Camp Cuyamaca is owned by San Diego Schools. Every spring, sixth graders would descend on the camp for a full week. Sixth grade camp was a rite of passage for a generation of school children. Since 1946 over a million students have taken part in that adventure.
A memory that stands out for me about that camp week was the elaborate lengths my mother went to prepare me. I don’t remember if magic marker existed back then, it didn’t matter, mom stitched my name in everything. Not only did it add to the itch of the new t-shirt collars, it kept me diligent in caring for my clothes. No one was going to see the inside of my shorts! As soon as they were off, stuffed into my bag they went!
Stitching names was only one aspect of getting ready for this grand adventure of sixth grade camp. Of course when a child goes off to camp, there is the inevitable packing list that parents use to stuff to the gills the poor child’s bag.
Campers should bring: flashlight, sunscreen, bug spray, toothbrush, rain poncho, flip flops, tennis shoes, swimsuit, shorts and t-shirts (with name) for the week, towel, toiletries, a jacket or sweatshirt for cool evenings. Leave at home: cell phone, electronics, pocket knives, money.
The packing list and the things to leave off, indicate the nature of the activities and the kind of community that will define camp. Practicality wins the day with comfortable, weather appropriate clothing that allows the wearer to move freely without worrying about getting dirty.
Cell phones, electronics, etc, are prohibited as distracting. Campers must be able to focus on the tasks and people at hand. Money isn’t necessary, it just gets lost and everything is provided. So the first step to a good camp experience, is packing correctly. No one wants to be caught in the afternoon deluge without a poncho or deep in the woods without bug spray.
Following instructions on a packing list allows for full participation in the activities of the adventure. It works for sixth grade camp, for summer camp, for beach weeks, and it works for followers of Christ. In our text for today, Jesus sends the disciples on an adventure. In doing so he gives them a packing list. If we are to follow Jesus, we need to get this packing list right. And the operative word is “pack light.”
Jesus says his burden is light. But we often load ourselves up with superfluous stuff. Jesus tells the 12 to take only a staff, no bread, no bag, no money. Wear sandals, put on two tunics. Go in pairs. Now, get moving. Jesus’ packing list is geared toward mobility and flexibility. The disciples don’t take time each morning to re-pack the donkey. They’re not dragging a roller bag behind them, stopping every few paces to adjust their shoulder bag. Jesus’ packing list indicates they are expected to be on the move. They are not to get too comfortable in one place. They shouldn’t be on the lookout for the nicest home. They are to be content with whatever accommodations welcome them.
The lack of baggage carried by Jesus’ followers is insight to our own lives. “Shake the dust off your feet,” he says. In other words, keep moving, mentally, spiritually. Don’t obsess over those who won’t hear you. Don’t obsess over those who dismiss you. Don’t obsess over those who ridicule you. Note what happened in Jesus’ hometown. There, people had Jesus right in front of them, and they refused to believe. If they didn’t buy it from Jesus himself, they’re not going to buy it from those who come in Jesus’ name. So let it go. Keep moving. Keep doing good in his name, Don’t worry about the outcome. Don’t worry about the grudges. Let go of retribution. Don’t give in to anger. Don’t give in to fear. Don’t give in to disillusion. Don’t give in to all the baggage you try to carry.
And that’s just it, isn’t it? The baggage of life we lug around as if it is our birthright. Dragging it behind us like Marley’s chains hinders our freedom to move as Jesus’ followers.
Most of us journey through life carrying baggage. We struggle to lug along the things that bother us, or have bothered us along the way. Things we picked up and put into our bags long ago, and we can’t seem to let them go. We hold onto baggage because we think it needs to be out of sight.
Sometimes our baggage is obvious. It manifests itself in our words or actions towards others. We laugh others off, or we attack in anger, or shrivel in embarrassment. We do our best to hide it from the world, showing our “best” side, or at least a different side to the world than the one that eats away at us when we’re lying awake at night.
And that’s the problem with baggage, it defines us, most often in ways that are not our true selves, but rather a reflection of the baggage we’ve hauled all these years.
There comes a point when our baggage needs to be let go. When we need to forget everything we’ve dragged with us because it is dragging us down. We need to leave it in baggage claim. But it is easier said than done.
Some years ago a friend moved from one city to another for a “fresh start.” For six months it was great. Then, as new relationships began to form, it was as if the lost luggage van found my friend. A situation or relationship resembles one of the past, something triggers a memory, suddenly the baggage anxiety swallows us. We realize no matter where we journey, our baggage is with us.
The point is, if we want to be free of excess baggage, to travel as Jesus would have us, we need to actually know what it is we’re carrying and learn to accept it, before we can leave it behind.
Jesus told his disciples to travel light. So inevitably we need to get down and dirty and do an intensive shakedown of the luggage we carry every day. This is about going through every rolled up, folded up, piled up article in that bag that causes us anxiety and trepidation. We need to ask of each article, “is this essential for the journey?”
It is just like that packing list for sixth grade camp. And without mom around to do the packing for us, it is up to us to lay everything out in plain sight and pick up only the essential things.
Laying out in front of us, we can truly see the excess baggage: The relationships that you know in your heart is dysfunctional; the grudge that keeps you from living free; the habit that somehow hooked you, but now is hurting you; a perspective or way of thinking that is confining or depleting you; an identity as unworthy, meek, fearful, controlling or needy, that’s masking who you are.
For the things you don’t need, accept that they’re there and move on to things you do need. Leave behind the broken, painful dysfunctional baggage. Carry forward only that which is essential to healthy living.
The goal is to carry the lightest possible load to ensure mobility, flexibility and survival. If our baggage is too heavy, it may not fit through the door of the life that opens to us. If our baggage is too heavy, it may be too awkward for us to shake the dust off and move on. Indeed, with an overburdened bag, there may be no incentive to move to the next town. In which case we stay and accommodate ourselves to a place that would not welcome Jesus.
No, the best way to pack as disciples, is to lay out in front of you what you have. Examine it for the level of anxiety it causes you. Examine it for how useful it is to following Jesus. Then, take your cue from Jesus, shake off the dust of the non-essentials and pack only what is essential for abundant life in Jesus.