies a practice of travelling light – of letting go. Fasting. Now don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest a grand fast from food. At its core, the practice of fasting is the practice of giving something up for a time. We choose something to let go of – and we set it aside for a time. For a time, we choose less of things that don’t ultimately matter, so that we can experience more of the things that do. Kate Bowler describes it like this: “We loosen our attachment to what weighs us down.” Dietrich Bonhoffer says, “In our giving up, we experience freedom.”
We are always looking for a spirituality we can use, so here’s the invitation for this week – a practice for travelling light:
1. In the next day or so, think about – and put in your words – what matters most.
2. Then, sit for a while and bring to mind something – or some things – that feel like they are weighing you down. What’s your baggage? What do you need to let go?
3. And then decide on a fixed time – maybe it’s one day – maybe two – maybe it’s every morning until lunch – a set time to let go of what is holding you back. And then let go of that. For a time. Live into that. Travel light.
4. And then, when the set time is complete, take some time to reflect on your experience. What do you notice? What difference do you feel?
At the heart of this journey, Jesus sets before the 70 – and us – what really matters. Everything else is distraction.
“Pray.” Go. Travel light. Focus. Bring peace wherever you go. Share the Good News of love and life. Transcend barriers. Receive the hospitality that opens up to you. Heal the hurt you find. Shake off the dust. Keep moving into grace.
Do this again and again. Travel light, and keep moving. There is, after all, a whole world to love.
© 2022 Scott Clark
 For general background on this text, see R. Alan Culpepper, “The Gospel of Luke,” New Interpreters’ Bible Commentary, vol. ix (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995); Justo L. González, Luke (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010); Mitzi Smith and Yung Suk Kim, “Gospel of Luke,” Toward Decentering the New Testament: A Reintroduction (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2018).  Culpeper, p. 220.  This list draws its inspiration from Culpeper’s list of ten principles that Jesus lays out for a “new models of mission.” Culpeper, p.222. My list is a bit different, and runs to eleven.  Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie, A Good Enough Life: 40ish Devotions for a Life of Imperfection (New York: Convergent Press, 2022), p. 149.  Id. at 145-46.  Id.  This practice is adapted from Bowler & Richie, p.149.
Photo credit: Mantag Hestav, used with permission via Unsplash.