On the Road

Scripture can be found here

I’ve been telling everyone who will listen that I’m going on a trip very soon! In one week plus one day I will be boarding a bus in Chenango Bridge, along with two of our UPC youth., sixteen other Susquehanna Valley youth, three other Susquehanna Valley Presbytery Adult Chaperones, PLUS a bunch of people from the Cayuga-Syracuse Presbytery. We will then set out for points west—West Lafayette, Indiana, to be precise. This is the location, as always, of the Presbyterian Youth Triennium, a big youth conference that takes place every three years. And… I have this packing list. As you can see. Actually, of the eleven pages in this packet, only…. seven of them are devoted to what we should bring…. and what we should not bring.

Things we should bring:

Lightweight (but modest) clothing… t-shirts, shorts, stuff to keep us cool as we schlepp across campus from dorm to event to dining hall to event to prayer room to event to pool to event to dorm…!

Shoes that won’t give us blisters!

Anti-blister band-aids! Because, when you’re putting 19,000 steps a day on your Fitbit, even the best, most dependable shoes might let you down.


A water bottle!

We’re not being outfitted for a trek across the desert. West Lafayette is hot in July, and this summer heat records are being broken pretty much everywhere, so we have to be prepared.

We need to be ready.

Then, there’s the list of things we are told not to bring. Some of them are completely unsurprising.

No drugs.

No alcohol.

No cigarettes or vape pens or papers or drug paraphernalia, all of which fall under the category of “duh,” but I guess we have to be specific.

Other things on the list “not to bring”:

No laptops—we want our young people to be engaged in what’s happening around them, so we limit everyone’s use of electronics. We want everyone to be able to fully take in all the things that are the reasons they going to Triennium. Worship! Small Groups! Opportunities to look into Presbyterian options for college! Games! Learning! Dancing!

And the last thing on the “not-to-bring” list? “A mean spirit or clique-ish-ness.”

We need to make sure there are no obstacles to our having a wonderful, God-soaked time.

In our reading from Luke’s gospel, Jesus is sending seventy of his disciples out on the road. That’s an interesting number. We spend a lot of time in the gospels hearing references either to the twelve, the inner circle of those known as the apostles, OR, hearing about large crowds… the number 5,000 comes to mind. But here is information that Jesus’ disciples number more than twelve, and that these folks are considered equipped to be sent out in Jesus’ name.

There’s another interesting thing about that number. In Jewish tradition, there were seventy nations on earth. Jesus is sending out disciples to the whole earth, to all the nations. This number adds to the text a strong implication that the seventy are being sent out of Judea, to countries not their own. No one is left out. All are included.

And, just like the good folks who organize Triennium, Jesus gives his disciples a kind of packing list.

Except, everything on that list falls under the “what not to bring” category.

Don’t bring a purse.

Don’t bring a bag.

Don’t bring sandals.

Imagine going on a trip with no money. (No purse = No money.)

Imagine taking no extra clothes with you. (No bag = you take the clothes on your back.)

Imagine not even taking your shoes. Even in a temperate climate, that’s an invitation to be pretty vulnerable.

And that seems to be the point. Jesus admits it: he is sending his people out like lambs to the wolves, and he is doing his best to ensure that they will be at their most lamb-like.

No money means that they will have to depend on the kindness of strangers… they are to see whether folks will put them up in their homes. And they are to be completely respectful and non-demanding guests, eating what their hosts serve them, no special requests.

No change of clothes means they are going out humbly—not doing anything to insinuate they are superior to the people they will meet or stay with.

No shoes? No shoes takes us into an even deeper realm of humility. The seventy are going out as the least affluent members of society. They are going out as people who need other people to help them, to care for them… which means they can’t claim to be more than, or better than, the people they are trying to reach.

They are going out to preach about the reign of God.

They are going out to heal those suffering from diseases and disabilities.

They are going out to help people to be rid of the demons that are pursuing them.

They are going out to share love, the love of Jesus.

In short, for every one of the seventy, they are going out to share, most likely, something they have already received. They’re going to people with issues, problems they’ve already experienced firsthand. And they’re going out as heralds of the reign of God, because Jesus has already given them a tantalizing taste of it.

Like youth and chaperones to Triennium, they need to be ready: ready to share that love with everyone who needs it.

And like youth and chaperones to Triennium, they need to make sure there are no obstacles to their sharing that love.

Jesus does talk about the possibility that his disciples may be rejected. He has strong words for those who refuse to give hospitality to travelers; they’re in one of the verses the lectionary skips over. He says, “I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town” (Luke 10:12). I know there’s a popular idea that the sin of Sodom is homosexuality, but that’s not true. The bible itself tells us what the sin of Sodom is, in the book of Ezekiel. There it reads, “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49). The grave sin of those who reject Jesus’ disciples isn’t that they don’t believe in Jesus; it’s that they won’t give welcome to travelers who need their help.

How do we go out into God’s world? Travel requires some common sense measures so that everyone is safe, everyone enjoys themselves, and no one gets sick or hurt. But it’s how we carry our hearts into God’s world that makes the difference. As Jesus’ disciples, we are instructed to go out with hearts that are humble, no extra baggage, and complete willingness to be who we are.

We go to do God’s work as ourselves: people who know that God loves us, and who also know that’s through no talent or virtue of our own, but simply because God is love.

We go, knowing that the love of God is enough.

Thanks be to God. Amen.