If the sending out of the twelve in Mark 6 is a short-term mission. We really need to rethink our short-term missions.
First of all we need to start in our own home town. In the previous verses Jesus ministered, or tried to, in his own home town. The people tried to push him off a cliff the first time and mocked him the second. So he went to the next level, sending out his disciples in the surrounding villages. Overall the pattern is consistent with the Acts mission; Jerusalem, Judea and to the ends of the Earth. Whenever Paul went to a different place he went to the Jews First. But ministering to your own people or people in the next town is hard. We like the trappings of overseas missions. There is the romance of going to a different place. And going somewhere as an American these days is like being a movie star. I have experienced it, being from Montana, in Pennsylvania. In other countries people gleefully come up to you and tell you the English that they know and they just want to be around you. This is very difficult to deal with, that was sarcastic, it is basically the opposite of the treatment you get by telling your family you have become a Christian or if you start preaching in the next town down the freeway. No one really cares back home or they try to stone you. And for the people sending you it is also and ego boost, we are doing something all the way over there! Look at us! Who knows what that person is actually doing over there. They might just be living like you do, or escaping to nicer weather, or enjoying living like princes and having someone else pay for it. But it’s over there so we don’t really know.
What if some other country sent missionaries to America? It sounds a little silly. I have heard that many other countries pray for our oppulance, and we need it. And the Muslims seem to be sending jihadists here, we don’t need that. There are also some conservative denominations that are doing church planting. That even sounds odd, at least it did to me the first time. There are churches everywhere, why do we need more? But we do. And we need to minister to the people right next door. If we don’t who will? Which brings us to the Mormons. They do missions right next door. The go out two by two. I wonder where they got that idea, oh it’s right here “he began to send them out by two” Mark 6:7. Maybe we should do that too.
Another characteristic I find very interesting is the fact that they were to be totally dependent on the people they were going to. We see the same thing with Paul who always worked making tents, wherever he was. He had business and life relationships with the people. Today the fancy American church tends to do missions like the in-laws who come to town and stay in a hotel. They think they are saying “we don’t want to inconvenience anyone” but really they are saying “we don’t like the hide-a-bed or the company of your spouse”. And they miss out on really getting to know you. That is an important part of real-life fellowship. I am really trying to hypenate as many words as possible here. There really is nothing like humbly accepting hospitality. Allowing someone to host you really is unifying. In the ancient world it was a special sort of act. It was part of the Greek ideal. You take care of the sojourner in the land. The theme is also in the Old Testament, and even other nations are judged for not doing it. I wonder if this was not sort of a basic test of acceptance. If these people don’t even treat you by the worldly standard then don’t waste your time. The tradition also carries up into medieval and pre-modern times. The inn-keepers from the literature of those time are almost always depicted as scoundrals, taking advantage of their guests in every way. Maybe that’s why we don’t have inns in the U. S.. We do have those Airport stores, however. We are not above price gouging. But we do miss out on the ambience of the inn and we miss out on the mutual blessings of hospitality given and received. I have grown very close to lots of friends by entering, submitting to, their world and couch. I think we would do well to follow this model of Jesus as we go about our missions. Couchserfing for Jesus.
“shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them”
This seems really odd. But it’s probably because we don’t understand how sacraments work. We are not big on connections between the physical and metaphysical worlds. We like to keep our religion theoretical and personal and the rest of our physical, ‘actual’, lives to ourselves. But God always crashes heaven and earth together. Physical signs are very common to the Old Testament prophets. Hosea married a prostitute. Jeremiah was told to bury a loincloth. Jesus often does the same thing by using surrounding or putting people in situations to reveal their hearts. He thinks it’s fruitful. In a sense every situation we are in is designed to build our character or reveal it. The physical is a platform to reveal the spiritual. What we do here matters. Eating bread and drinking wine together matters. Baptizing people into the Church matters.
In keeping with Mark as the Lion, that is the book detailing the workings of the King, I wonder about this mission. It doesn’t exactly look like a military mission. I wonder how they would have viewed it. The disciples had to be confused, Peter is probably disappointed that he doesn’t get to take his sword. James and John want Jesus on their team. So we are going to conquer the Romans by going from house to house? The answer is actually ‘yes’. Rome was used to judge Israel, in the proper time. But then it was conquered by Christendom. It fought the Christians, lion’s tooth and claw, for 300 years. But then Christendom won. Rome is gone, Christianity is spreading. Even the name ‘Rome’ now conjures up connotations of the central city of western Christendom.
I am tempted to form some sort of conclusion here but really I just want to count the number of hyphenations I was able to almost-casually insert. That and I want to go on a short-term mission this winter, hopefully somewhere warm and distant. I dreamed about going on a short-tem mission once, you can read about it here. Also, it never says the disciples were given the power to heal miraculously. It just says they were healing people with oil, in the normal way. I think we can do that. I think we can do all of this, but will we?