The sending out of the Jesus’ companions happens in every synoptic gospel - Matthew and Mark and Luke. Sometimes it happens more than once in the same gospel, and sometimes the numbers are different, and sometimes the rules of the road are different, yet its repeatedness, the constant reminder suggests it is rooted in very real memories of what Jesus taught and what early communities did. Yet every time we hear it, I'm pretty sure that a lot of us are struck sharply. We feel anxiety and panic. Jesus, you want us to do what? You want us to go out on the road as light as air, trusting in the spirit of God to provide? We are caught in the piles of our stuff and the heaps of our distractedness we hope that all the piles and boxes and heaps can keep us from falling down, when what it's really doing is weighing us down so that we can't move or create like we are made to.
On the journey with Jesus, we are told to not worry about things, because God clothes the fields and cares for the birds, and so to cares for us with the opposite of scarcity, which is enough. On the journey with Jesus, we are shown a way to let go of systems of buy and sell and instead hold fast to the grace of God as more of an everything than the system of stuff. Which is hard as heck, because one I can hold, and the other I have to believe. Jesus instructed them, and he instructs us, to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick —no bread, no bags, and no money in their wallets. He told them, and us, to wear sandals, but not a coat. I'm not sure this instruction is entirely about material things. Some of our things are offenses and evaluations, protectionisms. Some of our things are burdens of prejudice and pride we find evil comfort in. Some of our things are shames that we are woe to acknowledge even in prayer.
This weekend at General Convention (#gc79) Presiding Bishop Curry invited all of us, even those who only sorta lean Episcopal, he invited all of us into a rule of life for everybody. It's rooted in the baptismal life we share, which is rooted in Jesus. It is titled the 'Way of Love'. When Jesus tells us to be like little children, when the letters of John speak of the followers of Jesus as little children, it was radical rhetoric in that day and age. Childhood as a hallmark moment is only an idea in the last couple of hundred years. Bearing children, being a child was, and remains, incredibly vulnerable. In Jesus's era referring to someone as a child was a little better than referring to someone as a pigeon or a rat.
It is a jarring image when you know that, but what I believe he meant for them to hear, and what he says to us, is that we are to follow his way as people who are not burdened by all of our stuff and all of our pressures of adulthood. Children have burdens and precious stuff, but it is also quite different than the things that weigh adulthood down. Jesus calls us to be people for whom relationships and little things really matter, for whom exploring and trying new things is how we live. Jesus calls us to be as little children, and how we learn as children is how we always learn in our deepest selves.
So, like Jesus, I am sending you home with a childish game on a sheet of paper. The Way of Love that can be made into a fortune teller (or as I knew them as a cootie catcher). It's a tangible reminder to you of the freedom and intention we can find when we follow the way of Jesus: which is the way of love. You don't have to make it into the fortune teller, you don’t have to color it, but you can: and maybe you should. Regardless, I want you to take this Way of Love page home and I want you to put it somewhere where you're going to look at it and not only consider it, but do the actions it suggests. You have in me someone who is your Interim Rector, who also has had a long career supporting and nurturing lifelong learning and formation. And everything in this Way of Love meshes with the mission of lifelong learning in our discipleship which is part of the interim mission. Interim time isn’t just about the corporate stuff, but also about personal, about your formation and discipleship.
Over the last few weeks in my quiet advocacy for lifelong formation priorities at the churchwide level, I was trying to make the word #constantreevangelization a buzzword, that's been unsuccessful so far. Mostly because it's too big but also because that center e part of the word can give some of us twitches. What the e word means is good newsing. Your mobile device has a primary task, and that is messengering and that's pretty much what the word angel means too. Evangelism really is good news messenger-ring and the point I'm trying to get at is that the work of lifelong learning as people who hear Jesus and try to follow him, is a constant messengering of the way, it is the work of a lifetime, the continual reevangelization in the ways of love. We're always being turned and changed and coming into the presence of the good news again.
So in pursuit of the way of love and pursuit of our learning and growth in this interim process I'm inviting you into Open Book gatherings. It is a series focused on a book of the month. There will be multiple chances to get together to hopefully meet different schedules and demands of work and family. At least one of them will happen not on this property, but somewhere else, in public! These Open Book gatherings will include teaching regarding the book of the month and conversation around some of the topics. But I want to emphasize even if you don't engage the book, come to the Open Book gatherings. You can not do the homework and still come to class! Reversibly, but less encouragingly you can engage the book and not come to any of the groups. I don’t like that one, but I accept it as part of the adult learning process.
Almost all of the titles are available both in print and by audio because I know that some of you may engage or text more if you can listen to it while you run or do chores or drive around and some of you may also struggle of that with your eyesight. Books will also be findable in hard copy and in digital copies. Our first book will be in August and it is the Gifts of Imperfection by Dr. Brene Brown. I believe this book is crucial for laying the groundwork for work of interim time, and as followers of Jesus who are called to let go of the things that burden us to heal from the shames we carry, and inviting us into the blessing of vulnerabilities that are the source of courage and creativity.
All of us need to constantly relearn the good news, and Jesus invites us to be unburdened disciples that we may be free to live by grace, here in this life and in the life to come. The Way of Love is a fortune teller message, but it is not a fortune of things and stuff. It is a fortune message to live lightly and daring so that we might truly be messages of good news, trusting in the abundance of God.
Let us pray.
Gentle us, holy one, into an unclenched moment, a deep breath, a letting go of heavy experiences, of shriveling anxieties, of dead certainties, that, softened by the silence, surrounded by the light, and open to the mystery, we may be found by wholeness, upheld by the unfathomable, entranced by the simple, and filled with the joy that is you.
Grace Episcopal Church
Pemberton, New Jersey
Prayer adapted from Ted Loder