Staring at wolves
by Lisa Traylor
Recently, in a time of prayer, I got a picture of Jesus cutting away the partially healed edges of an old wound and cleaning it out. I expected him to sew me up and send me on my way, but that’s what happened. Instead he left this nice clean wound open. I kept prayerfully waiting for the stitches and it never happened. I began to feel really vulnerable as I sat with this open wound and found I wanted to cover it up myself. As I was relating this to a friend at Rez, she said “maybe you need to let Jesus cover it.”
That sense of vulnerability is there in Paul’s sermon this week, too. Going out as a lamb among wolves means being vulnerable–we cannot remain sheep and guard ourselves from the wolves. Think of Monty Python’s killer bunny–you know, the one with the big, sharp, pointy teeth. When the bunny attacked, it ceased being a bunny and became a monster. We cannot be both sheep and wolves at the same time, so we need to let the Good Shepherd guard our vulnerable places rather than growing fangs to guard them ourselves.
There was one other point that gave me comfort from the scripture passage–the fact that the 70 were sent out two by two. I’ve been reading Henri Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesus, a short little book originally conceived of as a lecture to priests and nuns on Christian leadership. Nouwen’s lecture is bookended by a prologue and epilogue on being sent out in pairs like the 70. When Nouwen traveled to give this lecture, he brought Bill, a mentally handicapped man, with him to the conference. Nouwen did this because he saw himself being sent out and saw that it was a great temptation to go it alone, but that Jesus never sent anyone out alone. Nouwen didn’t expect any personal benefit from bringing Bill along. But Bill saw himself as ministering with Nouwen. He reacted to Nouwen’s talk as if they were having a personal conversation, inserting remarks and unintentionally lightening the mood and drawing others into the talk. He stood behind Henri as he spoke and afterwards introduced himself to everyone he could. Even though Henri Nouwen did not forsee Bill being any real support to him, God used Bill to bring support to Henri and enrich the community at that conference.
When we’re sent out two by two it’s not so the wolves will have twice as much food. It’s so we can support each other and be companions to each other. Yes, we have Jesus to protect us, but we also have each other for support when we look a wolf in the eye. May God help us to stand alongside each other in humility and peace when we are sent out into the world.
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