The Very Rev. Tom Callard – July 7, 2019
Some years ago it was the 4th of July weekend and I was getting ready to take my family out for a day at the beach, packing the car for our trip, putting in lawn chairs, a couple coolers, some ice, a little portable grill, some blankets, pillows, and extra clothes, food, and, drinks. And I was thinking about my sermon which I would write for the Sunday to come, which was on this same lesson we have in the Gospel this morning – it comes by every three years just after the 4th of July.
Jesus says take nothing for your journey, and yet here I was filling my car with as many things as possible because it’s a big holiday weekend and I am going to be out traveling and I need every single thing I have. And that was my insight: I think I need every single thing that I have.
I think I need all of my possessions. I need all the food that I eat and all I have stored up at home, and I need those things I don’t consume and just toss away, the leftover food, and all the plastic packaging and the single serve plastic bags that go with my food. And I think I need all my clothes and my possessions along with my house and my land.
And I think I need all that I bring with me up here in my head – all my grandiose ideas and plans and my prejudices about you and the world and all the thoughts I have about how everyone should live their lives. And all the attitudes and opinions I have. And I think I need all my fears, and my anxiety, and my anger, and my resentment and bitterness. Because all of it has gotten me this far. And it makes me who I am. And who would I be without it?
And even though some of these things have failed me, in fact many of them have failed me, and even though I have more stuff than I will ever need, and even though I haven’t touched some of my things in years, here I am packing my car and trying to fit in as much as I can. Because somehow I don’t know who I would be without my things.
And I realize that my relationship with my stuff is kind of like an abusive relationship with another person, an addictive and co-dependent relationship where I have convinced myself that I will only be happy on his terms, or on her terms. It’s all got to be on my stuff’s terms. Only happy if he or she is here with me, even though my stuff doesn’t really love me unconditionally or give me anything for free. I’m the one who has to give and give. I give so much to my stuff and what do I really get back. Because all the best things in life are free.
You know the best thing that happened this week, or one of the best things, it was when we visited square one on Tuesday with Barbara Loh and Deacon Linda, and we presented them with our Big Check for $3000, the same big check you sometimes see here. And we gave this donation funded from the Outreach ministry to Square One so they could use the money for children who are homeless and underserved and some of whom come from abusive families, they are children who otherwise would not have any place to go during the day and who, in many cases, would not have anything to eat if it were not for Square One.
And we went to take pictures with the big check and also to see the Christ Church Cathedral classroom. We have a classroom there named after us. And the children and teachers at the Christ Church Cathedral classroom are always happy to see us, because we almost always come with playdough, which we had, along with a bunch of other classroom supplies which you donated, and the big check which was made possible by donations to the Cathedral from all of you.
And I got to sit down with two children who were five and six years old, and I heard about them and their lives. And I saw them color, and draw pictures and print their names. And the director of the program told us that at any given day they have about 75 children from Springfield who are homeless. Homeless children. Some of whom live on couches and they go with their parents from place to place, and some of them sleep in their cars, and some of them sleep, God bless them, on the streets.
And so sitting at that small table at Square One with those little kids, I thought as you do about my life, and in particular the relationship I have, not with my children or with my wife, but with my stuff. What is Jesus doing sending the disciples out without their stuff? What is he trying to teach them? What is he trying to get across?
Whatever it is, you have to admire this moment in the Gospel as it fits into the history of Christianity, for this passage from Luke chapter 10 is a benchmark moment, for it is when Jesus gives birth to Christianity beyond himself, gives birth to the Jesus movement and the message and the power and the spirit of Christ, as he sends out these apostles in pairs, two by two, to all the parts of the known world in his name.
At this moment, the Christian movement goes to those towns and villages where the apostles go, to those places and homes and shops and squares where they are sometimes received and sometimes rejects and they have to wipe their feet from the dust and keep walking on.
At this moment, these apostles go out to where they find themselves encountering demons and wrestling with Satan, and challenging the darkness of the world and showing the world and that there is something more than the dark, that there is light. And there is love and compassion and goodness. And that there is hope. And in his name they have come. And they have nothing, they carry nothing. For what could they possibly use to accomplish this task?
I guess that’s the question at the heart of the Gospel today: What do you use to show someone Jesus and his purpose and his message and his love.
Think about all the stuff: even with all the beautiful things in our Cathedral, the carved images and stained glass and the holy vessels and the fine robes, what here is going to show the world Jesus if it is not us? What here is going to show some little five year old girl who slept last night in her car who Jesus Christ is and what love means, if it is not us going out?
These things are just extras, they are beautiful adornments. They are aids in the mission. The building in which we worship, the pews in which we sit, the chalices from which we drink, the images upon which our eyes rest, are all just aids in our mission. And when we go out there we bring nothing of that, we bring nothing except ourselves.
I confess to you that my phone, my smart phone, is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever owned. It’s a Galaxy S10. It’s not a car or a house, which are also important. But my phone is almost everything else. It’s a camera, a stereo, a video recorder, a little TV, a weather forecaster, a news machine, a calculator, a calendar, an organizer, a radar detector, a tape recorder. and it’s also a phone. And in my 52 years, it’s the best thing I’ve ever owned.
But this won’t show someone Jesus. This won’t do his mission. It won’t do my work or give me my purpose in life. For Jesus, in his wisdom and with his power, has sent me empty. And he’s told me to take nothing, which is to say that he’s told me that even with nothing, I am enough. That you’re enough. That we are enough.
Just as we are, we have the power and the authority to cast down Satan and raise up a world of good, and create a generation of good, and to slay demons, and to halt the destruction of the earth and to make all things right.
We have the power and the authority of Christ. We have been sent in his name and bearing his image and carrying his likeness, here within us, and not in anything we own or can purchase or anything we can carry on the road out there.
Buried under the mountain of stuff we own there at the base of our lives, at the essential core of our being, is the precious thing that God has created and Jesus has ordained and the Holy Spirit has equipped so we could go out and save the world. It is you standing there. It is you blessed by the Lord. It is you giving compassion, sharing a smile, giving your hand, reaching out across space, reaching out across some little table where you sit with a five year old soul who the world has forgotten, who the politicians have neglected, who the businesses and corporations have written off.
But the Christ in you and the Christ in me, that very thing he put into the hands of the 70, remains in our hands today, and it is love. And it is attention. And it is a little of our stuff, those little cans of playdough, and a couple of bucks we give to the church. But in the hand of God it is everything.
Where does this power within us come from? Where is this authority within us born? The world will tell you your authority comes from your fancy title at work or the big car you drive on the road or the size of your house or the powerful way you present yourself because of the number of tanks you have or the size of your armies. But Jesus says no. Take nothing with you, because your authority, and the power within you, they come from me.
If we are confused about our stuff, I invite you to visit with me the Christ Church Cathedral classroom at Square One and talk with little Ashley or little Manny or little Nicole, and try with me to figure out why it is we have so much and we think we need all. Talk with them and it gives you perspective.
If we are confused about our calling or our purpose as those who continue in the line of the sent, and in the mission of the 70, if that confuses us about being sent out there, then let us consider this: Is everything out there okay? Is the world all set?
Or are there places where there are people hurting, and issues out there that need to be addressed, and broken parts of the world that need to be rebuilt? And little 5 year old children out there who do not know God or have a stable place to live and food to eat or the love of Jesus, and do not know that that their names, like ours, are written in heaven. Perhaps we have been sent to them?
My brothers and sisters, it’s summer, which is a time to take stock and consider our mission and purpose in the calling of Jesus. We are blessed by all we have and we are equipped for so much more, and we are sent to a world that needs us.