I talked about this issue in the past, but I thought it would be helpful to touch on it again. This first part is new.
Since the beginning of this presidential election I’ve wondered if any of the candidates are prepared to be the president of the USA. After a lot of thought, they are not. An important question is: “Is anybody prepared for the responsibility to be president?”. My answer is no. No one can be prepared to handle all the work and decisions of the presidency. Who can be prepared to have control of the nations nuclear arsenal?
It doesn’t help that we expect the president to be perfect. He or she is expected to work miracles. Even if your system of belief doesn’t include “miracles”, you probably question why the president doesn’t handle issues important to you. We seem to forget that the president is not perfect and needs to work with congress to get a lot of things done. No, no one can be prepared to be the president of the United States.
Let’s change the discussion to another way of being prepared. This past week I passed a church that has a sign out front that has sayings on it. The saying this time is “Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people.” I’ve heard this saying before. The scripture and the experience I shared before follow.
John 14:1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going." 5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" 6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life.
A number of years ago I went to a church just down the hill from the church where I was pastor to attend a funeral out of professional courtesy. The funeral was for a man that was the patriarch of that church and to some a pillar of the community. This small country church was packed. I found room in the balcony. This turned out to be a good seat because I could not only see the pastor but everyone who was attending.
The service was unremarkable; it followed the outline from the hymnal they were using. The hymnal was from the 50s, so it used thy, thou, and thee a lot. The service didn’t become interesting until the sermon when the pastor used the phrase, “Heaven is a place that is prepared for those who are prepared.” This was his interpretation of the scripture he read just a few minutes before. It was the reading from the Gospel of John above.
“Heaven is a place that is prepared for those who are prepared.”, that pastor proclaimed. I was taken aback by this statement. While he explained how the man whose funeral we were attending was “prepared”, I looked across the congregation to see if there was any observable reaction to the pastor’s message. A few people seemed uncomfortable, but most seemed fine with this message. “What the heck does it mean to be prepared for heaven?”, I asked myself.
The interesting thing here is that the man whose funeral I was attending was known for bullying members until he got his way at the church, cheating in his business practices in years past, and leaving a dilapidated eyesore of a building when he stopped doing business. However, the pastor went on to describe him as a pillar of the church and community. He told us what great faith this man had. He listed all the things he had accomplished for the church. It didn’t matter that the church had less than two dozen worshipers on a Sunday.
As he continued I looked across those gathered again. Mostly what I saw were stone like faces. I wondered what they must be thinking. Were they also questioning what it meant to be “prepared”. I wondered about the wife and family. How could they be sure they were “prepared” and would see their loved one in heaven?
(What follows is new.)
How is one prepared for salvation? Is it believing the right thing? Do you truly believe everything in the Bible is true? There is a lot of things in the Bible we don’t do. Is it doing the right thing all the time? Remember Jesus told the rich lawyer to fulfill the commandments he needed to give all of his possessions to the poor. How about prayer: enough, the right way, for the right thing. One instruction from Jesus tells us to pray like the Lord’s Prayer. Another tells us to pray in the solitude of our bedroom, not in public so others can see and think highly of us.
Am I truly prepared for salvation or death. I don’t think so. But for me, I count on the grace of God for my salvation, not what I do, the strength of my faith, or how well or much I pray. How about you?
Please stay on topic.