Proper 6(A): What Do We Need?
By: The Rev. Maurice Dyer
What do we need to bring with us to do ministry?
I grew up playing sports. My favorite was soccer. When I showed up to each game, I wore the same sweat pants—my lucky soccer warmup pants. Heaven forbid if I couldn’t find these pants before I left for a game! Looking back, I wore them because I thought they made me faster, made me play better, and, dare I say, I thought they made me look cooler.
What is it about lucky objects that make them so special? What’s at the core?
In the lesson from Mathew, we find Jesus and his 12 disciples. Jesus appoints these 12 people to go into the world, to all of the lost sheep of Israel. Jesus is giving them a very important task, and it is the same task that Jesus gives to all of us. Go find the lost sheep; go proclaim that the kingdom of God has come near. Our scripture drops us into a conversation that Jesus is having with his followers.
I can almost imagine myself there with the others. I can see it now, just excited–hanging on Jesus’ every word.
Jesus says I’m sending y’all out to go find lost sheep. “Right on,” the imaginary me would say.
Jesus says the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. “I’m ready to harvest Jesus, I used to live next door to a farm! I’ve picked carrots before…I’m ready!”
Jesus says I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. “…Wait a second, that doesn’t sound safe. Lambs in the midst of wolves…hmm. I’ll make sure to pack a stick to keep me safe.”
Then Jesus says I don’t want you to bring anything, don’t carry a purse, don’t carry a bag, and don’t even wear any sandals. “No sandals, Jesus? But I’ve got these lucky sweatpants that I like to wear.”
But Jesus says, “No, don’t bring anything!”
What is Jesus really asking of his followers? What is Jesus really asking of us?
Let’s think about the things that Jesus asks his followers to leave behind. A purse, a bag, and sandals. What do we use these things for?
I’ve seen a lot of survivalist shows on TV. People are allowed to bring next to nothing with them. But one thing remains the same no matter the show, they are all allowed to carry a bag. In these bags, people carry tools for making fire, or food that they are saving for later.
In these bags, you can carry all of the things that might make you self-sustainable. The contestants on television are able to stay in the wilderness for weeks on end because of what’s in their bags. So why is Jesus asking his followers to leave their bags behind?
Jesus doesn’t want us to be self-sustainable.
Now, mind you, I’m not referring to “green” movements or eco justice. Rather, I am referring to the way that we are called to live with one another. Jesus doesn’t want us to be self-sustainable; he wants us to trust and rely on one another, to be others-sustained.
Jesus says don’t bring any sandals, so we know this will not be a comfortable journey.
So again I ask the question: What do we need to bring with us to do ministry?
Jesus tells his disciples that when they go into these towns and get invited into these homes, first they are to bring tidings of peace for their household. Then they should remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever the host provides, not moving from house to house.
I think what’s missing but is implied in these instructions is, “get to know the people.”
Jesus asks that we leave it all behind, our bags, our baggage, to strip it all away and to really make ourselves vulnerable. It is out of that vulnerability that we are able to meet people and really get to know them.
You see, when Jesus is talking about going out for a harvest, we don’t need the traditional tools that we normally would use, like a shovel or an axe. (What are the tools needed for a traditional harvest, anyway?) No, for the harvest into which we are being sent, we are the tools.
What are we to bring with us, if not our bags and sandals? Jesus says, “Just bring yourself. You have everything you need to do this work because it was given to you by the Holy Spirit.
You have your life, and you have your story. Christians are among the best story tellers in the whole world because we have been telling the same story for two thousand years.
We go and we tell others about Jesus, but not just that… we go out and we tell others what Jesus has done for us. How Jesus has changed our lives.
This is what Jesus is asking of the followers that we see in our scripture today, and it is what Jesus is asking of us all. That when we go out to the harvest, we bring nothing but our most honest and vulnerable selves to get to know people and to share the story. This is the mission to which God calls us all. Tell the story, then live the story.
Yes the world looks a whole lot different today, but Jesus’ charge to all of us remains the same. It was never the things that we bring with us that show people who Jesus is, or what the kingdom of God is like. It has only ever been us, living our stories—living testimony to the work that God is up to in the world.
The Rev. Maurice Dyer is a California native and grew up in San Diego. He attended Cal State University at Monterey Bay, and graduated from the social and behavioral science department. After his undergraduate work, Maurice was called to serve as a missionary and moved to South Africa. While in South Africa, he lived in a Benedictine Monastic community with the other monks and taught at the school that they oversaw. He then moved to Capetown, South Africa and worked for an institute that assisted people in healing from trauma, particularly related to the South African Apartheid years. Upon coming back to the U.S. he went to seminary at the Virginia Theological Seminary and graduated in 2019. Maurice has worked in several churches in central California and Washington DC. He sits on the boards of the Global Episcopal Mission Network and the Episcopal Community Services of Philadelphia.