This Sunday’s message is very much about mission. The prophet Amos was sent from Judah to the northern kingdom of Israel. He was moving out of his comfort zone, for - as he told Amaziah, he was a shepherd, looking after sycamores, and did not come from a family of prophets. Sycamores were the size of a beech tree and their fruit were figs, which grew out of the trunk itself on little shoots and were very sweet. These would appear several times a year; they were food for the poor, as the taste wasn’t very pleasant, and the dresser would cut the husks so that they would ripen. Under the King of Israel, Jeroboam, the kingdom prospered and the rich began to exploit the poor. Since Amos was sent to bring a message of God’s anger and retribution, he was upsetting the status quo and was not welcome. Perhaps God chose Amos because his work fed the poor.
The disciples were also sent to preach and went off in pairs, presumably to support each other and perhaps provide a contrast in personality. It would be very interesting to know who was paired with who. Jesus instructed them to take only a staff for the journey. We think of the times when we travel, how often we pack too much, worrying about needing this or that. The object of the disciples was to preach the gospel and therefore their focus was to be on God and the task ahead, not on material comforts. It is a challenge for us too. How much do we really need for our journey through life?