First week in Advent, November 30, 2011
By James R. Dennis, O.P.
Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money — not even an extra tunic . . . They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere (Luke 9: 1-6).
If we’re willing to listen, I believe this passage of Scripture can teach us a good deal about how we should approach Advent. For most of us, accustomed to succeeding through diligent preparation, Jesus’ suggestion that the disciples “take nothing” seems a little odd. We wonder why Jesus did not want the disciples to bring along a few supplies, a little extra cash, or some snacks.
First, I think the answer lies in understanding the context. In this passage, for the first time, Jesus inaugurates the notion of what it means to be an apostle. (That word comes to us from the Greek apóstolos, which translates as “one who is sent out.”) Thus, following Christ will require that they leave their rabbi behind and start on their own journey.
It will require the same of us. No longer would the disciples simply stand around and watch Jesus’ miracles and ministry. Jesus taught them, as he teaches us, that the Christian life is not a spectator sport.
So, why would Jesus send his disciples, his friends, out without any tools, equipment or provisions? I don’t think Jesus wanted the disciples to be unprepared. I think rather that Jesus was telling them, “None of that stuff is what you need. In fact, it will only get in your way.” The disciples needed to trust that God would give them everything they needed to do the work he wanted them to do. When they learned to use God’s resources, rather than their own, they were capable of far more than they imagined.
That’s not a bad notion for us to carry forward into our journey through the season of Advent. We will need to leave a lot of stuff behind. Mostly, we’ll need to leave behind the illusion of self-reliance that we’ve come to accept. We need to learn to trust God and trust that God will give us the tools for His work. We may also need to leave behind our notion of who we are, and what we’re capable of doing. The real question we should ask during Advent is, Where is God sending us, and what can He accomplish through our lives?
James R. Dennis is a novice in the Anglican Order of Preachers, (Dominicans). He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, San Antonio TX. Keep up with his blog at http://dominicanes.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/taking-nothing/ Reach James at email@example.com
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