laying down burdens

  • Traveling Light

    Free image/jpeg, Resolution: 579x600, File size: 34Kb, Ash WednesdayMessage for Ash Wednesday on Luke 10:1-11 on February 22, 2023 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, TX

    Jesus sends the 72 disciples out on a journey. He gives them very strange and uncomfortable instructions: Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals. My husband Dan is good at traveling light, me, not so much! Dan went to Mexico for two weeks, to study Spanish and all he brought was a carry-on suitcase and a small backpack! But Jesus isn’t telling his disciples just to travel light — he is instructing them to travel without necessities.

    Can you imagine if I told our Global Mission when they went to El Paso, to give me their wallet, their suitcase, and…their cellphone?

    So, why does Jesus tell his disciples to travel light? There are several reasons. When we hold onto too many things, we cannot watch for how Holy Spirit is leading us. Some pathways are not possible because we are too weighed down with what we are carrying. When we hold onto too much stuff, we cannot receive the blessings that others have for us — outreach, evangelism and sharing good news is not just about welcoming others and offering hospitality, but it is also receiving the hospitality and gifts that others give to us. When we hold onto to too many things, we lose sight of what is truly important — trusting God to provide for us and seeing God’s blessings for us.

    Today we enter into this journey of Lent where Jesus invites us to travel light. What do we need to let go of to journey with Jesus this Lent? Often, we think of letting go of small pleasures —like chocolate or meat on Fridays or spending time on Facebook. There may be good reasons for these practices, but in this passage, Jesus invites us to let go of things that are essential: money, a change of clothes, and a spare pair of shoes. In our Lenten journey, we are invited to let go of things that can feel essential to us. What might those things be for you?

    It may be a feeling of control. Maybe it is a feeling of comfort or security. Maybe it is expectations of others or yourself—these things can also feel essential to our identity. Or it may be material possessions Jesus refers to, that we need to loosen our hold on in order to trust God to provide for us. What is weighing you down, that if you released it or let go of it, you would feel lighter?

    I had to ask myself this question as I prepared for today and as you might guess, self-examination is never fun or comfortable. Neither is admitting it publicly and on video, but I try hard not to ask anyone to engage in a practice I have not done or am not doing myself.  What I need to let go of this Lent centers around expectations of myself—it’s nothing new, and often, I think I’ve gotten better and then I default back into the same patterns again.

    I was talking with friends this week about my worries about my family—my dad who has had chronic health problems since October, other family members with health issues I am concerned about, one of my cousins died in Dec, and I am a family support for his sister who is left with a colossal mess, and so on. One friend said, “you sound like you are the mother of your family.” I laughed and smiled and went on with my day.

    But later I talked with Dan and had to admit to this overwhelming feeling of hyper-responsibility for everyone’s well-being—that somehow it was my job to make everyone’s life better. This, of course, is impossible.

    But this hyper-responsibility has been a part of my identity my whole life (I learned it from my who learned it from her mom, her learned it from her mom and so on). I feel it as a woman in our society, as a daughter, as a Christian (not necessarily a healthy one), as a pastor in some of my training (again not necessarily a healthy one), and letting it go creates anxiety. Will my family still know how much I love them if I am not hyper responsible for everything? What if they need something and I don’t show up?

    Of course the problems are obvious when I say all of this outloud—my family already knows that I love them, over-functioning does not allow others to show up and contribute, or for me to receive their gifts, and it also means I do not think nor behave as if I trust God to take care of my family or me. All of this is all sin.

    But once I said it out loud—again—since I have been here before—I felt my whole spirit lighten and this cloud I have felt in my brain cleared up. I started traveling lighter right away. Once we identify what we need to let go of, what it is Jesus is inviting us to release this Lent to travel light—then we can look at what spiritual practices will help us continue traveling light and not pick up anymore extra baggage.

    For me, I have added a prayer in the morning where I picture God taking care of each of my family members, and then saying, “I trust you, God to take care of my family.” Also, when I get into hyper-responsibility patterns, I neglect my own self-care, so my practices in Lent will focus on better exercise and eating habits.

    If what you need to release to travel light involves material possessions, then maybe making donations of stuff and almsgiving or offerings will be a good practice. If social media is your area, then maybe fasting from those practices and spending that time in prayer, in nature or in meaningful conversation are practices to do instead.

    Traveling light with Jesus this Lent is not about giving up something just for the sake of it—

    • it is to be unburdened,
    • to have our spirit lightened,
    • to open ourselves to God’s blessings and provisions,
    • to trust God more deeply with whatever gives us worry and anxiety,
    • it is to encounter God’s hospitality for us in the world, as we receive all we need.

    So I invite you to lay your burden down and join me this Lent in traveling light.