I’ve heard that perhaps a million or more people in America are “preppers” – taking deliberate steps to prepare for a widespread breakdown of our society. Regardless of your personal view of that personal decision, surely it speaks to a belief in a potentially dark future within our lifetimes, and a perceived need to prepare for the worst.
Perhaps without your notice, some of your neighbors have been preparing for Easter during the past several weeks. Perhaps they were seen in public with a smudge of ashes on their forehead. They may have quietly denied themselves something for the past several weeks. They’re in church more than usual. What is this kind of prepper up to? I believe they are each struggling to reach a deeper understanding of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. And it’s a personal thing.
This year, I’m thinking of Jesus’ anguish as he prayed just prior to his betrayal and arrest. He told his close friends that he was “sorrowful unto death.” This year, I’m considering his sorrow. We don’t know when his mother’s husband, Joseph, died. Perhaps it was many years earlier. Perhaps the certainty of leaving his mother was deeply painful to Jesus. But I personally feel that the loss of a loved one – a spouse of many years, father, mother or child – is a deeper wound if they pass on, and you remain.
This Easter, if I allow myself to “go there” (and remember my own father’s passing, including the end-of-life medical decisions that had to be made), I believe I can start to feel sorrow as Jesus did. But “sorrowful unto death” seems to suggest much more than the pain of loss we are familiar with. I believe he was anguished by every human being that had seen and heard him and yet they would not accept the fuller life he offered.
In his book, “24 Hours That Changed the World,” Adam Hamilton shares a statement of faith given by a man in his congregation who had an aggressive cancer: “I know God doesn’t give his children cancer. This is simply part of life. Of course I am praying to be made well. That is my desire. But even more than my own healing, I am praying that somehow, in the midst of my battle with cancer, the glory of God might be revealed in my life. . . . I know that Christ has risen; and because he lives, I will live. I know he has prepared a place for me. I am not afraid. And I trust that he will send people to care for my wife and my daughter. Like Paul, if I live longer, I will be grateful for that and hope to be useful to him. But if the cancer runs its natural course, I know I will be with him; and I am grateful for that. For to me, ‘To live is Christ and to die is gain.’ ”
I hope each soldier serving in harm’s way has that assurance and peace. Do you have it? If not, why not take a chance and go with an open heart to hear the Word of God preached this Easter.
Jesus wasn’t just offering peace as we face death. I believe part of his Passion Week anguish was due to the people’s rejection of the peace, comfort, strength, courage, joy and love that he offers us during our earthly lives. He said he came that we might have life to the full. My Easter wish for each of you is that you have all of that, starting right now. It will help you face any dark day that may lie ahead. So again I encourage you: Be a real prepper – go to church on Easter.