You are the Equipment
July 5, 2015
Tomorrow Vacation Bible School begins. The theme this year is Everest, as you heard in our opening time. I have not seen the materials but I imagine the theme focuses on courage and taking risks in our walk with Jesus. In fact, there is a local person who has hiked Everest and he will be speaking with the children at some point during the week. And I’m sure that one of the things he will discuss is the importance of the base camp.
There are several base camps, at varying altitudes, on the mountain. These camps serve vital functions. The first is the need to acclimatize one’s breathing and lung capacity prior to making the actual ascent. So typically hikers spend several weeks at a lower altitude until the body adjusts to the much thinner oxygen. Then they are able to gradually move up the mountain to a higher base camp until they tackle the actual ascent to the top. The other important role of the base camp is to stage the equipment, the provisions, the sherpas, the digital technology, and satellite radio support needed for such a technical climb. It also functions as the first line of response for emergency rescue. Clearly base camp is vital for a successful climbing mission. But if you want to climb the mountain you have to leave the comfort of base camp and take some risks.
The VBS theme provides an apt metaphor for the way in which Jesus talks about mission in this scripture passage. Take the message on the road, out to the people , leaving the comfort and relative safety of base camp behind. Jesus is rejected in his home town, his base camp. I guess even Jesus can’t work with a people who can’t or won’t hear his message. Yes, he’s the Son of God and a miracle worker, but you can’t make fire with a bunch of wet sticks. Barbara Brown Taylor uses this metaphor. They have no enthusiasm, no desire for the good news, so he couldn’t work the same miracles there. And as Kate Huey adapts this metaphor, she observes that Jesus had to walk away from his hometown and go shine his light elsewhere. He had to leave base camp to climb the mountain of faith.
And he did not take ropes, oxygen tanks, specialized boots, freeze-dried foods, tents and the hundred other things that climbers take on Everest. He traveled light and asks us to travel light as well. I started to talk about this theme in my letter for the newsletter coming out this week. And I used the phrasing from Eugene Peterson’s The Message. “Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this. You are the equipment. Keep it simple. And no luxury inns. Get a modest place and be content there until you leave.”
Well, I suppose that sleeping on the floor of a classroom on the Reach trip qualifies as a modest place! If we believe in the transformative power of Jesus we must also believe that we can we can be part of the good news anywhere we go. We are sent out to call for change, and given the power and authority to heal in His name. Jesus can work through anybody and that is why he says that we are the equipment. This church is base camp. And if we focus all our effort, attention, and resources on maintaining our life within these four walls we will not be fulfilling Jesus’ command. He sent them out two by two, and he gave them authority to heal and to preach in his name. Out there in the world! We’ve heard the message in here, now we must go out and share it. After all, we are a pilgrim church that walks where Jesus walks, and loves the ones that Jesus loved…the lost and the least…out there.
We are to dream like Jesus dreamed. That’s the only way to be disciples bearing the kingdom fruit like love, compassion, service, healing. And that will almost always be outside the safe zone, our own comfort zone. Look at how outrageous was Jesus’ behavior. He healed on the Sabbath. He talked to prostitutes. He allowed himself to be touched by the unclean, and he touched the unclean. He challenged the religious authorities when actions did not match their words. He forgave the unforgivable. He debated religion with a Samaritan woman with whom he should not have even been talking. He ate and drank with sinners and even told jokes. He spoke truth to power, like with Pontius Pilate. Outrageous. Jesus was a loose cannon in the world. I bet he would have been a blast on a mission trip!
This week one of our Reach campers called me to get the list of stuff we’re supposed to bring. I referred her to the list on the Reach website. Then after I read this passage closely, I realized my mistake. I should have said “You are the equipment! Just bring your ability to listen to the deep hurt of your neighbor. Just bring your ability to speak about Jesus and his love for you and me. Just bring your ability to pray. Just bring your ability to swing a hammer knowing that one nail at a time you are part of the re-building of this broken world. Just bring your ability to laugh at the crazy idea that we are qualified to represent Jesus. Just bring your ability to sing the silly songs, do the silly dances, and have fun with other campers. Just bring your ability to help someone else have fun. Just bring your whole self…the self that was made in the image of God, and loved completely by God. Oh, and bring some sunscreen and bug spray while you’re at it!
Keep it simple because it really is simple. God loves us, and we love others. So we go, and we tell, and we do. Jesus can work through us exactly as he chooses, to show forth the wonder of the coming Kingdom. The message may not always be received as we would like. For some it will fall to the ground like those gospel seeds spilled on the hard packed earth. Sometimes the message gets choked in the thorns and brambles of a messy life. But once in a while, a seed will fall into deep soil and something beautiful will sprout forth. And that’s why we’re here. That’s why God chose us at our baptism as beloved sons and daughters. God has work for us to do. And God equips us according to his purpose.
The Message concludes this passage with these stark words. “Then they were on the road. They preached with joyful urgency that life can be radically different, right and left they sent the demons packing, they brought wellness to the sick…healing their spirits.” And so we hit the road to Reach. Yes, we are pulling a trailer full of equipment—hammers, ladders, drills, saws. But the most important equipment will be sitting in the seats in the van. Talking, sleeping, eating, texting…our campers are preparing the way for the coming Kingdom of God.
It’s not a climb to Mt Everest. And we don’t get that incredible view from the summit. But we do get to see the world that Jesus saw. Some good people, some not so good. Some receptive to the good news, some not. All kinds of people, all kinds of needs. And Jesus looked at this crazy quilt of life, and loved us all. I picture him in a Reach T-Shirt, shorts and sandals, doing the silly dances during program time, and texting us his message.
We’re leaving base camp and heading out. That is where the gospel is needed, so that is where we must go.
 Sermon Seeds, Kate Huey, www.ucc.org/worship_samuel_sermon_seeds_july_5_2015, page 4.