Advent 2nd Sunday: Year C [14DEC12] Theme for week 2—Preparation & Love
“This is my body, which is given for you… This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you. But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me.” (Luke 22:19-21)
Most of the day I have been meditating on another aspect of preparing; actually, I have been reflecting on the opposite of preparing or not preparing. I don’t think there would be many people, Christians, who would openly and honestly confess that they are not preparing for the Kingdom of God. Most Christians would not think they are not engaged in the process of becoming transformed into the living image of Christ. I believe most people probably think they are actively preparing themselves, and perhaps helping others, ready themselves for the Kingdom of God. I wonder how accurate our self-assessments are. I wonder; are we really in the process of preparing, actively surrendered to Christ Jesus, engaged in the slow and arduous process of losing ourselves so we might truly find our lives in God.
I heard a quote from John Wooden, who said; “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” As pithy as this might sound, it is loaded with wisdom and deep truth. The past couple weeks, our readings from the Book of Common Prayer have served up several chapters from the Prophet Isaiah. The story that is told is of a people who have become ambivalent and apathetic toward their God…taking Him for granted and making assumptions that He would be there for them no matter their state of “preparedness.” They were wrong and it led not only to their failure, but the destruction of both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. Time and again, God sent prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and others to the people and their leaders admonishing them to repent and prepare the way of the Lord—make their hearts ready—for they were supposed to be a holy people set aside for the work and purpose of the LORD.
Christians who permit themselves to be shaped by secular culture are guilty, not only of betraying God, but of losing their own true selves. -W. Paul Jones
The parallel is not so dissimilar for our own lives. Too often I think it goes unnoticed by us that we put our spiritual lives on auto-pilot and cruise through our days blissfully ignorant to the call of God. We tell ourselves that God wants us to be happy, but I think we want us to be happy and we tell ourselves that it is what God wants. Sadly, much of the time, our happiness will come in direct conflict with what God truly desires for us. We surround ourselves with wealth, comfort, building stockpiles of insurance and material goods, so we have little need of trusting in God. All the while, the Scriptures teach us about lean operation and simplicity, admonishing us to redistribute our wealth to those who are in need.
“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”
I’m afraid when I think about my own failure to prepare. When I consider the things I know and I realize the directives that Jesus has given to me in his word…and how often I try to excuse myself from obeying it, I think I am no different than Judas in my betrayal. Perhaps it sounds harsh, but many of us go around professing to be Christians—”Little Christs”—followers of Jesus, but we talk ourselves out of doing the things he taught us to do. It amounts to one of two alternatives: hypocrisy or betrayal.
More is required of those who wake up to reality than the passive adoration of God or intimate communion with God. Those responses, great as they are, do not cover the purpose of our creation. The riches and beauty of the spiritual landscape are not disclosed to us in order that we may sit in the sun parlor, be grateful for the excellent hospitality, and contemplate the glorious view. Some people suppose that the spiritual life mainly consists in doing that. God provides the spectacle. We gaze with reverent appreciation from our comfortable seats, and call this proceeding Worship.
No idea of our situation could be more mistaken than this. Our place is not the auditorium but the stage—or, as the case may be, the field, workshop, study, laboratory—because we ourselves form part of the creative apparatus of God, or at least are meant to form part of the creative apparatus of God. He made us in order to use us, and use us in the most profitable way; for His purpose, not ours. To live a spiritual life means subordinating all other interests to that single fact. Sometimes our positions seem to be that of tools; taken up when wanted, used in ways which we had not expected for an object on which our opinion is not asked, and then laid down. Sometimes we are the currency used in some great operation, of which the purpose is not revealed to us. Sometimes we are servants, left year in, year out to the same monotonous job. Sometimes we are conscious fellow workers with the Perfect, striving to bring the Kingdom in. But whatever our particular job may be, it means the austere conditions of the workshop, not the free-lance activities of the messy but well-meaning amateur; clocking in at the right time and tending the machine in the right way. Sometimes, perhaps, carrying on for years with a machine we do not very well understand and do not enjoy; because it needs doing, and no one else is available. Or accepting the situation quite quietly, when a job we felt that we were managing excellently is taken away. Taking responsibility if we are called to it, or just bringing the workers their dinner, cleaning and sharpening the tools. All self-willed choices and obstinacy drained out of what we thought to be our work; so that it becomes more and more God’s work in us. -Evelyn Underhill
O God, Come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me.
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in they straight path may not stumble.
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my might rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
May the Lord lead our hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ. Lord, hear my prayer. And let my cry come unto you.