“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.” – Mark 6:7-9
I love packing for trips. There is something exciting about choosing clothes and other items to take with you. The expert packer thinks through all possible activities and destinations as he or she fills the suitcase, and these thoughts build anticipation for the trip.
Yet, packing is also very stressful. At no time was this more true than when I packed my bags for my trip to Zimbabwe in 2012. I was limited to a carry-on weighing no more than 15 pounds, and a small personal item such as a backpack or purse. Leaving for 5 ½ weeks with only 15 pounds of clothes is a difficult task, especially when we knew our frequent travel around the country would make laundering clothes difficult.
So there I was, laboring for hours over a small duffell bag and a backpack trying to figure out what was essential and what could stay at home. These were difficult decisions, but in the end, my bags had only clothes, toiletries, a camera, a few books, and gifts for my host family. The cell phone, iPad, and other items essential to my every day life at home were quickly deemed unnecessary for a trip across Zimbabwe.
As I began lamenting the difficult packing restrictions, I thought about how Jesus sent the disciples out for ministry with even less. At least I had 2 bags, even if they were small. At least I was allowed some money, whereas they weren’t. My final cut was a second sweatshirt (a decision that would later haunt me, given the cold nights in Mutare). “Do not put on two tunics,” I thought to myself as I removed this final item from my bag to bring it under the weight limit.
As disciples, we often want to take our big bags and second tunics. But Jesus instructions call for simplicity of possessions, so we will focus instead on the things that cannot be packed into a bag: life, relationships, joy, memories, and most of all the kingdom of God.
Prayer: Lord, you send us out in your name, and sometimes with nothing more than the clothes on our backs. As we go, help us to rely not on material things, but only on the strength of your Spirit, for that is truly all that we need. Amen.
— Pastor Erik