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Prepare for Greater

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On the one day that it was 80 degrees in Iowa, my friend and I gladly skedaddled out of the house to spend some time on the lake. I fondly title this picture, “Social Fish-tancing.”

Are you prepared?

It’s the question that everyone is asking during this unfamiliar time. Is there enough food in the pantry and toilet paper in the bathroom? Is my bank account equipped to support a time of unemployment? Do I have a plan of action if things go south?

These uncertainties plaguing our nation beg the question: Are you ready? And people are eager to answer with action. It’s evident by the empty shelves in the grocery stores and the abandoned city streets that people are taking this seriously. Most of us find ourselves in quarantine –isolated within the walls of our own homes– in hopes that this may stop the spread of a virus that has so quickly stricken panic and anxiety into the masses. Preparing for the worst, we lock ourselves away from the outside world unless leaving is absolutely essential.

There is all of this worry and preparedness for a disease that we know so little about. Even CDC admits that there is much to be learned about this virus –no one has any definitive answers as to how to avoid such an undesirable fate. My point is not to say that we shouldn’t prepare for uncertainty, but if people are so eager to prepare for a worldly cause, how much more should we be prepared for an eternal one?

22 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

-Matthew 22: 1-14

If you think about getting ready for any formal event, especially a wedding, there is a lot of thought and preparation to be put into such an affair, even for the guests. The suits and dresses must be sized, bought, and put on before the event itself. It is a special occasion that deserves forethought and meticulous planning. With this in mind, imagine a man showing up in a t-shirt and shorts, sitting with the rest of the well-dressed guests. It would be insulting and disrespectful to the bride and groom. Even the guests would be taken aback.

That is what’s essentially happening here. The man walks in, tries to eat and participate in the festivities, all without taking the proper time to clothe himself appropriately. He wanted to taste the good while doing the bare minimum. The King even extends grace in asking why he has no wedding clothes, and still, the man says nothing. He didn’t even prepare an answer as to why he showed up in the wrong attire. In fact, I’d venture to say that this was an act of defiance –the man wanted to enjoy the fellowship and the bounty of food without committing to the identity of a guest.

I think the “wedding clothes,” which prepare us for partaking in a paradise of eternity, could be interpreted in a lot of different ways, but at the end of the day, eternal life and participation in the wedding banquet is knowing God. There are no strangers at this after-party, only those who are known are invited. Those who are known have the wedding clothes on. What can we do to ensure that we have the clothes on now –on earth– so that we may enjoy the banquet set before us in the future?

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

-John 17:3

In Greek, the word used for “know” is ginóskó, meaning to know, especially through personal experience or a first-hand acquaintance. Though repenting, being baptized, and doing good works are all apart of living the new life we are called, at the end of the day, eternal life is knowing God. Not just knowing of him or his word, but truly understanding the depths of his character, the heights of his love for us personally. Then, and only then, can we be prepared for the coming of our Lord. By seeking Him out and building an intimate relationship with Him, we can be assured that when He does come back for his people, that he will not say to us those dreaded words, “Away from me, I never knew you” (Matt. 7:21-23). So for us, to be prepared for the eternal would mean living as if it is now, walking with God daily.

And honestly, I believe God is reminding us of this spiritual reality through the worldly pandemic among us. He has brought us to a place where all eyes can be on Him again. We have nothing else to turn to, nothing else to do with our increased spare time. There are no worldly answers for the pain and confusion that this virus has caused –the only answer is Him. With forced shut-downs and everything coming to halt, couldn’t this be our wake-up call? Couldn’t this be yet another invitation that the King is extending to anyone who will take it?

In verse 5 of The Parable of the Wedding Banquet, there are those who reject the invitation because they need to tend to their field and business. Essentially, they communicated, “I don’t have time for the King; there is too much to do to make time for a party.” The same holds true today with us, even as followers of Christ. We claim that we’ll make time when it is convenient and we fail to see the gift of God’s presence because of it. “I’ll make time when I’m older… when I’m married… when I can commit fully…,” the distractions never stop. A gracious miracle can happen right in front of us, and we miss it because the fields and businesses are more important. Especially in this season of quarantine, I can just hear God pleading:

“I took away the distractions. I have done away with the ‘fields’ and ‘businesses’. The sports channel is gone. Your job is put on hold. Travel bans are in place. I’ll lock down almost all of the things that you put before me. Now that you don’t have these hindering you, will you accept the invitation? Now will you take time to know me?”

Many are invited, few are chosen. Not much has changed from the time of this parable and now. People still miss the presence of God because of worldly distractions and anxieties. They’ll still walk right past an invitation to eternal life, oblivious to the joy at hand. More than preparing for a possibility of increased shutdowns with transient essentials, prepare for The One that is guaranteed to come. Do not let this time in quarantine be in vain; let it serve to draw you closer to knowing eternal life.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

-2 Corinthians 4:18

 

 

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