Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Traveling Light Toward the End

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 -- Week of 3 Lent

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 955)
Psalms 78:1-39 (morning) 78:40-72(evening)
Genesis 45:1-15
1 Corinthians 7:32-40
Mark 6:1-13

Sometimes a little detail in the text will catch my attention. In the instruction that Jesus gives as he sends the twelve out two by two, Mark includes this description: "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." There is a little detail here that contrasts with Matthew's version: "Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food." And Luke: "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money -- not even an extra tunic." Mark's version allows a staff and sandals; Matthew and Luke's versions prohibit them. I've never noticed that before, and I don't have an explanation.

The description of these travelers is similar to the cynic and sophist traveling philosophers of Greek and Roman tradition. But the similarity seems to raise up a contrast. The traveling philosophers did travel light, but they expected to be paid for their teachings, often very handsomely. The philosophers developed a reputation for greed. Part of their message was their lifestyle. They shed themselves of all social conventions, lived according to nature, and were dependent upon those who would receive them and listen to their teaching.

The gospel accounts raise up a contrast. His missionaries are not to take money or store it in their belts, like the cynics. And, except for Mark's account, not even to wear shoes or carry a staff. In Christian history subsequent orders of monks followed this tradition. Sts. Francis and Claire introduced the custom of discalced (meaning "without shoes") monks, who went barefoot. The term later extended to those who wore only sandals. Many Franciscans embraced the life of poverty and traveling dependent upon alms.

Monastic traditions also embraced the teaching we find today from Paul in 1 Corinthians advising celibacy. In the light of the expected return of Jesus, Paul encourages his congregation to forego marriage. His reasons are several. First, what's the point? Jesus' immanent return will end this age, and so there is no time to have children and raise a family. Second, without the worries and anxieties of providing for another's needs, physical and emotional, it is easier to focus entirely on "the affairs of the Lord." His consistent advice in this section is this: stay as you are, whether circumcised or uncircumcised, slave or free, married or single. Everything is coming to a climactic crisis soon. No need to plan for the future. Paul's prediction and the early church's expectation proved wrong, of course, and the presentation of the message and teaching of the church had to make a major adjustment in the next couple of generations.

These texts are helpful metaphors for Lenten considerations, however. How can we travel lighter? How can we simplify our lives? We are so burdened by possessions and concerns, Lent invites us to give up, let go, give away some of the clutter, anxiety and possessiveness that accumulates around us. Lent also invites us to consider the immanent end, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." A mentor of mine used Lent as an exercise in his preparation for death. He imagined that he knew without doubt that he was going to die on Good Friday. During the forty days he got his affairs in order, reconnected with valued friends from his past, made amends and reconciliations. By the time he went to sleep on Good Friday, he was prepared. Everything had been taken care of. He could commend himself to Christ, and die.

When he awoke that next morning, it was like a wonderful gift. Resurrection. And, he said, he discovered that the practice was not so much a way to die, but rather a way to live.


Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 12:14 PM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

How did Jesus' followers find the money to drink and sleep? They may have relied on donations, after all it appears they did have to have someone to carry the purse (Judas?) Money, physical trappings, desires, distractions, etc. all may keep us from God, and money in the end was part of what did Jesus in.


"…the one who sees the path of renunciation and the path of unselfish work as the same really sees."


At 12:15 PM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

oops, I meant to write "eat, drink and sleep"


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