Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. These were his instructions:
“Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
In today’s gospel lesson (Mark 6:1-13), we get a little reminder that the life of a disciple isn’t just about learning the right truths, or avoiding the right sins, or cultivating the right habits of personal piety. The life of a disciple includes embracing the kingdom mission that Jesus himself embraced (see John 20:21). And so, Jesus sends his disciples out — he gives them a “kingdom internship,” if you will — through which they get an opportunity to practice the gospel-sharing, other-serving life to which all of his teaching points.
I struggle at times with the feeling that we too often neglect this “lab experience” element of discipleship. We might do a reasonably good job of helping each other grow in our prayer life, our practice of worship, and our biblical understanding (then again…we might not). But do we then get intentional about putting ourselves into situations where all that prayer, worship, and understanding genuinely get put to the test — and where we discover the joys (and challenges) of seeing God’s kingdom expand through us?
Of course, there are all kinds of reasons (a.k.a. “excuses”) for why we can’t do that in this day and age (although the Mormons find a way to provide many of their young people an extended “internship” in mission and ministry). But in the end, I suspect most of those reasons have to do with the way that “practicing the kingdom” would stretch us, inconvenience us, and push us beyond our comfort zones. As G. K. Chesterton once put it: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
Having said that, I’m not sure that I’m calling for most of us to drop everything in our lives so that we can head out on an extended missionary journey (although — that would probably do many of us a lot of good — and — the fact that I’m not calling for this probably betrays my lack of boldness). But what would it look like for us to incorporate more “mini-kingdom-internships” into our daily living? What if we walked around our neighborhood one evening, asking people how we could pray for them? What if we grabbed a friend or two and set out for a community park to hand out water and chat with passersby? What if (and this is an idea I’m “borrowing” from others) we took our Sunday School class, Bible study group, or circle of believing friends down to a business district and went business-to-business, asking if we could serve them by cleaning their bathrooms?
Opportunities to practice following Jesus are all around us. So, let’s be doers of the word, and not hearers only. And may God’s kingdom come wherever we go.