In our Gospel text Jesus sends out his disciples into every town and place he was to visit. As William Loader reminds us, “it is important to imagine our way back into their setting”. Jesus’ pattern of engaging with his world was based on the wandering, itinerant teachers and healers. He relied on people opening their homes to him, and the context of the meal was a space for dialogue. He used open spaces as classrooms. And so, he expected his followers to repeat this pattern in mission. What is happening here is that the followers are merely preparing people for Jesus’ coming to them.
Such engagement with towns was common to that culture. As William Loader writes:
Larger Palestinian houses were such that you could freely enter the front half of the house from outside – it was public space. These disciples would then face the owners with the choice of being part of the kingdom movement by offering hospitality and enjoying its benefits through healing and teaching or of turning away these uninvited would-be guests.
There are elements of being in mission in this story that are relevant for us today!
The followers of Jesus did not wait until they had worked themselves or their faith out. Last week we heard that James and John, in episode before this, wanted to bring fire down on the Samaritan’s who refused to offer Jesus hospitality. Yet even with such shortcoming, they are still entrusted to engage others, as ordinary, learning people.
Jesus invites us to be vulnerable, to face anxiety creatively as we risk connection with strangers and foreign places.
Then, Jesus reminded them that they were to be “envoys of peace and wholeness, including healing”; to announce that God has come near in and with the places of engagement, in the ordinary homes and villages of the people they visit. They were not visiting to argue or present their own view of faith, God and life. They were to enter a mutually respectful relationship with new families and villages. They were to confidently and courageously ask for and receive hospitality. They were share their gifts, of healing, insights and stories, and hear those of their hosts. And even when people rejected them, they were not to call fire from heaven to burn them up, but to say that God had come near to them.
Finally, Loader suggests that as we meet, we can make human life more human. To move out and meet others, families and communities, we become the link people. People who build relationships with others, and so introduce totally new dynamics of perspective, conversation, hope and faith. Each of us get become stuck in our personal, family, church or community, national narrative. The stranger asks new questions, jolts us into new insights, prods us to explore fixed ways of being. Link people are what community organisers are in broken, poor communities. They find leaders through hundreds of conversations, and these people over shared meals, create plans to change their contacts.
Rev Vladimir Korotkov