The Kingdom of God is coming, and the signs of its arrival are clear. There is a new teaching which is accompanied by new deeds. But Teaching comes first. We welcome the teaching of Jesus and make it our own if we want to move forward. So, when we read that the Twelve were ‘given authority over unclean spirits’, we are not in an episode of Supernatural or Grimm fairy tales. The Twelve urged communities and individuals to rethink the ‘taboos’ and restrictions around clean and unclean boundaries. The truth of which they speak is that all need a change of heart and mind. The Twelve, the new leaders of the Twelve tribes of Israel, are sent to create a new community based on a new teaching about true holiness. So instead of fearing what is ‘unclean’, and pushing people away, they have to have faith, and mirror the God who is Mercy and Compassion. The re-entry of those who have been written off, will only be possible if the whole community have nurtured a new awareness that supports this kind of Kingdom activity.
Jesus teaches disciples and disciples teach others. If they are going to be successful, everything about them needs to be authentic. Disciples must themselves be ‘at one’ with this new teaching. How we work with others to create a more inclusive sense of community is as important as healing and exorcising. So, Jesus gives His disciples a way of working. They must not go it alone but walk with each other. Walking stick and sandals mean that they must not settle down. A single tunic speaks of a confidence in what they bring. Without bread, bag or money, they unite themselves with those in need. Their lack of resources will elicit the compassion that is the foundation stone, indeed the cornerstone, of this new community. Welcoming disciples is the first step to welcoming the One who has sent them. Also, disciples are not to fight with those who do not accept their Kingdom activity. They are not to retaliate. They are to shake the dust on their feet as they go. In this way, those who refuse them will know that God has moved on. There are other people and other places to visit, and the Good News must be preached.
When disciples become an invitation for others to undertake a spiritual adventure, great things happen. We come to see that Jesus is not asking for goals to be reached, but paths to be walked. Paths that will lead us to deeper awareness.
Jack Kornfield tells the story of following the injunction to bow. As a young man, and the only westerner in a Bhuddist monastery in Thailand, he was instructed to bow to every monk that was older than he was. If he respected an older monk, there was no problem. But when he had to bow to some of the others, he struggled. Nevertheless, he bowed. He wrote, “I began to look for some worthy aspect of each person I bowed to. I bowed to the wrinkles in the retired farmers eyes, for all the difficulties he had suffered and triumphed over. I bowed to the vitality and playfulness of the young monks, the incredible possibilities each of their lives held yet ahead of them“. (After the Ecstasy, the Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path. ix-xi)
From following the injunction to bow, he learned how to be open to whatever life brings and learn from it. This reminds me of a beautiful poem by Rumi, from The Guest House, in The Illuminated Room.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
They may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Can you see it now? The disciples return with walking stick, sandals and one tunic and still without bread, bag or
money. As they tell Jesus what they did and what they taught, He asks them, “Did you lack anything?” The say,
“Nothing”. “Ah!” He says.