When I was a little kid, getting ready for an overnight visit with my grandfather involved a great deal of packing all kinds of games, pens and pencils and paper, as much as could fit in my half of the back seat of the family station wagon. A change of clothes was probably mandatory, but definitely a secondary priority in my book, especially considering how painfully boring riding in a car through central Illinois was to an elementary school age boy in an age before Angry Birds. Looking back, I should have just been grateful that we were on the Western side of the state, but I digress…
What we bring along on a journey depends on lots of factors: how long we’ll be gone, what we think we’ll be doing, our perception of what we need, and so forth. The more we travel, the better we get at realizing what things are essential, and what just takes up space and becomes a bother to lug around.
When we consider the image of our relationship with God as being on a journey or pilgrimage through life, the same kinds of questions arise: how do we prepare for the different phases of the journey?
In the stories of the sending of the disciples, Jesus told them to travel light; the precise details vary from story to story, but the thread is the same: they’ve been given a message to proclaim, the authority of God to share it and to demonstrate it through acts of mercy and healing, and they are also to receive hospitality from those they encounter along the way instead of trying to be completely self-sufficient.
The season of Lent is an opportunity to consider how we may prepare our hearts, our minds, and our hands to follow Jesus in this new year. Perhaps we need to travel lighter, getting rid of something that gets in the way of following Jesus, an attitude or a habit, or something that we consistently are tempted to value above God. Perhaps it is remembering to pack something new, developing a practice of prayer or reading scripture, or simply being mindful of God’s presence through the day. Or perhaps it involves getting involved with something new that helps us apply theoretical faith in real life.
One way to start is to choose a Gospel and read through it, paying attention to the image of Jesus we find there. What is surprising, what is challenging, what gives comfort and hope; where do we find ourselves drawn into new steps of discipleship as we take in His words and values into our own lives? In February, we’ll have opportunities for folks in the congregation to share about books that have been helpful in their walk with God. But in the midst of all the things we can “do” to prepare, let us not forget the dimension of prayer that is less about asking for what we want, and more of listening, waiting, and asking what God wants done, in our lives, in this community and world.
Blessings on the Journey,