“Take nothing with you,” Jesus says today.
Not a loaf of bread, or a bag, or a little extra cash, or an extra coat.
And so today I cannot help but wonder how Jesus might phrase this now. For not only are you and I certainly encumbered with more ‘stuff’ than Jesus’ first audience was, but the capability of that ‘stuff’ far outpaces anything first century folks could have ever imagined.
Indeed, today I expect Jesus would not only say to pack lightly. I imagine he would ask and encourage us to leave behind at least one thing in particular. Oh, I’m pretty certain that Jesus would look right at me and tell me to leave my cell phone behind.
I mean, just think of all the ways in which that powerful little computer both assists you in your life and gets in the way of your living. In fact, it would be interesting to begin next Sunday’s sermon in just this way:
- Ask those gathered what it is Jesus would tell them to leave behind today.
- Wonder with them what would cause them the most anxiety to not have with them. (Cell phones will certainly come up.)
- Finally, enter into a conversation about why and how it is we find ourselves relying upon our phones. Consider together what would be the positives and negatives of leaving them behind.
I know that for me a week does not go by that I do not find myself plugging an unfamiliar address into my phone, relying on it to lead me from where I am to my destination, even calculating how long it takes to get there. No longer do I need to ask a colleague or a friend how to find a hospital in another city or an off site wedding venue. My phone gets it right 99% of the time.
And isn’t it so that I count on the fact that contact information for everyone I know can be found in that pocket size device? I can call or text or instant message someone at any time of the day or night. But oh, might that convenience just keep me from interacting with those right before or alongside me now? In fact, I see this all the time that when encountering a socially awkward situation, people pull out their cell phones. As you know, we often don’t just sit in restaurants any more — whether alone or with friends — without those phones at least sitting on the table beside us — if not actually using them as a ready source of entertainment or distraction, entirely tuning out those across form us or around us.
Of late, I have used my cell phone to track my morning bike ride. It does a great job of mapping my ride, reporting time, speed, distance, and calories burned. It surely helps me keep track of my goals and whether I am accomplishing what I hoped to accomplish. It does not, however, help me appreciate:
- The beauty of a pink sunrise while the almost full moon is still high in the sky;
- The sight of an Illinois corn field on a warm summer morning;
- Or the sound of the pair of goldfinches which flew alongside me for a while;
- Or the cheerful voice of the one who passed me on her own bike, wishing good morning;
- Or the example of the older couple walking slowly along the bike path holding hands;
- Or the sheer sense of accomplishment that I got up and out on my bike at all when an extra hour’s sleep seemed awfully attractive.
So it seems to me that this was at least part of the reason behind Jesus’ instruction today to leave it behind.
- The intent is that we leave all that stuff behind that gets in the way of our seeing, truly seeing the world God made and the people who inhabit it.
- His intent is to have us set aside that which makes us believe that we are fully self-reliant in this world, for, in fact, we are not.
- The intent surely is to give ourselves a chance to appreciate the community God is yearning for us to experience and rely upon. To do all we can to see, to really see those to whom we are sent. For to not do so will likely mean that whatever gifts we are meant to bear to the world will neither be given nor received in the fullest way God intends them.
Keeping in the spirit of Jesus’ words now, for me, at least, this would surely mean leaving my cell phone behind, if only for an hour, a morning, a day. Indeed, wouldn’t that be an interesting experiment to propose with your people — to just leave it behind for a little while so as to better be able to experience God’s good gifts for us now and to be better able to share those gifts with the world?
- I am suggesting that if Jesus were to give these same instructions today, he would say to leave behind my cell phone. Do you think that would be so? What else might make the list today?
- Would you be willing to try this and then record what you see and hear when your phone is tucked away somewhere away from you? What might it look like to invite others to do the same?
- I make the supposition that Jesus tells the disciples to leave all that stuff behind so that they might be more cognizant of their own need for others, their own need to be reliant upon God and God’s good gifts, and to be better able to share those gifts with the world. Would you have another reason or explanation for Jesus’ instructions? What would that be?