Imagine you are going on a journey. What things do you need to do get ready for your trip? If you are going for awhile, you have to go to the post office and stop your mail. You have to stop the newspaper and maybe some other regular deliveries from coming to your house. You might tell your trusted neighbours you are going away and have them watch the house for you. If you are a pet owner, you have to take your animals to the kennel. Then there is getting documents together for your trip, making sure your bills are paid, packing and all those sort of things. At work, you need to get everything ready so that things might go smoothly in your absence. And this is all before you get in the car or get on the plane.
I don't think anybody really likes this time of preparation. It all seems like a lot to do for a few short weeks away. But it is something that has to be done. Without all of our preparation, we could not enjoy our vacation. We would be worried about our homes, our pets and our jobs. Preparation means that we can enjoy our time away.
Lent has long been seen as a season of preparation. In the early church- in a time when the church faced much persecution, potential converts used the time of Lent to prepare themselves to become members of the church. They would engage in study, prayer and reflection to ready themselves to join the church. Then on Easter Sunday, they would be baptised, given new white clothing and be granted membership in the church. Since that time, people are baptised at different times of year and church membership has become much easier to obtain. Still Lent has maintained it's sense of preparation. Many engage in self reflection during Lent in order that they might truly come to Easter with a new understanding.
Meeting with colleagues recently, they talked about how Lent is not their favourite time of year. It is easy to celebrate when the rest of the world is celebrating Christmas. As members of churches, we also celebrate the good news of Easter and the promise of new life. But Lent is a harder sell. Rather than offering us hope and celebration, Lent calls those of us in the church to take a long hard look at ourselves, whether we want to or not.
Such self reflection and contemplation is never easy. It means examining our short comings, reflecting upon times when we have squandered our gifts and talents, and plotting out ways we might do better next time. But if we want to enjoy life in the future, we must do these self assessments from time to time. It is how we get ready for journey towards Easter. Happy travels.