I was at Cape Cod last week and took advantage of a new setting to re-gain perspective. Ordinarily, I face a fresh water marsh, enjoying early morning temperatures in the 70s. In Eastham, I faced Great Pond where the temperature was 20 degrees cooler. Instead of watching the antics of black-billed whistling ducks, I enjoyed white seagulls skimming across the pond.
The Gospel reading for last Wednesday was taken from Luke 9:1-6, where Jesus sends his apostles to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. . . . Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.
I remember thinking that at that moment watching the gulls, I did not feel encumbered by all that I had brought with me on my journey north. In addition to more physical stuff than I needed, I had brought a lot of anxiety with me. Our fall programs of adult faith education for which I am responsible began in mid-September, and I am still fretting about being prepared. I had to admit to myself that life at church and at home does go on without me.
The day before this Gospel reading, my three friends and I had taken a ferry to Nantucket Island. Even for a day’s journey, I carried too much baggage: contingencies for rain, cold temperatures, thirst, purchases of things that I didn’t need and that no one at home would want, and ginger candy for the return trip in case I would be seasick (and I don’t suffer from motion sickness!)
It’s not necessarily bad to carry all this baggage; it’s that the weight is a distraction. All the preparation for future possibilities detracts from living fully in the present. Where is my trust in God? Where is my confidence in my own resourcefulness? One commentator on Luke 9:1-6 summed up his reflection by saying: “Leave all that stuff behind and get about the business of the Gospel.” My suitcase was still full when I journeyed home, but hopefully most of the mental baggage was left behind.