As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.
On Thursday, I stumbled across this reading as I utilized a prayer guide that I had forgotten about for over a year. Immediately, reading this short passage in quiet on my computer screen made me think of another favorite passage:
The Guest House
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 honorably.
He 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.
~ Rumi ~
On Sunday, Mark’s version of the passage above was read as the Gospel. And it brought me back to this unfinished post.
In Matthew (and Mark), we are told to give generously to others, as we have been given. We are encouraged to go without a plan (plan-less!),without the normal comforts of home. My presumption would be that this is not meant to be in a way of reckless abadon for common needs, but rather as a way to step out in true faith. To trust that what is of need will be provided for. I wonder what this might look like in our world today.
Further in the message, we are called to be in the moment. “Stay there until you leave”. My improv brain is giddy with this sentiment. Whether orginating from a scriptural context or a performing one, the idea is so powerful. Although often contrary to our multitasking mantras of the current age, this is a true piece of wisdom. By committing to the moment that we are in, we are most present, most giving, most ourselves. Why would we want to live any other way?
And lastly, when we enter a ‘house’, we should greet it. This is where I see the beautiful intersection of scripture and Rumi the most. We are tasked to welcome the guest, even if it is sadness or sorrow, as there may still be peace or purpose to be found in these moments. So often it seems that we are encouraged to repress the emotions that we don’t enjoy, as if only happiness or joy are worth having. As one wise man said to me, “Just because it feels bad, does not mean that emotion is bad”. Anger, disappointment, hurt, these can teach us just as much as bliss might.
The more I sat and let these two prophetic messages dance in my mind, the more I saw the wisdom of balancing acceptance with stepping out in faith to change our circumstances. These last few years of my life have been this precarious scale. Often frightening, but constantly moving, sliding. Do I accept how you are treating me, or do I move on? Do I stay in this situation, because of it’s benefits, or do I move along because the frustrations are too large? Whether our questions be about relationships, living situations, work lives, or more, we all play into this balancing act.
As we reach the final lines of Rumi’s poem and Matthew’s gospel, we can remember that this is not the end. We can take these guests and these moments in; allow them to be present, allow them to shape us. But they need not take up our entire lives, for there is more to see. More to do. And when we are ready, we’ll shake the dust of those moments, and be open to the new arrivals that come stand before us.