Thursday, February 14, 2013

Preparing for the Journey

          Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season, walking with Jesus toward Jerusalem, to a cross on a hill, to a borrowed tomb, how can someone prepare for a journey like that? What could anyone possibly do to get ready to die…for a whole world of sinners?
          In the last few years most of us have heard people talk about their bucket list. In fact I think there was a movie made about two guys who had bucket lists. You know what a bucket list is, don’t you? It’s those things you want to do before you die, kick the bucket, go to be with the Lord, you know.
          Jesus knew; he knew his ultimate destination. He knew and he tried to prepare his friends, the disciples for what he knew was inevitable. How did Jesus, the human part of Jesus, get himself ready for this? How would we get ready?
          Ash Wednesday is the first day of a rather lengthy time of preparation for the journey of Lent.  Think about how you prepare for an extended trip, say around the United States. What do you do to get ready? Or how do you prepare for the new arrival of a child in your family. Or what’s involved in getting ready for a wedding?  What’s the first step?
          This season is similar to these events…except…we aren’t preparing for a joyous celebration. We’re preparing ourselves for a time of repentance. We’re being asked to think about the ways we’ve turned away from God. We’re being asked to repent, turn completely around, make a U-turn and go in the opposite direction from what we’ve been going. Repentance is about turning back to God.
          How do we do that? How can we reconcile ourselves with God…with our friends…with our family…with the stranger in our midst?
          Fasting is an important theme during Lent.  Fasting reminds us that we aren’t passive, helpless human beings at the mercy of the world surrounding us. We’re able, with God’s help, to take control of our lives, to reject those things that hurt and harm us…and our neighbors. Fasting is a tool to help us prepare for reconciliation.
          But, I’ve got ahead of myself. What steps do we take to get ready for a journey, to go on a trip? Some of us make lists. Some of us make lists of our lists. Some of us find the lists we used the last time we took a trip.
          So, what kind of list would we make for this Lenten journey? What do we need to take with us? Do you have any ideas?
          Our lists may contain a variety of things. I would think I’d have my Kindle with 2 or 3 different versions of the Bible. I might commit to spending time each day reading and reflecting on a Lenten devotional. I might decide to give up something, something from the world that keeps me from talking with God, something to remind me to sit and talk with Him or Her. And I would most certainly make time throughout each day to sit and talk, pray and listen, with God. I might see if I could locate a like-minded group of folks who might like to get together and read and dissect God’s word, and pray with and for me and I for them. I think that would help me on my Lenten journey.
          What would you have on your lists? What might be helpful to us is to see what Jesus did as he journeyed to Jerusalem and the cross.
          When we read the gospels we find that Jesus went away, to be alone, to talk with his Father. He did that many times. Sometimes his friends had no idea where he’d gone. He went to the Temple or the synagogue to worship and hear God’s word read and proclaimed. And…he was with the people…healing, teaching, touching, laughing, and eating. 
          We don’t read that Jesus fasted (I'm mistaken here. Jesus fasted for 40 days & nights in the wilderness. How could I miss that?) but if we think about it he did give up things. He had no possessions other than the clothes he wore. He depended on God to take care of him through his friends. What he really gave up was his life…for us…so that we might live. That seems like a major sacrifice to us. And it was when we consider the pain and torture he endured. That makes giving up chocolate for Lent not such a big thing…or Facebook.
          So, good friends, this evening is the beginning of the journey. Are you ready or do you need to make your list…or find your list?  The journey begins tonight. Let’s go with together, praying, listening, touching, and holding each other up when we need a little help.
          Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.

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