Freedom and community

Today’s gospel readings are about the instructions that Jesus gives to his disciples for their ministries. For me, the advice is about how to have a sense of both interior freedom and connection to community. They are to go out in pairs not alone, because we need others with whom to engage in ministry–the mutual support of others as we undertake work for the greater good. They enter into people’s homes and lives as guests and there is a kind of temporary community there, too.

There’s also an emphasis on a kind of lightness with which to hold those relationships. Some people will reject us and others will be hospitable. Jesus tells us to shake the dust off our sandals. That image is probably familiar to many of us, especially in summer when we might literally put on our sandals and shake them out first before walking out the door. When hospitality is lacking or there is rejection, we can shake out the dust and with it the kinds of emotions that can accompany not being welcome and move on. When others accompany us as we move forward, that shaking off the dust is easier.

Jesus also tells them to travel lightly. I’ve just returned from a ten day trip to Ireland and decided to travel very lightly: just two changes of clothes plus a light dress and an extra pair of shoes, jacket, and sweater in one tiny backpack. It’s freeing to be able to pick up and move from town to city to countryside without the burden of too much luggage. It’s also clarifying how unimportant the clothes etc are to the experience. Likewise I imagine Jesus sent out the disciples without extra tunics so that they’d also be free to be present to others—and depend on God— and live in simplicity. Even when not traveling, we can bring this same freedom of lightness of spirit to our own work and ministries when we are grounded in relationship with God and in friendships that support one another.