Travel Tips from Jesus – Matthew 9:35 – 10:14
T’is the season for traveling or travel planning. As December draws to a close and the New Year approaches, now might be the time to look ahead and think about our plans for 2020.
From what I have heard, a lot of us here like to travel.
Some of us like the worry–free style of travel offered on board a cruise ship while some of us like to sit on a sandy beach under a palm tree and crack open a cool one – I mean, read a book. Some of us like to pack up the kids, grab a tent and go explore nature in the Provincial Parks, while others of us may prefer to set out on a road trip and explore the country that way.
There are all kinds of ways to travel, something for everyone.
For me, the travel destination that I have been interested in lately is Europe. Before I travel, I like to be an armchair traveler and read up on my destinations. And my favourite travel writer is Rick Steves, who specializes in writing books and travel guides about Europe.
No matter where you travel in Europe, Rick Steves has two cardinal pieces of travel advice:
1. Always travel light, and
2. Always use a money belt for your cash and valuables.
If you do those two things, he says, you should be ready for anything.
So I do my best to travel light by using a fairly small suitcase. But I find I always have to pack, unpack, discard items, and repack about three times before I can get everything to fit in.
And as for the money belt, I always use one and I swear by it. I feel very safe with it on and it is so comfortable that I usually forget I’m wearing it. As a travel writer, Rick Steves’ goal is to help make European travel as memorable and trouble-free as possible… although the best stories are usually the ones where things go radically wrong!
One book that Rick Steves wrote that caught my attention recently was called “Travel as a Political Act”. What does that mean? How can travel be a political act?
Rick Steves says that because all of us have a tendency to get set in our own ways – because we have a tendency to see the world only from our own point of view – traveling is a great way to shake up our complacency. It allows us to see things from different perspectives, especially if we go out of our way to try to connect with the locals and embrace our cultural differences with curiosity rather than with judgment.
For instance, when I was in Amsterdam one time, I ordered fish and chips, and was surprised to see that the chips came with a side of mayonnaise, not ketchup. Mayonnaise for my French fries? When I asked for ketchup, they didn’t even have any in the restaurant. So I decided to act like a local and dip my French fries in the mayonnaise… What the heck… And you know what? I actually liked it…
Rick Steves encourages us to put ourselves in the shoes (or sandals, or bare feet) of the people we meet and try to understand their cares and concerns. Travel allows us to build bridges, build understanding and compassion for other people, other cultures, and other countries.
Traveling, building bridges, building understanding and compassion for others is what Jesus is teaching his disciples about today, as well.
Jesus spent a lot of time traveling around many towns and villages. He was intent on bringing the Good News about God’s love to anyone who would listen. But as he traveled around, he noticed that many people in the crowds were suffering from all kinds of problems and ailments. His heart was filled with compassion for the many harassed and helpless people he met.
So, as Jesus traveled around, he stopped and spent time with the people suffering with sicknesses and diseases – and healed many people – as many as he could. But there were so many distressed people that Jesus couldn’t do it all – he needed help. He needed to ask God for help. And Jesus instructed his disciples – his rag-tag, mismatched group of followers – to pray to God to send more workers, as well.
And in answer to the disciples’ prayers, much to everyone’s surprise, including their own, the motley group of disciples following Jesus were the ones chosen, authorized and selected by God to be those workers.
So, by the grace of God, and for the first time ever, Jesus empowers the disciples with the ability to heal every kind of sickness and disease. Jesus empowers them with the ability to help distraught people. Jesus guides his disciples and offers them some travel tips for their journey…
Jesus has two cardinal pieces of travel advice for them… he says:
1. Always travel light – Don’t carry a traveler’s bag with a change of clothes, don’t bring sandals and don’t even bring a walking stick, and
2. Don’t take a money belt and don’t take any money, either – no gold, silver, or even copper coins.
Jesus guides them and says – if you do these two things you should be ready for anything!!
I wonder what would Rick Steves think of that advice? Well, Rick Steves does say to travel light, so traveling barefoot with only the clothes on your back certainly qualifies as “traveling light”, I suppose.
And as for the second rule – “don’t take a money belt and don’t take any money” – well, I’m sure I’m never going to try that!
But times were different back then. The custom in those days was what we might call “radical hospitality” these days. Hospitality was a sacred obligation back then. In those days, if someone asked you for food, water, or a place to sleep, you were expected to provide it – if it was at all possible to do so. No mumbling, no grumbling, just do it. “Radical hospitality.”
Jesus has some other travel tips for the disciples, as well:
Jesus has a travel tip about their mission… Jesus guides them by saying – You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment. You have been given the ability to heal, raise up, cleanse, and cast out sicknesses and diseases.
Jesus has a travel tip about where to travel… Jesus guides them by saying – Just go to the lost and confused people right here in the area. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Tell them about God’s divine love for them. Tell them about God’s grace for everyone. Generously help others as you have been helped; be generous to others whenever you can.
Jesus has a travel tip about accommodation… Jesus guides them by saying – when you enter a town or village, search for a worthy person and stay in his home until you leave town. When you enter their home, give it your blessing and be content there until you leave. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve to be fed.
And Jesus has a travel tip about dealing with rejection… Jesus guides them by giving the disciples a warning – he tells them that they may not be well received in certain places, because of him. Jesus says,
“If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave.”
And with those travel tips from Jesus and their new abilities to heal hurting people, the disciples set out on their mission to invite people to connect with God…
And, surprisingly, their mission is also our mission. WE have been given the ability to heal, raise up, cleanse, and cast out illnesses, as well. While we may not have to deal with leprosy or demons or raising the dead, we do have modern day illnesses and problems that affect us or many people we know.
These days, we suffer from problems like loneliness, anxiety, depression, addiction, cynicism, & disconnection…. to name just a few of them. And we might think – how can we heal and raise up people suffering from these and many other afflictions of our time? What do all of these problems have in common?
One thing we CAN consider – is that all of us, as human beings, have many common needs, longings and desires – We all have…
the need to be acknowledged,
the need to be appreciated,
the desire to have a sense of belonging,
the need for someone to know our name,
the desire to use our gifts and our lives in a meaningful way, and of course,
And WE have all been given the ability to heal and raise others up by attending to ANY of these needs. Attending to any of these needs helps to reduce one of our modern society’s biggest problems – the problem of social isolation. Social isolation can affect our young people as much as it can affect the elderly – and anyone in between.
So what can we do? ……. Connection is the antidote to isolation. We could do something as simple as – making eye contact, smiling and nodding, or saying hello to someone as we go about our day – we could acknowledge their presence. We could make eye contact and genuinely greet a family member when they enter the room. We could make eye contact and genuinely greet a co-worker at work, a friend at school, or an employee at the Tim Horton’s drive through…
Acknowledging someone’s presence is such a simple thing to do, but so powerful. It says to someone, “I see you, you are important, you matter.”
If we stop to think about it for a minute, our practice of “Passing the peace of Christ” teaches us everything we need to know… It is a part of our worship service that is an act of acknowledging each other’s presence. It is an act of blessing each other.
For Passing of the Peace –
we make eye contact with someone,
we acknowledge their presence with a nod, a bow, a handshake, a hug, or even a fist bump or peace sign … and
we bless another person with a smile and the words “Peace of Christ” or “good morning!”
It is a healing ritual. It brings us together. It bridges the gap of loneliness and isolation.
For Jesus and his disciples, travel was a political act because they were able to give help and hope to the lost, lonely and least among them. By tending to the least among them, they defied their government and religious leaders – who depended on the poor staying poor.
For us, travel is a political act because travel opens our eyes… we become aware of others, aware of their hopes and concerns… and we start to see the world from their point of view. We gain a broader perspective.
So, while dipping my French fries in mayonnaise instead of ketchup might not cause world peace – maybe it’s a start… maybe it’s a step in the right direction.
Jesus guides us to keep traveling on and keep seeking those who DO want our help with his final travel tip which was – “If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message [of hope], shake its dust from your feet as you leave.”