“Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” (Luke 10:3-9)
How many times have I had the experience of reluctantly, even painfully, agreeing to help that person who is a bit of a thorn in the flesh? The one who always seems to need a ride to the other end of town, who talks too loudly and too much, the one who somehow grates on the nerves? How many times have I been shamed by this attitude after experiencing a sense of grace when doing so? Discovering the gift of the other, grace returned ten fold.
Sure, I do my bit—I help. I am a cleric after all! I visit the sick, care for those in need. And I get my reward. I do love to be the helper, the healer, and the saver! But it is those who are difficult to love, who stretch me outside my patience; it is where I am pushed to the edge that I come to know my helplessness, the grace of community, of love, of my own weakness, and my dependence on the other.
There is a community of Franciscans I have heard about who live entirely on panhandling. They are 100% dependent on what people put in their tin cup—their food and well-being. Their shelter. Imagine. They don’t work. They don’t ‘contribute’ anything to society. Parasites. They are there on the corner, day after day—beggars and mendicants. They live entirely on the compassion of others. Like Jesus, they take the position of the victim: victims of our blame. Like Jesus, they are mendicants of love.
It would seem that in the Gospel this week, Jesus invites the seventy to go into the world in just such a way. Like him, with eyes on Jerusalem. Nobody’s doormat, they live on the good will of others, and nothing else. Imagine: what trust, what faith, what vulnerability—exposing oneself even to the hostile other as mendicants. But the gift is for the one who yields to that compassion, even at their own expense. The reward for the one who has his or her heart cracked on the threshold of judgement and compassion is ten fold—at least. We really can’t give unless we know how to receive—if we can’t receive, we need to have a hard look at what is behind our giving. When I experience the humility that comes from the humiliation of discovering my less than holy motivations, my giving and my receiving become purified in knowing my utter dependence on God, and on you.
What kind of society would we be if we all lived in such a manner? If we lived entirely on the food of compassion? If, instead of rejoicing at our independence, we lived in pure unashamed dependence on each other? If we stood with our hands out, without demanding, living on the bread of love alone?
As we approach General Synod, what kind of Church would we be if we all lived in such a way? Imagine. Would Satan fall like lightning?