In 1980 the chaplain in a tightly secured refugee camp in Florida, where the conditions were awful, was asked to perform a Mass. The refugees were caught between two worlds, having left everything behind them for the land of opportunity. The pastor was very nervous and unsure of what to tell them, and as he sat on a hill overlooking the camp a young Cuban man came up and sat beside him. After a few moments of silence the man said, "We’ll never be as free as we are today, will we? We think freedom awaits us on the other side of this camp where there’s the promise of buying a house and putting our kids in college and having a credit card; but it’ll be a new kind of slavery. Right now we’re free, and although it doesn’t seem like it, we’ll never be as free as we are right now." At Mass the next day, the Pastor shared the words that God had spoken through that young man: "Though you have nothing, though you might think that freedom is what comes next, you will never be as free as you are right now."
Remember your story; you are children of the Exodus. God told the Hebrew slaves, "I am sending you to worship me, take nothing with you and I’ll make a free people out of you." They were impoverished, enslaved, and without hope, but now look, God is your liberator. Remember your story; you are children of the Wilderness. The people were wandering the desert and God told them, "I am sending you to a land, take nothing with you, and I will feed you." They were on the verge of mutiny, bickering and hungry, and every morning food showed up outside their tents, but now look, God is your provider. Remember your story; you are children of Abraham and Sarah. God told them, "I am sending you to a place that I’ll show you, take nothing with you and I’ll make nations out of you." They were childless, and old, but now look, you are a child of Abraham and Sarah.
All these events are now a part of your history and your story. And you have all these memories to call upon when God calls upon you and says, "I am sending you, take nothing with you because I will provide." This is how the people came to know God as their God. This is how Jesus sends his followers into the world, and this is how the Spirit calls you and I to know God as the undeniable source of all life, our protection and provision, our healing and forgiveness: Do you see what God is doing with you here?
Wilderness journey, stepping into places of utter trust in God, is an essential part of our story too. It’s what happens when you live in-between two realities; no longer in Egypt but not yet settled in the Promised Land, no longer in the past but not yet in the future. The only place you can live and be free is right here and right now. And no doubt, that’s where you are right now. Some of you aren’t sure when or where work is going to come. Some of you aren’t sure how to make your mortgage this month. Some of you aren’t sure what in the world you will do with your life, or how to make sense out of anything. None of these things look like freedom, they look like crisis, they look like danger.
Yet in all of these situations God’s Spirit says, you will never be as free as you are right now. You are free to follow me because I am sending you, so, take nothing with you on your journey because you have a God who will provide for you on every step of the way. Take nothing with you on your journey because you have a Christ who comes to you in bread and wine, so that you can live free of shame and guilt, live free of the fear of what other people think or do, and even live free from the fear of death. So take nothing with you on your journey because the Spirit is sending you in the mission of this community. Right now, you are freer than you’ve ever been; God will provide. Does this sound trite to you?
Jesus sent out his disciples telling them, “Take nothing with you on your journey.” (Okay. You can take a staff, but other than that take nothing with you”). In a similar way, when Jesus sends us into the world he says ”I want you to travel light. "Take nothing with you on your journey, no bread, no bag, no money, because God will provide." Most of us would say, "Well, that sounds nice but it’s a little naive, because here in the real world things don’t work that way". We all have stuff, and even if you clean out your garage four times a year it is probably still full of stuff! If we only trust what we ourselves have experienced, then we would probably call this promise trite. And yet, in our baptism Jesus connects us to a much longer story. We live our lives in reference not solely to our individual stories but also to God’s story in the world; and in this longer story God's message is, "Listen, trusting me for everything in life isn’t trite! It’s about the most real, grittiest thing you can say about life".