Traveling light

[Jesus] called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. (Mark 6:7-13)

I don’t know if it’s exactly what Jesus had in mind, but I do try to travel light as I go about my business.

I’ve written elsewhere about viewing my hotel room as a sort of monastic cell. For me, the point is that I am at home wherever I happen to be. The town may be different, but hotel rooms are pretty much the same everywhere, and I pack my suitcase the same way every week.

Peter Matthiessen, author and world traveler, even turned and bowed to his hotel room as he left, as a mark of his gratitude for the hospitality he had enjoyed. He explained his practice in an interview with Jonathan White:

My first Zen teacher, Soen-roshi, always made a little bow of gratitude to the world around him, and I learned that from him. It’s a wonderful habit. Even if I’m leaving some neutral or lifeless place, like a motel room, it feels right to thank the room for its hospitality. In Zen practice, one bows to the buddha principle, the imminence of awakening, within oneself. I love that idea. A bow is a wonderful way to appreciate this moment, pay respectful attention to the world around you.

Now understand: Our voluntary simplicity as we go about the Lord’s business is not the same as the poverty too many people experience in their daily lives. Perhaps, however, our simplicity can make room for us to see what’s happening around us. Perhaps traveling light can give us the freedom to respond quickly when we recognize a need.

That same spirit of voluntary simplicity (see Acts 2:43-47) may have been working among those same disciples some years later as they considered what to do about Paul, their former persecutor, who now said he had a mission to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Perhaps their simplicity gave them the freedom to recognize that God was acting in a new way. Perhaps their traveling light gave them the freedom to respond to the Gentiles’ need for the Gospel.

When James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do. (Galatians 2:9-10)

Our voluntary simplicity, our freedom to recognize God acting in new ways, and our remembering the poor are ways in which we follow Jesus’ instructions to his first disciples.

God grant that our repentance and our willingness to share our lives with others will likewise bear the fruit of peace and fellowship.

Collect for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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