Constance wouldn’t dream of going on a vacation without doing loads of preliminary research. She has to know the lay of the land. Lists are made–many, many lists. She scours the internet, compulsively checking airline schedules, car rentals, and hotel reservations. She studies the destination and schedules activities–tours that must be taken, attractions that are too good to miss, restaurants that require reservations.
Constance makes another list to ensure that the house looks lived-in while she’s away. Beware, would-be thieves! Constance will set traps that make the kid from Home Alone look like an amateur (actually, he was an amateur, but I digress.) She schedules the lawn care crew, arranges for pet-sitters, reserves airport parking, suspends mail delivery.
Time to pack! Another list! Where is her vaccination record? What’s the weather report? Bathing suits or sweaters? Jeans or evening wear? Heels or flip-slops? More research!
Three months later, by the time Constance heads to the airport, she is 100% prepared for every eventuality–and exhausted.
Meanwhile, Grace plans her road trip. Yesterday, someone at work mentioned that Sedona was fun, so Grace plans to go to Arizona–next week! She goes to Priceline and gets a package deal–airline, hotel, and rental car. She’ll figure out the rest when she gets there.
Grace’s flight leaves today at 2:00 pm. At 10:00 am, she grabs her backpack and tosses in a couple of pairs of jeans, three t-shirts, a sundress, tennis shoes, sandals, and a toothbrush. The hotel will have everything else she needs, and besides, there are Wal-Marts in Arizona, right?
Do the planning rituals of Constance and Grace remind you of a couple of New Testament sisters? (Answer: Yes! Mary and Martha!) In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus pays a visit to His friends, the sisters Mary and Martha. Martha is a lot like Constance. She, no doubt, had a list–plan meal, provide place to wash up and relax, cook, dust, clean baseboards, arrange flowers on mantel. (Maybe I exercised a little prosaic license there, but you get the idea.) But Martha’s sister Mary, like our friend Grace, did little or no planning. The only thing she thought about was spending time with Jesus. Which sister got the most out of the day?
Not too long after His visit to Mary and Martha, Jesus took a road trip to Jerusalem. It would be His last journey, one that had been planned for Him for at least 33 years. Actually, this trip had been planned since the beginning of Creation. Jesus’ trip would begin with a crowd, but when He reached His destination, He would be alone. It wasn’t necessarily a trip that He looked forward to, and He even asked if He could get out of it: “Father, do I have to go? I’d rather not travel this road, but if You want Me to, I’ll do it.” (Pardon my vernacular translation of Matthew 29:39-42.)
We know how the story ends–after the Passover meal with the Disciples, Jesus is betrayed by one of his own disciples. Tortured and crucified, He rises from the dead three days later. Hallelujah, a happy ending!
But the Disciples didn’t immediately recognize Jesus’ death as a happy ending. They mourned His loss, not understanding that the Resurrection was not the end of the story (even though Jesus had told them exactly what would happen). They did remember, however, that Jesus promised that He would be with them again, and they spent the remainder of their earthly lives spreading the good news about Jesus and preparing for their next meeting with Him.
For those of us on this side of the cross, we know that the Resurrection is not the end of the story! In fact, every child in Sunday School can quote the verse that is a bedrock of our Christian faith: John 3:16–“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Now that’s good news!
Even though we don’t know what our earthly future holds, we can know for certain what our final destination will be. And that’s a road trip I want to take!
“O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen.” –Henry Nouwen
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