“So then, with endurance, let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter.” – Hebrews 12:1-2, Common English Bible
Last week I thought a lot about clothing as I prepared to preach on Colossians chapter 3 and the invitation to be clothed with Christ. This week, the image I’m pondering is luggage and baggage and its spiritual application.
Many people I know right now are in the process of moving. A college friend, my sibling and their family, my daughter’s godmother, and my best friend. Many of them are having to move themselves and ponder what they are taking and what they leave behind or give away. What goes in storage, what fits in your car. One friend had a car weighted so down with books that it caused the tire pressure to drop as they began their journey.
I’ve also recently read a few travel articles about what you can and cannot take in your carry-on or checked luggage, as many people are in the midst of end-of-summer travels and my mom is trying to travel to see an elderly relative overseas. In my searching, I discovered the TSA website has 49 pages of items on their prohibited list, with the extra caveat that even if some things are allowed, they might not be recommended or might get you an extra security screening. I had fun reading the list and thinking about all the people who prompted the making of this list. I learned that you could bring a wedding dress and deer antlers in your carry-on luggage, but a cricket bat and snow spikes should be in your checked baggage. In case you wondered, “artificial skeleton bones” are allowed in carry-on and checked baggage, while a live lobster can be in your checked bag.
Just like clothing is a metaphor for spiritual truths, so too is luggage. What spiritual bags do we want to carry with us on life’s journey? Which items, like a live lobster or bowling pins, perhaps do we just need to leave behind?
“Jesus told them, “Take nothing for the journey—no walking stick, no bag, no bread, no money, not even an extra shirt.” – Luke 9:3, Common English Bible
Jesus sends out his disciples to share the good news of God’s reign in the world and told them not to pack much for the journey. In fact, on one trip, he encouraged them to take nothing. That’s hard for me to ponder, but I wonder spiritually what it might teach us. The writer to the Hebrews encourages the readers to “throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up.” Throughout the Gospels and New Testament letters we are encouraged to get rid of the baggage of anger, wrath, greed, abusive language, and other bad behaviors and practices and to take on or carry-on virtues of peace, patience, justice, self-control, joy, love.
Are my bags packed with these virtues? Do I need to leave a few old bags or boxes behind? What do I need to pack for the journey? What do I need to send to the St. David’s Fair shed – or the recycling bin? How might I more wisely choose what I really need to buy or acquire?
I hope and pray for myself and all of us that whether we spiritually need to move to another state and get rid of a house full of burdens, or if you’re just going to visit friends for a long weekend and only need a carry-on of shorts, sunscreen, a hat, and a book, that we all will have the wisdom and grace to leave behind what no longer draws us closer to God or our neighbors. How might we pack our bags or our cars light, so we can be free to live with joy and grace.
“God be with you at each stop and each sea;
At each lying down and each rising up;
In the trough of the waves, on the crest of the billows.
Each step of the journey you take.”
Happy moves and joyful travels. May we all have the wisdom to travel light.
The Rev. Emily Zimbrick-Rogers