Mission Trip Guidelines from Jesus: Reflections on Matthew 10:40-42

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Lectionary Reflections
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."

He just tells the Twelve where to go and what to do.

My Honduran mission trip handout also includes a "what to pack for Honduras" list. It includes all kinds of items Jesus doesn't mention in his packing list in Matthew 10:9-10: ear plugs, hat, motion sickness pills, flash light, small battery operated fan, rain poncho, water bottle, camera, water shoes, sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above, mosquito repellent, antiseptic hand wipes, an extra pair of shoes in case one gets muddy, snack food, and several other items I won't bore you with. But if you were going you'd want to know about them.

I am very grateful for the detailed "what to pack" list for Honduras. But I can't help but compare it to Jesus' "what not to pack" list in Matthew 10:9-10. No money. No bag for the journey, no extra tunic or pair of sandals, not even a staff.

I don't know that I would want to go on a mission trip whose team leader was Jesus. I picture Jesus as the airline employee who, just as you are dragging your roller board onto the plane stops you and says, "I'm sorry you're going to have to check that." But what he really means is, "You'll never see this roller board again. Now get on the plane." Without the preventive medications and small comforts of daily life, I am afraid a Jesus-led mission team would all come back home sunburned, dehydrated, and with blisters on our feet.

At least Jesus is realistic in warning the Twelve (and us) of the dangers of the trip. They will face opposition, rejection, and perhaps persecution (10:16-22).