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.
(Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)
I have always worked to train Lay Readers and Clergy, indeed when I was still a Deaconess, a Theological College sent me someone on placement - that's the time someone in training goes out to for their first work experience in a parish or a hospital or a school. Such a time can be like a baptism of fire, but it helps them to find out whether the life is for them and to discover their strengths and weaknesses. Often their preaching skills need honing (there is a tendency to cram four sermons into one at first), and their collaborative skills might need tweaking. The saying "Curate's egg", meaning good in parts, often applies to these ministers in training at first, but most go on to become dedicated parish priests or chaplains.
Today's reading shows us Jesus sending out his twelve disciples to spread the word as Evangelists. At this point we should be amazed, for these men have only been with Jesus for a few weeks or at most, a few months. They are ordinary working men, among whom are four fishermen, a tax collector, and a zealot. They are not educated men like the scribes and pharisees, yet Jesus trusts them to take out the same message as John the Baptist, that is, the people are to repent for God is intervening in history to send His Messiah to rescue His people! But he also gives them power over those who are deemed to be possessed or sick. They go in two's, for support and as witnesses (the Jewish law always required two witnesses, if a witness was needed), and they are not to take food (all house-holders had to offer a stranger hospitality).
The disciples are to trust God for all their needs, which is an enormous act of faith. Is this ultimately the difference between them and us?
Lord Jesus Christ,
we thank You for courage of the disciples
who put their faith in Your teaching;
for their reliance on one another;
for the hospitality offered by those they met;
and for the power to heal that You gave them.
May we in our turn
learn from their experience
how to spread Your message
to those around us.
May we find the courage to speak
to friends and neighbours about our faith,
and may we be willing to listen to
those who talk about You,
so that our faith may continue to grow.