If someone were to approach you with the question, "How are you preparing for Easter?", what answer might you have to offer them? Furthermore, has the idea of having a theology of preparation occurred to you ever at all?
Preparation in the Early Church
In the infancy of the 1st century church the Apostles teachings were considered the authority for the life and order of the newly formed community of Christ. The Apostle's Teaching, The Didache in greek, was the rule of function and formation before the Holy Spirit inspired those who would go on to record sacred scripture.
In the didache there is instruction for how to receive new converts into the church through the ordinance of baptism. There was also instruction for how to baptize and there was instruction for the catachumen, the candidate for baptism. The Apostle's and leaders of the church provided a time of preparation for those who were to be baptized on the morning of the celebration of Christ's resurrection. Baptism in the early church was almost always held over until the Easter church gathering.
What is striking is how early instruction and preparation played a part in the early church. Baptism and entry into the church was no frivolous afterthought. This was a significant event; one that the leaders of the church felt necessary to regard as important such that fasting and much prayer was required of the candidate prior to their baptism.
As the church grew so did traditions. We often balk at even the word tradition in our modern perspective of things much to our own demise. Traditions ground us, the have the ability to center us as they stay fixed always reminding us of their invitation to bring us before God so that the deep issues of our heart can be transformed.
Imagine an ancient Israelite even thinking that the traditions passed down to him from Moses were out of date and no longer valuable. Even worse, Imagine the Kings of Israel leading the people of Israel into the new traditions of false gods. Tradition, if they are rooted in biblical truths, have significant potential to usher us into the presence of God where we can experience the kind of transformation of the heart that is so desperately needed. Hence, it is our tradition to meet together to pray, sing, and hear the words of scripture taught always every Sunday 52 weeks out of the year, no question.
Our Own Theology of Preparation
At Friendship we are striving to continue the best of the early church’s theology and practices. One of the ways we can enter into this season before Easter is to practice preparing our hearts to celebrate the victory of Christ’s resurrection for us and the whole of all creation.
Through an intentional time of reflection and God-awareness we can develop into a more conscientious person and worshiper. The early church fasted in preparation for the celebration of Easter. They sought to pray more. They gave themselves over to harder things, things that revealed their dependencies on creature comforts more than the sustaining God they had been called to. We can enter into these practices too.
Beginning next Wednesday the church enters into something of a 40 day countdown to Easter. This is a time to truly give ourself to the Lord in repentance. It’s a time for humility coupled with decided time frames of fasting and prayer. When we enter into these practices we imitate the 40 day wilderness experience Jesus entered in as he being led by the Holy Spirit learned how to trust God for life in the here and now and for the future.
How are you going to prepare for the celebration of Easter during this Spring season? What practices can you take on, or what can you give up so that God has an avenue for your formation?
In conclusion here are two resources we believe will help you during this Easter Preparation season.