The General Convention of the Episcopal Church is ready to open in Philadelphia. Thousands of people will be traveling, taking with them thousands of pieces of luggage. If delegates, they will be there just short of two weeks. How much would you take if it were you? How many changes of clothes? For what occasions? How much money would you take? What are the limits on your credit cards in case you get some extra time, and find that certain thing that would be perfect in your home, or as a gift for someone you love? Or will you take traveler's checks? What is worse than feeling like you might be caught short - in money or clothes? After all, are we not supposed to be good scouts and always be prepared?
Of course, there are also the millions of people traveling this summer; going to their holiday cottages or touring different parts of the nation and world. Those people, too, are making decisions about what they will need for their journeys. How much money will be needed and in what form? How many clothes to bring? What else will they need?
How appropriate then, in the midst of all this, to read the gospel from Mark today. "Jesus called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He charged 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 put on two tunics." Mark does not tell us of any discussion that followed Jesus' order, but considering the cast of people he was dealing with, can we not assume that at least Judas raised questions about going out without any money? Could we not also assume that someone asked about the wisdom of being dependent upon strangers? Might one of the disciples, seeing the possibilities before him, suggest that in lieu of taking money or clothes, the disciples offer anointing and healing in exchange for a gift of lodging or food?
How appropriate, too, that we read the story of Amos, the reluctant prophet, who preached the message of God to the house of Israel. He was a dresser of sycamore trees, and was happy to be sent away following the delivery of his message. He took with him only his faith in the God who sent him, and then willingly returned to his homeland.
What did the world see when it saw Amos? What did the world see when it saw Peter or Andrew or James or John or the other disciples? What does the world see when its looks upon us?
How appropriate that we read these lessons today, and be challenged by them. In this time of taking trips and going on vacation, what do we take with us? Where is our security when we travel? In this time following the fourth of July, where is our freedom? In a time of microwave cooking, fast-food restaurants, and easy availability of food, where is our next meal to come from?
The disciples were challenged to enter into a n exodus experience by Jesus. Go into the wilderness, apart from the security of this community, and be the people of God and his kingdom. Learn not only to teach the word, but become the word to the people. Let them see by how you live that what you say is true. Let them know that your relationship with God allows you to trust that you will be fed, that you will be protected, that you will be given life.
The disciples were also challenged to see God's kingdom in others, and help them see that kingdom in themselves. Go into people's communities and into people's homes, allow them to care for you, to feed you; allow them to show you hospitality. In so doing, the disciples should expect to see in others the image of God. If they don't go on. It will be for another time, another person to help them see that within themselves.
Finally, the disciples were challenged to find freedom in becoming servants to God and his creation, including people who did not know him. Freedom in becoming servants not to money or clothes, or the possessions of this world, but servants to a God of love. Being a servant of God's love brings life and not oppression; free to act outside the constraints of security in the world, for the building up of our relationship to God and each other.
Our journey through this life requires us to choose what we take with us. When we were baptized, we entered into a relationship with God. A relationship that allows us to call him "Father' and ask for daily bread. Our journey through this life is our own exodus experience, one which can teach us in the same way the disciples were taught.
May our trips and vacations model the journey we are called to experience in Christ. May we know the joy that comes through building relationships with fellow travelers and with those we meet. That kind of joy is not dependent upon how much money is spent, or on where it is spent.
May we know the joy of surprise in our travels. By not taking extras along with them, the disciples were vulnerable to the unexpected. But it also meant they discovered the fruit of a relationship with God, one which would allow them to be cared for in ways they would never have imagined if they had carried the money, the bag, the tunics, and the rest. Trusting in God means being able to meet the unknown with a sense of wonder, but also preparedness. It means depending not only upon yourself, but upon God working in and with you.
May we be open to the presence of Christ in strangers when we travel. The disciples needed to depend upon others in their journeys. They would not have the money to pay for services, to pay others to care for them. They would instead have to ask for help, to help people see in themselves the call to be open and hospitable. May we in our travels learn not to rely upon money to entice people to care for us or for us to care for them, but rather see Christ in one another, offering our lives in love.
Finally in our travels may we discover the true meaning of freedom. Not freedom to do whatever we want, but rather the freedom that comes by becoming servants to the God of love. Freedom not as a result of how much we have or don't have, or the ability to separate ourselves from the world, but freedom to care for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ as we give up the limitations of asking how much money it will cost, what will it look like, or how much time will it take?
And if we are the ones who stay home and receive those who travel, whether here at church on a Sunday morning or in the grocery store, or wherever, may we be Christ to them. May we show them hospitality and offer the experience of being cared for as a brother or sister in Christ.
The journey Christ sends us on will take us to many places, and we will meet many people. May we go as his followers, and be prepared by his faith in us to send us, and our faith in him to be with us. Finally, may we return, rejoicing in the love we have known, the surprises we have experienced, and the hope we have seen born. May we go in faith and return in joy. Amen