Summary: A sermon for Lent.
“Not Alone in the Wilderness”
On Monday, a Homeless Liaison for the Hamilton County Schools came here to ask me if we would operate as a make-shift shelter, and hub for those being displaced.
She told me she had gotten a “tip” that a hotel would be shut down Wednesday at Noon.
I said, “Yes. We will do whatever it takes to help the people and our community.”
In saying this, I didn’t feel alone.
I knew that I have a church that will step up to the plate when crisis hits and people are in need of help.
You have proven yourselves over and over again.
I trust you completely.
Obviously, the school system, the city and helping agencies do as well.
For example, the Executive Director of one of the leading ministries in this city sent an email to her staff in preparation for the crisis.
I was cc’d on the email.
Here is how she referred to us: “East Ridge United Methodist Church does outstanding work and have terrific training/expertise at times such as these.”
That’s a big compliment to YOU ALL from someone who has a lot of experience in crisis management.
That is how we are perceived by the outside.
***Put up Pictures of Economy Inn on Wednesday Morning***
When we got to the Economy Inn on Wednesday morning the folks who were being kicked out of their homes were in shock, anguish and absolute turmoil—they were scared to death!!!
But because of Metropolitan Ministries, because of East Ridge United Methodist Church, because of the social workers from the schools—they were not alone.
They were facing an absolute emergency—yet they were not going to be left on the streets.
It turned out that Metropolitan Ministries was able to pay for everyone to go to other extended stay hotels throughout the city.
Some of you spent the day helping people transport their stuff to these other hotels.
Others of you were preparing food and other necessities here at the church—preparing for us to be a temporary shelter.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to be—not this time.
I can’t imagine going through a crisis like that without any help.
I can’t imagine being kicked out on the streets all alone.
I can’t imagine being asked to help others without a church to back me up.
And I can’t imagine not having the help of other agencies and people from other churches who feel called to be part of the solution to other people’s problems.
Our Gospel Lesson for this morning picks up right after Jesus has been baptized in the Jordan River.
It is the beginning of His ministry.
And as most people know Jesus was in the wilderness or the desert where He fasted for forty days.
We are told that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.
He was led.
So why did Jesus go?
Was it because He trusted the Spirit?
Was it because He knew God would never leave Him; never forsake Him or did He need to know it for sure?
Most of us would never intentionally head into a situation where we knew we were going to face trials and testing.
Most of us would not intentionally head into a situation where things were going to be difficult, uncomfortable and dangerous.
Yet, in the season of Lent we are actually encouraged to intentionally embrace a somewhat similar situation.
Lent started this past Wednesday, which was Ash Wednesday and lasts until Easter Sunday—it’s 40 days (excluding Sundays).
Many people have some idea that Lent is about giving things up, but they may not know much more than that.
The word “Lent” comes from an Old English word that means “spring season.”
Many of us do a spring cleaning of our homes, and I like to think of Lent as a spring cleaning for our souls.
It is, quite simply, a time to focus on how we can be better followers of Jesus.
It’s a time of fasting, repentance and learning to rely on God and God alone.
A lot of folks give something up for Lent.
A friend of mine recently told me that when asked what he was giving up for Lent, his five-year-old son proudly declared that he is giving up pickles!!!
Well, his son doesn’t like pickles!!!
So, he’s not just giving up pickles for Jesus for Lent--he’s giving up pickles for Easter, Christmas and every other day of the year.
That’s not what it’s about.
But Lent is also not about giving up something for the sake of misery itself.
Misery is not God’s desire for us.
Instead, we might give things up that take us away from Jesus in order to make more room for those things that bring us closer to Jesus.