Riding Into The Wilderness

The following is only an excerpt of this sermon. The full sermon can be heard by clicking the audio link below.

Luke 4.1-13.1; Corinthians 1-18

We always begin on this first Sunday of Lent by hearing the story of Jesus’ journey into the wilderness, how he journeyed to the edge of life. How he was famished, how he was thirsty, how he was in the place where the wild animals threatened his life. He went right to the edge. The wilderness was the place of threat, of the margins of life. It is a place we often encounter in the bible.

When Jesus goes to the wilderness on this day after his baptism to begin his ministry, the devil comes and meets him. And there was a confrontation, an attempted seduction. An attempted diversion from the plan of God, and boy, was it clever. Because the devil tempts Jesus as a human being. We believe he was fully God, but also fully human. And as a human being, the devil tempts Jesus with the very same things that we want from God. Food. Material things that sustain us. Power and glory, yeah, we want that on some level. And protection. We want safety.

But Jesus, even though he was at the edge, realized that he had a choice. A choice whether to submit to the plan that God had for him, to become what God created him to be, or on the other hand, to go for the things that we crave, that we hunger for. Provision, power, protection. Apart from God. On our own. We heard the story of Jesus going into the wilderness and choosing faithfully.

Well, now Jesus’ journey invites us as we begin the season of Lent to take our own journey into the wilderness, to take a spiritual journey to the edge. Some of us are already there. Because in the wilderness, when we are on the edge, when we are hungry, when we are famished, when we don’t know where our next meal is coming from, when we don’t know what wild animals threaten us, when we are the margins, when we are at the edge, we discover what we are truly made of.

In the wilderness we meet our devils. But the scriptural truth of Lent is also that we meet not only our devils but also we meet God there.

I just got back from Uganda you may have heard, last Thursday. And while we were there for 10 days we took probably thousands of pictures between the two of us. But I’d like to give you two pictures of Uganda that you can perhaps reflect on this morning. The first is a picture of a bicycle. Now there are a lot of cars there, but the fact is not many people own cars there because it is so expensive. So they use, as a main mode of transportation, bicycles. In the cities, in the countryside, you see them riding their bicycles. And because it’s their only mode of transportation the bicycles carry not only themselves, not only the riders, but everything that they need. So when you’re driving down the street, down a dirt road or a paved road, whether you’re in the city with lots of traffic and cars zooming in and out, you see the bicycles there. You see them carrying all of the stuff that they need for survival.

The traditional Ugandan hut is a circular hut and at the top they have these grass reeds that provide the ceiling, and they’re about 8 feet long. They tie them up in big bundles and they put them on the ends of their bike. So you see them driving down the road on this little skinny bike and on the back is this 8 foot wide bunch of reeds. And they’re kind of driving down the road trying to stay balanced. Sometimes they have these big bags of charcoal, they don’t use power, so they have charcoal for cooking and they have these huge bags that are about this tall, and they tie them up on the back of their bike because they buy the charcoal and they take it home. How are they going to take it home? They take it on their bike. Sometimes they tie all of their dead chickens to their bike to take home and eat. Or to take to the market to sell. Sometimes they take big bags of potatoes or fruit, sometimes they take their big jugs of water. They have these 5 gallon yellow jugs of water, they don’t have running water in their homes, so they have to take it to the center of their village or in town to pump the water and then they take it back home. They don’t want to do that every day so they pile these yellow 5 gallon jugs of water, not one of them, not two of them, not three of them, not four them… but six 5 gallon jugs of water on one bicycle. Isn’t that amazing?

And as I watched them ride through traffic with this accumulated stuff on their bicycles, it occurred to me that it is an apt metaphor for life. Because we ride through our lives and we gradually accumulate all of the stuff that we need to survive. And we accumulate more and more and more stuff, it’s amazing the crap that you can carry on your bike, if you’ll excuse the vulgarity. Some of it is good stuff, some of it is stuff we need: water, stuff to construct our homes, food. But a lot of the stuff that ends up on our bicycles is stuff that we just accumulate along the way: the burdens that we bear, the hurts that we’ve suffered, the cares of our world, the relationships that we struggle with, our own illnesses, our own struggles. And those things get loaded up on our bike and we don’t realize it and we’re riding along and it gets tougher and tougher to pedal and all of the sudden we realize that we’re riding a bike that weighs 350 pounds.

Well, Lent invites us to take the dirt road into the wilderness. To live life on the edge for a little while. Because what we do in the season of Lent is we hop off our bike and we spend some time reflecting and studying and we take an inventory of all the stuff that we have accumulated in our lives.

(To listen to the sermon in full, please click below)

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  • Back to School, Not Back to Church…

    …at least not all the way. Some ministries of the church are in action, others are not.

    Ministry is Continuing!

    To date we have shared around $7,000 with our local community to help relieve those affected by coronavirus, and we have another $2,000 we will be distributing now. This has gone toward food, diapers for families in need, rent & mortgage relief, and other purposes.

    Thank you for continuing to worship with us—our YouTube videos get around a hundred views each week, and in some cases, there are multiple people watching one screen. Thank you for listening. And thank you for your continued financial support.

    We are going to be doing some new things in the interest of our own spiritual health, fellowship, and the ministry of the church. The first is drive-through communion (or drive-thru, as it is frequently written).

    Drive-Through Communion — Sept 6th, 9:15-9:45am

    If you wish, you’re invited to drive through our parking lot on Sunday, September 6th from 9:15-9:45am and I will serve communion to you. You are just as welcome to partake of communion from home, as we’ve done the last few months.

    Fellowship Bike Ride — Sept 13th, beginning at 1pm

    On Sunday, September 13th we will have an FPC Bike Ride. We will meet at FPC and go on a 10-mile bike ride led by John and Jean Stewart. Maps of the route will be provided, and a shorter route will be available if needed. Some of the route will be on streets and some on dedicated bike paths. Meet us in the parking lot at 1pm, and we will depart by 1:15.

    Zoom Bible Study — every Tuesday morning from 8-9am

    If you’d like to join us for Bible Study we will begin on Tuesday, Sept 8th, from 8-9am. We will meet via Zoom so you can enjoy breakfast and coffee from home. The zoom link will be available on our First Pres Logan Facebook page each Tuesday morning.

    My role as pastor is to be a spiritual guide, someone who helps each of you on your faith journey (and as you might imagine, you help me just as much). I confess to you that feeling like we are connected and in touch these months has been a struggle. Continuing to not meet in person remains one of the more challenging decisions of my career in ministry. I want to see all of you each week. Worshiping at home via YouTube is certainly just as pleasing to God as when we gather and sing, but it doesn’t feel the same to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t feel the same to you. Hopefully, some of the above activities will help us with that.

    In the Presbyterian system the pastor does not make decisions about all of the activities and happenings around a church. The pastor leads worship, teaches through Bible Study and similar endeavors, provides pastoral care, and participates in many other diverse activities around the church and community. We have Elders and Deacons who take on other responsibilities, including making decisions about church activities (reserved for Elders, who serve on Session). Who does what around a church (and how we do it) is outlined in the Book of Order, which covers all kinds of things. But as you can imagine, there isn’t a chapter titled What To Do in Case of Worldwide Pandemic.

    The Elders that we elect as a congregation (you elect them, Pastor Meg and I do not vote) make many important decisions for each congregation, although pastors frequently share their thoughts and offer guidance for any vote that is taken. The Session of FPC Logan met on Wednesday, August 19 and voted unanimously to continue with online worship for at least the next month (until the next Session meeting, on September 16th).  At that meeting we will reassess the situation and take another vote for the coming month (or months). Session made this decision because we don’t feel it is safe for us to be in the same room for an hour together. Some people may be willing to take the risk. I am not, and neither are your FPC Elders. Of particular interest is the effect that the return to school will have on coronavirus numbers. Public schools and the Utah State University are back in class now, with both online and in-person classes. Also, of great interest is progress in vaccine trials. We are praying that one (or several) of these vaccine trials provides good news in the next few months.

    May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you all,

    Derek

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