Lent: A Journey in Preparations


March 24, 2017

We all know the experience of getting ready for something: Getting ready for a trip, for a birthday party, for Christmas, a big meal or company. 
    
What does it mean to get ready when you don’t know for what you’re getting ready?
    
The disciples didn’t know for what they were preparing. So, when Jesus said in John’s Gospel, Chapter 13, “You can’t follow me where I’m going,” the disciples didn’t understand. To Peter’s question, “Why can’t we follow now?” Jesus responded, “Really? You’ll lay down your life for me? The truth is that you will deny me three times before the rooster crows.”
    
So, how do you prepare for something you don’t know is coming? Remember how a woman at Bethany in Mark’s Gospel came up to Jesus, opened a bottle of perfume and poured it on His head? The disciples were indignant to her in her act. They didn’t know what was coming or that she was part of the preparedness Jesus needed for His crucifixion.
    
Remember the young man who asked Jesus, “What must I do to get eternal life?” That was a preparedness question. What should we be doing?
    
Remember the story Jesus told of the virgins awaiting the bridegroom? Some took oil lamps, and some took oil lamps with extra oil. The night didn’t go as planned for the ones without extra oil. Jesus said, “So stay alert. You have no idea when the groom might arrive.”
    
Might Jesus have been reminding us to be prepared?
    
Jesus, just after being baptized by a reluctant John, was driven (some say taken) into the wild to be tested. The same spirit that came down to approve of His baptism is the one that drove Him into the wild. You never know for what you’re preparing.
    
What preparations are we taking for life’s journey?
    
I spent 30 years in fire service. One saying I learned and found to be true was, “90 percent of fire service work is getting ready; 10 percent is actually going on the call.” The second saying I found to be true was, “There’s no such thing as a routine call.” I found that both of these truths can be applied to life. 
    
We, like the first disciples, don’t often know what is coming in our futures. As those disciples discovered, there is no such thing as a routine future; so we better be as prepared as possible.
    
Lent is the church’s way to draw us back to our basic preparations; to draw us back to our foundations; and to draw us back toward God in Jesus Christ.
    
Wesley’s third rule: “Stay in love with God,” begs the question, “how?” Wesley’s answer: By attending to the ordinances of God or what we call the means of grace. In fact, Methodism was a set of practices for discipleship more than an organizational model. If you want to draw closer to God, Wesley advised us to practice: prayer, worship, study, Holy Communion, holy conferencing, fasting and searching the scriptures.
    
These are the preparation tools that ready us for whatever is coming and wherever the wind drives us. They are the basics of spiritual life that can lead us to a life as followers of Jesus Christ. They are practices that see us through our own wilderness.
    
Truth is, Jesus spent three years preparing the disciples for the big unknown of the cross. Only after Easter did most of them realize for what they were preparing; much less comprehend what was going to happen. Yet, the preparations by Jesus gave them the opportunity to see a whole new world and new vision of God. From the beginning of time, what had been prepared for them and us was salvation and grace. 
    
Before any celebrations can occur, preparations must take place. May it be so with us.