Then he went about among the villages teaching. He 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.
I think there are a couple of interesting – and helpful – things to notice about Christian ministry in this short description of the “mission of the twelve.” And by “ministry” I really mean “life,” as I think we are all called to ministry – that is called to serve, called to care for God’s world, and called to witness to God’s grace and goodness – in all areas of our lives. So a few pointers for the Christian life:
1) Life and ministry are easier when you don’t try to do it all yourself. Genesis’ observation – “it is good for them not to be alone” – isn’t primarily about marriage, I think, but human community more broadly. The author of Ecclesiastes said it well:
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken. (4:9-12).
Which isn’t to say that there isn’t time, also, for being alone, but merely to notice that “many hands make light labor.”
2) Keep it simple; depend on God. You know the saying as well as I do: beware that you don’t become possessed by your possession. We live in a culture that values material possessions above all else, and even while we know that money neither makes you happy nor secures your future, many of us have a hard time acting in accord with those beliefs. Many of us have also found that with additional possessions come additional worries, discontent, and restlessness – almost as if, even though we’ve discovered that the cultural promises about possessions are a lie, we believe it so firmly that we keep buying more stuff trying to prove it. And so Jesus tells his disciples to simplify – it makes it easier to move around, you can save your time and energy for the things that matter, you aren’t dependent on others, and you are constantly reminded that you need to trust in God for all that you need.
3) Be grateful for hospitality, but not dependent on it. Look for friends, expect the best, welcome generosity. At the same time, don’t be deterred when it doesn’t happen. Shake it off and move on. Just like the seed grows without the farmer knowing how (Mark 4:26-29), so also we’re not responsible for the growth of the kingdom, which means the success of our mission, ministry, and lives isn’t based on how it’s received by others. We’re called to be faithful – sometimes that will mean others will love what we’re doing, and sometimes not.
Good words then, good words now, as we, too, are sent out into this world as emissaries of the kingdom and ambassadors of the Lord of life!
Prayer: Dear God, encourage us, equip us, and send us to be witnesses in word and deed to your desire to love, bless, and save all the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.