Sunday, 4 July 2021

Setting out with no bags
on the journey of life as
a pilgrim and a disciple

‘He … began to send them out two by two’ (Mark 6: 7) … two walkers on the beach in Ballybunion, Co Kerry, at the end of the day (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 4 July 2021

The Fifth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity V)

9.30: The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion II), Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick

11.30: Morning Prayer, Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, Tarbert, Co Kerry

The Readings: II Samuel 5: 1-5, 9-10 Psalm 48; Mark 6: 1-13.

There is a link to the readings HERE

When I set out on journeys, too often I take too much with me … ‘A Case History’ or ‘The Hope Street Suitcases’ by John King in Liverpool (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

I got my second Astra Zeneca injection on Friday, and I am now hoping that I can travel once again within the next few weeks or months.

So, I am interested in some of the travel advice that I find in this morning’s readings.

In the Gospel reading (Mark 6: 1-13), we are challenged in the Church, as Christians, to see how being sent by God is always being in service and as being part of the ‘Sent Community.’

In addition, as we are sent, we are called to trust both in God and in those from whom we receive resources and support for our work. This applies, of course, not just to bishops and priests, but to all who seek to follow Christ and live as citizens of God’s Kingdom.

What do you take with you on a journey?

If you can bring your mind back to pre-pandemic times, ask yourself what are the essential items you packed in your case?

Was it a small bag for an overhead cabin on a Ryanair flight and a short overnight stay?

Or was it a large suitcase or two for a two-week summer holiday, filled with towels, sun cream and swimwear?

Apart from my passport, the requisite toothbrush, plastic cards, phone chargers, presents for hosts and friends, and changes of clothes and sandals, I always need to take my laptop and more than enough reading: books, magazine, journals and newspapers.

And I always regret that I have packed too much – not because I do not wear all those T-shorts or read each and every one of those books, but because I find there is not enough room for all the books I want to take back with me, and because restrictions on overhead bags often mean I cannot return with a bottle of local wine.

In this Gospel reading, as the disciples prepare for their journey, we might expect them to take with them an extra wineskin, an extra tunic, an extra pair of sandals, some water, some spending money.

But Christ tells the disciples, as he sends them out in mission, two-by-two, to take nothing for their journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money, no spare shoes, no change of tunic, no coins for tips in the taverns or inns where they stay and eat.

Perhaps the disciples set out filled with doubts and uncertainty, full of fear and anxiety, rather than with full suitcases.

But what the disciples would soon learn is that for the people they are going to encounter along the way, it is not food or money or clothes that they need most. What those people need most, like the women in last Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mark 5: 21-43), is healing. And so, Christ requires the disciples to give what is the hardest thing in the world for us to give: the hardest thing to give is ourselves.

Sometimes, the moments when we put aside the comforts of home and step into uncertainty and risk are moments when we find we are closest to God.

Perhaps this Gospel reading is challenging me to ask myself: What baggage have I been dragging along with me in life, on my journey of faith?

Have I been carrying this baggage around not because I need it, but because I am comfortable with it?

What unnecessary junk am I still carrying around with me in life that I ought to have left behind long ago?

For the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933), in his poem ‘Ithaka’ (1911), the beginning of the journey is as important as the end itself, the journey as important as the destination.

In this poem, Cavafy transforms Homer’s account of the return of Odysseus from the Trojan War to his home island, and, after a long absence finding Ithaka disappointing.

Cavafy tells Odysseus that arriving in Ithaka is what he is destined for, that he must keep that always in mind: one’s destiny, the inevitable end of the journey, is a thing to be faced for what it is, without illusions.

The meaning of Ithaka is in the voyage home that it inspired. It is not reaching home or again escaping its limitations once there that should occupy Odysseus so much as those elevated thoughts and rare excitement that are a product of the return voyage:

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Πάντα στον νου σου νάχεις την Ιθάκη.
Το φθάσιμον εκεί είν’ ο προορισμός σου.
Aλλά μη βιάζεις το ταξείδι διόλου.
Καλλίτερα χρόνια πολλά να διαρκέσει
και γέρος πια ν’ αράξεις στο νησί,
πλούσιος με όσα κέρδισες στον δρόμο,
μη προσδοκώντας πλούτη να σε δώσει η Ιθάκη.

Η Ιθάκη σ’ έδωσε τ’ ωραίο ταξείδι.
Χωρίς αυτήν δεν θάβγαινες στον δρόμο.
Άλλα δεν έχει να σε δώσει πια.

Κι αν πτωχική την βρεις, η Ιθάκη δεν σε γέλασε.
Έτσι σοφός που έγινες, με τόση πείρα,
ήδη θα το κατάλαβες η Ιθάκες τι σημαίνουν

Christ sends his disciples out, as he has been sent, with no real resources, but ready to rely on the hospitality of others for their basic needs, and depending on God for the power to fulfil their mission.

We are challenged to embrace the call of God, and go out as servants of Christ in dependence on God’s resources, God’s strength, to sustain us.

There is no shortage of work to be done in the world today. The issues of justice are many and diverse and require people of passion, commitment and with a sense of being ‘called’ or being ‘sent.’

But, for justice to become a reality in this world, in our country, in our communities, there must be a sense in which all the individual initiatives connect and form part of a larger whole. It is not just as individuals that we are sent out into the world, but we are sent out as groups and communities. As we work together, each with our own particular gifts or focus, we can make a significant difference.

Now that I have had my second vaccination, perhaps I should be planning to take up my walking stick, dust off my sandals and set off on that journey into God’s abundance. It is the journey of following Christ that is the most important journey I can make in life.

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

‘He ordered them … to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics’ (Mark 6: 8-9) … sandals in a shopfront in Rethymnon, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 6: 1-13 (NRSVA):

1 He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

‘He … began to send them out two by two’ (Mark 6: 7) … two walkers set out into the light of day in Porto (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical colour: Green.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church
is governed and sanctified:
Hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,
that in their vocation and ministry
they may serve you in holiness and truth
to the glory of your name;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The Collect of the Word:

O Lord our God,
you are always more ready to bestow your gifts upon us
than we are to seek them;
and more willing to give than we desire or deserve:
in our every need,
grant us the first and best of all your gifts,
the Spirit who makes us your children.

Post-Communion Prayer:

Holy and blessed God,
as you give us the body and blood of your Son,
guide us with your Holy Spirit,
that we may honour you not only with our lips
but also with our lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

‘On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue’ (Mark 6: 2) … inside Etz Hayyim Synagogue in Chania, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

529, Thy hand, O God, has guided (CD 30)
618, Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy (CD 35)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.



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