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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Be Prepared to Be Unprepared

2014-05-18 Worship - Luke 9:1-6 Be Prepared to Be Unprepared

Man or woman, I?ll bet you know the Boy Scout motto. What?s the Boy Scout motto? ?Be prepared.? For what? For anything.

When Dennis took the Troop to the Canadian backcountry, the boys had to learn how to suture a wound, without anesthesia. For themselves or the boy with the dangling limb.

?Be prepared.? Scouts have to know how to survive in a wasteland without cell coverage. To load a pack with essentials. To build a fire and cook food they?ve foraged in the woods. When the power goes out, when the car breaks down, when you need help crossing the street, you want a Boy Scout. Because, they?re prepared.

Think about how many bad things have happened to you because you weren?t prepared. Looking back, you say, ?If only I had? filled up the tank that dark and stormy night.? ?If only I had flossed.? ?If only I had?? Things might not have turned so ugly, if you?d? been prepared.

Prepared equals good. Unprepared equals bad. Prepared equals men. Prepared equals men (and women) who do their best to do their duty, to help other people, to keep themselves physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. If you?re not prepared, these are hard, if not impossible.


Then Jesus�called the twelve together and?�He said to them, ?Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor [pack], nor bread, nor money?not even an extra tunic?.? Not a bug-out bag. Not a tarp. Not a Gore-tex windbreaker, not a map, not a GPS, not waterproof matches, not trail mix, not Smart Wool socks, not even a first-aid kit. In other words, Jesus told his troop of twelve young men to be UNPREPARED.

Unprepared is scary. Unprepared is irresponsible. Unprepared is reckless. Unprepared is the opposite of what we want our young men, and young women, to grow up to be. Jesus is wildly different. Jesus is wild. Jesus makes us re-think what it means to survive, to live, in the wilderness of our preparations.


Back in 2003, Tom Friedman wrote a prophetic article for the New York Times, titled, ?Is Google God?? Little did he know that by 2014 there would be a Church of Google (it exists; you can Google it), whose adherents call themselves ?Googlists.? They have a prayer that starts,
Our Google, who art in cyberspace,
Hallowed be thy domain.
Thy search be done,
Thy results to come?

The iPhone changed history. They told us, ?There?s an app for that.? This is true. Our handheld devices can tell us ? often show us instructional videos ? on how to do that, whatever that is. Build a fire. Construct a shelter. 3-D print prosthetic limbs. Raise your children. Choose a nursing home. Our devices are like Swiss Army Knives of infinite knowledge.

(Do you ever realize you?ve left your cell phone at home and feel like you?re on that Discovery Channel show, ?Naked and Afraid??) We don?t leave home without them. We are so prepared. Never has humanity been so prepared. The Boy Scouts don?t scratch the surface of our new preparedness.

I wonder if that?s why Jesus sent his disciples out with ?no staff, nor [pack], nor bread, nor money?not even an extra tunic.? Not because he was training survivalists. Not because he was anti-technology. But because he was sending them into the wilderness of our preparations.


It always happens. I go to the bedside of someone who?s been sick for a long time, maybe on Hospice care. Everybody knows the end is coming. They might be praying that the end comes, watching for it by the minute. They?re so prepared.

But then, when the end comes, when life is gone, it?s always a shock. We can prepare all we want, but we?re never really prepared for the end.

And that?s true whether it?s death or any other life-pivot-point, even the good ones. We imagine we know how it?ll be. We prepare for how we think it?ll feel, but when reality hits it always, always exceeds our plans. We search so desperately for comfort in our preparations that we get lost in them.

So Jesus sends his disciples with no preparation. Some have said it?s because he wanted to teach them to rely on the kindness of strangers. That he wanted to teach them to trust in God?s daily bread. Some might say it was to make men of them. Maybe all that?s true, but I don?t know. Maybe Jesus sent the disciples without preparations because that?s the way life works. In the end, you lose yourself in your preparedness. Google becomes your god and your apps, your survival skills, your manhood and womanhood become sacred. Maybe Jesus sent them out without preparation for the simple reason that the only thing you can truly be guaranteed is that life is going to leave you unprepared. Be prepared to be unprepared. That might be Jesus?s motto.


Would that we all were better prepared. Would that we all knew how to survive in the woods, or build our own furniture from trees we felled ourselves. Or dress a wound. Or build a fire. Or, just how to operate our cell phones. Would that we all had an Eagle Scout level of skill, confidence, and maturity. We?re thankful for the well-prepared people who do. We?re proud of the young men who achieve that honor and grateful for their leaders.

But even the greatest of Eagle scouts would tell you, while you can try to be prepared for anything, you can never be prepared for everything. Don?t get lost in the wilderness of your own preparation. Don?t be ruled by what lurks behind compulsive preparedness. Be guided by Jesus. Be ruled by Jesus. The Jesus who sends us out knowing that we?re unprepared, but sends us anyway.

Be prepared. It?s a good motto. Be prepared for everything you can. But also be prepared to learn there?s an infinite amount of stuff you aren?t prepared for. And that?s precisely where Jesus is sending you.