Jesus said to the seventy,
"3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.
4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say,
“Peace to this house!” 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person;
but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide,
for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.
8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you;
9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Luke 10:3-9)
If you were to go hiking outside of the village you should stop by the village Hike Haus. At the Hike Haus you could talk to Thomas who would tell you to hike with at least one buddy, to take plenty of water, remember a first aid kit, dress in layers, and remember “cotton kills!”. You would be encouraged to pack a sack lunch, bring a few snacks, perhaps wear a bear bell to warn wildlife of your passing through and lastly, you would be asked to sign out at the Hike Haus – telling the entire village where you are going and when you expect to return. If you are late our first response team will be ready to come to your aid on the trail. Because when you go hiking, it becomes the priority of us all to make sure you have safe return.
Now, based on our gospel reading for tonight if Jesus were staffing the Hike Haus, the speech would sound a bit different. Jesus would tell you to go out with a buddy, but you are to bring nothing – no pack, no extra food or sandals, don't wear a bear bell – although Jesus acknowledges that you are being sent out as a sheep among wolves, and don't talk to your fellow hikers. When you arrive at camp you should cozy up to the first person who is willing to be peaceful to you (the under-prepared hiker) and eat and drink whatever they offer you.
Given these two options, you better believe that before my next hike...I'm checking in with Thomas.
I realize that does not sound like a very faith-filled thing to confess, but it is my nature. My nature is to be prepared, to be able to handle whatever may be coming down the hiking trail. My pride is mighty in my decision making and I prefer to be completely self-sufficient, I do not wish to have to rely on another human being, or worse – be indebt to them! I will be the responsible one who can make my way up and down the mountain without any help...thankyouverymuch.
Check the pride at the door, because that is not how Jesus is sending his seventy disciples down the trail. The Savior, who just bade these people to follow him is now sending them forward to do work of healing and sharing love – this means making themselves available, vulnerable and packing light for a life that is tied up in others and dependent on the life we all share.
The pattern should be quite familiar to those of us living and serving here at Holden Village – go off to a village, find a place that will receive you in peace, do your share of work, eat and drink what is put in front of you, heal the sick and proclaim God's Kingdom. Saying that all in Holden Village terms –
You may, or may not have come up to the village with a buddy, and hopefully to didn't bring too much stuff – because everything you need is provided for you here. Whether you arrived this afternoon or years ago, I hope you were received in peace, you have been (or will be) given a job to do, you will have a bounty of food and drink before you, in your living in community you will have the power to bring healing to those around you and by being agents of love and grace you will proclaim the kingdom of God.
And you will need your neighbor, and your neighbor will need you. You will need someone to hear your story, and you need to be still and hear another human's story. You will need the kitchen staff, the safety officers, the managers, the ops crew, team housekeeping, programming, pastors, baristas, IT, the business office and every single other villager here... and they will need you.
And that constant interplay is naturally created here in the village, where currency is a rarity and we all come up here ready to serve and no one is walking away with much of a paycheck, or maybe nothing of a paycheck at all. We all live and miraculously thrive on the common effort and generosity of each other.
Of course, when we are secure and cared for and joy is in our hearts – hospitality flows forward naturally with the systems of shared village life supporting us. But hospitality is stifled in those times of feeling threatened, alone, or when grief weighs us down or fear paralyzes us that hospitality and a life of dependency is much harder to trust and believe in.
The sending of the seventy disciples is an introduction to the Christian notion of hospitality — except in the church today hospitality is usually thought of as bad coffee and doughnuts, these followers of Jesus were relying on hospitality that would either sustain their lives or end it.
The way Jesus is sending out the disciples is in the way of total dependence, they have no other supplies and so they are at the mercy of the homes they will encounter and the cities that will either receive them in peace or reject them all together. Given the hostile tensions of this time for those who were following the subversive Jesus, this charge to go out as helpless and under-prepared preachers and healers was dangerous, demanding and required full dependence on strangers they would meet along the way.
The disciples took Jesus' advice and hit the trail...could we be so daring? Or have we made ourselves too capable and seemingly independent?
During my first year of seminary I enrolled in a cross cultural class that would mean spending two weeks in Mexio City. During this trip we spent time in communities and agencies that were, in every imaginable sense of the word – oppressed. Towards the end of trip we traveled to a neighborhood outside of Mexico City called La Estation – a neighborhood that spanned for miles across a mountain side. In the neighborhood the most stable houses were made of metal walls and had concrete for a floor, the most vulnerable homesteads were simply marked off with rope. We were split into a couple of groups to go visit with families and my group was invited into the home of Brenda and her family. We followed our hostess down a small hallway of chicken wire, ducking our heads under the roof of barbed wire and boxes and sat in a very humble dwelling. The small shelter had a concrete floor and walls and the two rooms were separated by a hanging blanket – it was the home for Brenda, her husband and their seven children. As we settled into plastic lawn chairs in the living room, Brenda's daughter passed around a roll of Ritz Crackers and poured everyone a cup of Coca-cola.
It was absurd, uncomfortable and unnecessary that this family would give up any of their food or drink and put it before us – strangers, privileged disciples who would leave that neighborhood and go back to the school we were staying at and feast at a banquet. As the roll of crackers came closer and closer I began to feel nauseous, knowing I couldn't pass on the unbelievable hospitality...but I didn't want to take any of their provisions – so I took two crackers and nibbled on them so they would last the entirety of our visit.
It was the kind of receiving and giving that can level even the most proud and self-sufficient individual. It was in the breaking down of my independence that I was being broken open, not just to poverty and injustice --- although certainly my awareness and outrage was tapped...but suddenly, as though scales had dropped from my eyes, I became open to the humanity I had seen all throughout La Estation and inside Brenda's home. In the giving, in the receiving no one was too capable and no one was independent of the other. I saw Christ in Brenda's eyes, in her generosity, in her undying love and fear for her children. I witnessed a Savior who is enough for us.
And this being broken open happens when we are available and vulnerable and hospitipal to one another, an engagement that happens somewhat naturally in the village…the challenge, the real walls of pride and ego and self-sufficient that we pray will be taken down happen in our relationships, our churches, our cities, our homes…these are the places Christ is sending us as empty, unprepared hikers relying on the strength of God and the grace of one another.
Tonight we will come to the table, with nothing to offer, no gear to protect us, no extra rations, no bear bells. Because at this table there is one host, our gracious God who pours love and life so extravagantly upon us that there is always, always enough for those who gather.
We come empty and leave filled with all we will ever need to be a faithful disciple, loving neighbor and cherished child of God.
We come to the table tonight with a community of saints and sinners and people starved of love and people aching for healing, we come as disciples of Christ who are sent out to be that healing and proclaiming power for those around us.
We come to the table to experience a hospitality that moves beyond our clenched fists, pride and ego and demonstrates the life of sacrifice, humility and mercy.
May we leave this table, this place, this village available, vulnerable and packing light for a life that is tied up in others and dependent only on the love of God in Christ Jesus. Amen.