It’s no surprise that when it comes to carry-on baggage you can’t take on an airplane: guns, knives, crossbows, meat cleavers, box cutters, nun-chucks, mace, brass knuckles, grenades, swords, explosives, or similar items.
But what’s the problem with mascara, toothpaste, mouthwash, hair gel, yogurt, or pudding?
Apparently a few personal care items are fine, in very small amounts and packed a special way, but not these products in any quantity. After all, explosives can be disguised to look like a delicious chocolaty desert.
And because they do we have to either leave them at home or put them in our checked bags.
Truth be told, the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, would be happier if we all took nothing more than the clothes on our backs for our journeys by plane, except of course belts and shoes. But generally, that’s not practical.
I think Jesus would have been a good TSA agent because essentially that is what Jesus told his disciples when he sent them out in pairs to cast out demons, heal the sick and call people to repentance—“Take nothing for the journey,” he told them.
And like the TSA, Jesus had a list of prohibited items: no bread, no bag, no money in their belts and no second tunic.
Here in Mark, Jesus did allow them to take a staff and wear sandals, and the clothes they were wearing, but in the variants of this story appearing in Matthew and Luke, Jesus doesn’t even allow the staff and sandals.
But Jesus had a reason for the items he banned: They could undermine the mission on which he was sending his disciples. They were to depend on God to provide for them through the hospitality of strangers.
How they traveled and were welcomed was to be itself a demonstration of God’s care.
How much stuff did we bring to church today?
A handbag? Wallet? A man purse? Oh, and then there are these little devices. They may not take up much room, but oh the baggage they are. Our whole worlds are wrapped up in these little beauties.
We all have baggage.
It may be little in size, but it amounts to more than enough to keep God’s care out while keeping us from becoming all that God wants us to be.
When Jesus sends us out to be his people in the world, and tells us to rely on him, and thus take nothing with us, we can’t help but take along who we actually are, including the “baggage” we normally carry. And by baggage, I mean something other than suitcases or parcels.
That word, “baggage”, is shorthand for the burdensome personal history we drag with us that interferes with our living fully in this world as God wants.
This baggage could be:
Nonproductive ways of dealing with conflict.
Inappropriate responses that are triggered at inopportune moments.
Unaddressed fears from childhood.
Psychological damage from abuse.
Frightening ideas about God and how God thinks and acts.
In fact, the baggage we carry is just about any holdover from our past that prevents us from getting on well with our daily responsibilities, or in our relationships, or how we view and treat others.
In fact, sometimes, such baggage gets so heavy that we need counseling or psychological help to unload it. And that’s hard, because we have cloaked ourselves so heavily in counterproductive attire that we’d feel naked if we stripped it off.
But Jesus had a reason for telling his Disciples to take nothing, to leave behind their baggage.
He wanted them, and those who they would minister to… those who they would reach out to… those who they were going to touch…to experience fully and completely the love and grace and kindness and healing that comes through the Kingdom of God.
Jesus knew that such an experience cannot be fully embraced or received when people are insulated within their baggage.
Most of us have some kind of baggage that travels with us even when we think we’ve taken nothing for the journey. But there are a couple of helpful things we can note from this account of Jesus sending out the Twelve that can help us leave behind some of our baggage.
First, while Jesus tells them to take nothing for the journey, he never tells them to go stark naked.
What he means is they are to be vulnerable.
They can take their shortcomings, scarred psyches and damaged emotions with them, and they can still do the work to which he calls them. They were still able to cast out demons and heal the sick.
Their vulnerability assured them that though they were flawed, God could still use them.
The second thing we can take from this text is the reminder that they were working for the Divine Healer.
In our text today Jesus “only” cures a few sick people, but the Disciples know, from first-hand experience that Jesus is able to do far more.
For instance, earlier in the Gospel after a day when Jesus cast out spirits and healed the sick, that which Jesus had done “was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, He took our infirmities and bore our diseases’”
Note the word “infirmities.”
Since it’s included in an account of Jesus healing several people, we might assume that “infirmities” is simply a synonym for “illnesses” or “diseases,” but, in fact, there are two activities named: healing—which is bearing our diseases, and casting out spirits—which is taking our infirmities.
The meaning of the word “infirmity” ranges from our sins, on the one hand, to our illnesses on the other, which shows us that infirmities can include emotional baggage.
And for that kind of load, the Scripture suggests that what’s needed is neither forgiveness nor medicine, but rather healing…divine healing.
As Christians who know the vocabulary of righteousness quite well, we are often tempted to label our infirmities as sins.
The truth is, some can be, but we shouldn’t be too quick to go there with everything.
The person who has too high an opinion of himself may be guilty of the sin of pride, but the one who flaunts his abilities may not be proud at all. He may have such low self-esteem that his apparent pride is actually an attempt to hide how worthless he feels.
In such a case, what he suffers from is not sin, but infirmities—baggage. And what he needs is not forgiveness, but healing.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his listeners not to be anxious about their lives, what they would eat, drink or wear.
He pointed out that, instead of worrying, we should trust God to care for us, and seek God’s kingdom.
And since Jesus said those things, some Christians have concluded that worry and anxiety must therefore be sinful, but that interpretation is not what Jesus meant.
Jesus said, “Don’t be anxious,” but he never said that the person who is anxious is lost. The tendency to worry about everything doesn’t mean we’re not faithful followers of Christ. It may mean, however, that we have baggage.
So what can we do about our baggage?
Here are some things that might be helpful in dealing with our infirmities. They might even help us leave some baggage behind:
First, ask God to help you face our problems squarely and without rationalization.
Admit to God the specific reaction that interferes with your relationships and keeps you from doing well.
Next, empty the poison bottle.
In other words, take a look at those whom you blame for certain hang-ups, and decide what you need to do to keep those memories from poisoning you today.
And if the person whom you blame is you, then refer to my first point and ask God for help.
Third, accept the responsibility for who you are today.
In terms of understanding where our various complexes originate, it may be helpful to look at what circumstances in our past have contributed to the shaping of our present personalities, but it’s far more important to say, “Regardless of how I got where I am, I am responsible for dealing with it now and for working to become the whole person God intended me to be.”
That may even mean ignoring certain gut reactions, and behaving, instead, in ways that are more adult.
And then lastly, lay your problems before God.
I’m not suggesting that such things as counseling or support groups are inappropriate for baggage handling. On the contrary, sometimes they’re the first line of help. But talking to God about the scars we bear, and then giving them of God to bear for us, is a vital part of the healing process.
In the end, we need to let God handle the baggage because going at it alone just doesn’t work.
There are times when Jesus’ instruction to take nothing with us ought to be obeyed almost literally.
It’s an opportunity to leave our baggage behind.
It’s an opportunity to let go of all that we cling so tightly to, and instead cling to God and God’s provision.
It’s an opportunity to move away from all the junk, the trash, the voices, the people, that tell us over and over again, we are not worthy, we have not made anything of ourselves, we are a waste.
When we leave our baggage behind, and we faithfully listen to and follow God’s way, then we are able to be and become the beings God created us to be—those who are not bound to this world, but who are able to live in this world in such a way that enables us to be fully aware, but still live in joy in spite of our awareness’s.
So may we leave behind that which hinders us and hold us back.
May we leave behind the voices and mindsets that are narrow, shallow, hurtful, and tell us that we are not good enough.
Let us leave our baggage behind, find the healing we need, and become the people and the church that God calls us to be. Amen.