Be Prepared

Several years ago I married two chefs from a local restaurant. For the rehearsal dinner, they prepared and served all the food in one delicious “small plate” after another. It was absolutely the BEST rehearsal dinner I have ever attended.

The preparation work to pull this off was impressive. Food was sourced, prepped, chopped, roasted, sauced, and ready. Place settings, chairs, napkins, and centerpieces were thoughtfully procured. Servers were recruited, wine was poured, and the show began. This seamless presentation was an indication of enormous prep work that took weeks to accomplish. All these years later, they run their restaurant with the same excellence of precision.

Nothing in our lives goes well without adequate prep work. Think of how your day is going; how much preparation went into it? We have all experienced what happens when we don’t prepare well. You wouldn’t take a trip, serve a meal, give a presentation at work, or sit down to take a test without adequate preparation. Otherwise, disaster happens.

In our scripture today, we see the work of a prophet who is attempting to prepare the people for what was to come. God sent John the Baptist to prepare the nation for the arrival of their long-awaited Messiah. They were about to see the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of a savior right before their eyes. It would change everything they knew about God, the Law, and how to live.

Were they ready?

Luke 7:24:35 Common English Bible

24 After John’s messengers were gone, Jesus spoke to the crowds about John. “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A stalk blowing in the wind?25 What did you go out to see? A man dressed up in refined clothes? Look, those who dress in fashionable clothes and live in luxury are in royal palaces.26 What did you go out to see? A prophet?

We can tell by Jesus’ questions that the people were very confused about what was happening. “What did you go out to see?” Jesus asks. John had garnered a reputation for being a bit wild, with his locust-and-honey eating, his camel’s hair clothing, and his forceful message of repentance. He was tasked with preparing the people for the judgment that was coming. The Messiah had arrived, and everyone would need to make a choice to follow him or die by the old ways. Failure to prepare properly would result in disaster.

Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 He is the one of whom it’s written: Look, I’m sending my messenger before you, who will prepare your way before you. 28 I tell you that no greater human being has ever been born than John. Yet whoever is least in God’s kingdom is greater than he.”

Jesus himself said a prophetic word here, which should have alerted the hearers to the imminent reversal of the status quo. The least will become the greatest, he warned, signaling a difference in how greatness is defined in the eyes of God compared to how humans define it.

We see this sentiment echoed in Luke 22 when the disciples argued about who among they would become the greatest:

Luke 22 (Common English Bible)

25 But Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles rule over their subjects, and those in authority over them are called ‘friends of the people.’ 26 But that’s not the way it will be with you. Instead, the greatest among you must become like a person of lower status and the leader like a servant. 27 So which one is greater, the one who is seated at the table or the one who serves at the table? Isn’t it the one who is seated at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

So John the Baptist was sent as the one to prepare the people for the Great Reversal of everything they think they know about God. Get ready, he said, because your world is about to be completely turned upside down.

Did the people get it? Did they change their ways? Sadly, only a few did. Those who were John’s disciples and had been baptized by him understood what was about to happen as Jesus began his own ministry after his baptism. But most of Israel failed to heed John’s warnings, and they rejected his prophecies about the Messiah:

Luke 7 (Common English Bible)

29 Everyone who heard this, including the tax collectors, acknowledged God’s justice because they had been baptized by John. 30 But the Pharisees and legal experts rejected God’s will for themselves because they hadn’t been baptized by John.

And their failure to prepare for the inevitable led to their downfall.

Where is God preparing you for something that is about to happen? Has he sent a prophetic word to you through someone? Are you are trying to ignore what they are saying? Does the daunting task of needing to change your ways stop you from listening?

God speaks to us every day. We are invited to get ready for what he is calling us to do, or fail to prepare at our peril.

Where is God calling you to change?

Getting Ready by Kathy Schumacher

Lady-in-Waiting

From a historical perspective, a lady-in-waiting was a noblewoman of lower rank who attended a noblewoman of higher rank, such as a queen or princess. Her work centered on ensuring that the personal needs of her mistress were taken care of. More courtier or companion than servant, ladies-in-waiting provided assistance with secretarial needs, etiquette, practicing court dances, embroidery, wardrobe care, and delivering messages on behalf of their mistress in a discreet fashion. They wait in both contexts of that word: they wait on their mistress, and they sit and wait for their mistress to send for them.

I need a lady-in-waiting! Where can I get one?

Every woman I know has been a lady-in-waiting at some point in her life. Not in the context of court duties, but in the sense of having to wait for something. When we are engaged, we are waiting for the wedding to happen. When we’re pregnant, we wait for childbirth. We wait to hear if we’ve been accepted into college and grad school. We spend time sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for test results, and outside the interview room, waiting to see if we got the job. When hospice is brought in, we wait for our loved one to pass from this life to the next.

And then there is type of waiting that all people experience every day…waiting in line, waiting for phone calls, waiting at red lights, waiting for an apology, waiting for a house to sell, waiting for Christmas/vacation/birthdays/retirement to come…wait, wait, wait.

I hate waiting. How about you?

Luke 1 (The Message)

5-7During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old.

Elizabeth waited all her life to have a child. She did all the right things, lived a righteous life, and yet was still waiting into her old age. And then the unthinkable happened. An angel visited her husband Zachariah with some startling news:

13-15 But the angel reassured him, “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. You’re going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you—many will delight in his birth. He’ll achieve great stature with God.

And leap like a gazelle they did! Then another kind of waiting began. Meanwhile, in another part of Israel, Elizabeth’s cousin Mary was also having a conversation with an angel, who brought her some startling news as well. And then he concludes with telling her about Elizabeth’s pregnancy:

36-38 “And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”

Waiters, take heed. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD.

The thing you are waiting for will come to be, in God’s time. And if it doesn’t, it wasn’t going to be good for you. When I was five, I prayed for a pony. Still waiting.

God always works for the good of those who love him and who are called to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) So while waiting is tedious, stressful, and downright aggravating, we can acknowledge that God is present, even in the waiting.

One thing I noticed about how Elizabeth spent her waiting time was that she and Zachariah were said to “enjoy a clear conscience before God.” That tells me that they understood the value of repentance, which ironically was what their son John would spend his lifetime preaching about. Clear consciences come when we attend to God’s commandments and live honorable lives.

As you wait, consider this. How is your conscience? Is it clear? Are you harboring any grudges, withholding any offerings from God, or practicing things that would separate yourself from him? Are you ignoring God’s call to go and make amends with someone before you return to the altar?

Repentance is the great conscience-cleanser. When we turn away from sin and return to God, the angels rejoice and our load becomes lighter.

As you wait, remember Mary and Elizabeth. They waited, and waited, and waited. Then, in the fullness of time, they birthed joy, hope, salvation, and redemption for the world. What will God bring forth from your waiting?

Our mothers told us that good things come to those who wait. May you experience patience in the waiting, hope for the future, redemption in the now, and a new understanding that NOTHING is impossible with God.

Waiting for the Snow to Melt so I Can Play Ball (2014)