Do you have a basic “essentials” list of things you have to have with you when you go out the door? Your phone, of course, a wallet (or at least a debit card or some cash, maybe a driver’s license), keys, maybe a hat or coat, maybe a watch or a ring. Maybe it’s dependent on where you’re going or how, or even the weather. You want to be prepared, right?
Of course you do. And, while there may be things that we feel are essential, we might add to it, depending on where our journey is taking us today. Plan ahead for what’s expected. Or even unexpected.
No matter how few or many those things are, the point is that we bring what we need to feel prepared. It makes sense.
So imagine the surprise of the seventy followers that Jesus sends on ahead of him to spread the Good News and let people know he’s coming, when he tells them not to bring hardly anything at all. Go in pairs and “carry no purse, no bag, no sandals” and, wherever you go, “remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid” (Luke 10:4, 7). Tell them two things: offer “peace to this house” and tell them the kingdom of God has come near. It’ll be like being lambs among wolves, Jesus says, but if you’re not welcomed, just shake the dust of the town off your feet and move on.
The “seventy” are only in Luke, but earlier in Luke and in Matthew and Mark there are similar accounts of Jesus sending the chosen twelve the same way. “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic” (Luke 9:3).
Maybe Jesus has a different perspective.
We think in terms of what we need for what we might expect. Maybe Jesus is thinking in terms of what you need to let go of in order to be open to the possibility of what might happen.
Offer peace and the news that the kingdom of God is near. That’s enough. Let go of what you think the response should be or might be or how you could make it what you want. Let go of your preconceived ideas about the people, the places, the message even. Let go of how you think you could dress the message up or how “best” to present it. Don’t anticipate, simply engage. And don’t be afraid.
Because the message isn’t all you have. You have you, and that’s something worth sharing. You also have backup: the seventy were in pairs and we have each other. You also have the opportunity for hospitality that your openness invites. In that moment of engagement without anticipation or expectation, that’s where God can be found. That’s where love is at work.