Mission Trip Guidelines from Jesus: Reflections on Matthew 10:40-42
June 26, 2011
There is a difference between looking at a travel website and thinking, "Wouldn't it be awesome to go there!" and actually making the reservations and getting on the plane. There is a difference between standing on the shore and waving bon voyage to Jesus and getting in the boat with him.
Wannabe followers of Jesus are those who say they want to follow him, but are unwilling to give up the comforts and control they must to follow him. Wannabe followers of Jesus are those who say they want to follow him, but are unwilling to make him a priority over other demands. Wannabe followers of Jesus stand on the shore and verbalize their devotion with dramatic words: "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go!" (Mt. 8:19) But, when it comes down to it, they are not willing to get in the boat and risk rough seas with him.
And the seas are rough in chapters 8, 9, and 10 of Matthew's gospel. First we meet two fierce, foul smelling demoniacs in 8:28-36. Then an anemic woman approaches, who has no more dignity left than to grasp the hem of his garment (9:20). From there two blind men follow him as closely as modern day TMZ reporters, refusing to leave him alone until he heals them (9:27). Next onstage is a demoniac, and, as if that weren't enough of a healing challenge, one who is mute. Jesus heals him and, for his trouble, is accused by the Pharisees of being in league with the ruler of the demons (9:34).
From then on, Jesus' ministry goes viral, with more hits than he can handle. He teaches and proclaims the good news. Sick, troubled people are drawn to him like iron filings to a magnet. In a beautiful window into the mind of Jesus, Matthew in 9:36 says of him, "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. "
Realizing there were way more of them than there were of him, Jesus commissions the Twelve to go out in his name to heal, preach, and exorcize (Mt. 10:5-23). It will not be an easy journey.
Next week my 22-year-old son, Matthew, and I are going on a mission trip to Casa Esperanza, a children's dental clinic and medical center in Puerto Lempira on the Mosquito Coast of eastern Honduras. Getting there involves three plane flights, a cab ride, and a bus trip. Reading through the "Instructions for Volunteers," handout, I learned about all kinds of details Jesus doesn't go into in his "Instructions for Volunteers" in Matthew 10:5-15.
Jesus doesn't go into airport taxes, the expected tips for people who handle your luggage, safety, appropriate attire, passports (your passport can't expire less than six months after you plan to leave Honduras), where and how to exchange money, immunizations, luggage weight limits, malaria pills, insurance, and liability forms. Jesus' "Instructions for Volunteers" simply says "Go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. Proclaim the good news that the kingdom of heaven has come near. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons."
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.