Mark 6:6b-13

Then Jesus went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.

He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”

So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. Mark 6:6b-13

It might be an old cliché but I think it is always true – the mark of a great leader is great followers. It is one thing to do things yourself. Anyone can do that. But getting others to do what you want them to do? That’s leadership. Getting others to do the right things for the right reasons? That’s great leadership.

This is such an interesting passage when we listen closely, entering the text. Look at how vulnerable Jesus was letting himself be. So far in the story, he has been the hero. He has been the ones to draw the crowds. He has done good things in the lives of people. But now Jesus takes a new risk. He empowers others. He sends them out beyond himself. And he sends them out without any visible signs of support.

The first sermon I preached as a newly minted ordained pastor was on this text. It just popped up when it was my turn to preach. I remember working on my sermon, thinking about how, even though we were just starting out in life, we packed the largest U-Haul truck we could rent to move our stuff to Houston. It was a far cry from no bread, no bag, and no money. (Although we were precariously close to no money.)

Jesus sends them out with nothing to count on except the trust that it would be OK. And then Jesus gives them permission to fail. Their mission would not be an automatic thing. Just because their cause was good and their willingness was high, there are no guarantees in ministry. But permission to fail also gave them permission to try. And try they did.

Imagine their surprise when good things happened!

We’re in October. In “church world” this means that many congregations are beginning to lean into next year. Soon they will have congregational meetings. They will elect new leaders and vote on a new budget. Of the many thousands of congregations across the United States, there will not be a single one with so many people willing to lead that they will have to dream up new things for them to do. There won’t be a single congregation with so much money that they budget in pencil to make sure they have good reasons to spend it all. That just isn’t how it is.

Instead, they will have just enough to do what it is that God calls them to do. Maybe just barely enough. But enough is enough.

If their hearts are in the right place…if they are doing the right things for the right reasons…if they find themselves taking risks, living at the edge of their capacity rather than taking the easy and safe way, they might find God doing great things among and beyond themselves.

They just might prove themselves great followers and God doesn’t ask for anything other than that.

Let us pray: Thank you Lord for sending out your friends in pairs. We might not think we have enough resources. We might worry about money. We might worry about our capacity, about our skills. But, in your wisdom, you send us out together, that we might always know that we have each other, and you right there in our midst. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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