It’s the first Sunday in Lent and I should be writing a homily about Christ’s temptation in the desert. But as I look around and listen, I feel that much of our world and country are in the desert. There is violence and war all over the world and we see terrified mothers clutching their little children at border crossing and refugee camps.

And it seems to me that our own country has never been so divided. And many of us in the past few years have been scandalized by the actions…by some in our church. So what should our reaction be?

It often feels like we are in a dry desert, which way should we go? My suggestion for this Lent is every day in Lent look to do the noble thing no matter how small. Do the better thing, the nice thing, the small but kindly thing.

President Jimmy Carter a great man, a Christian, he takes his faith very seriously. Well, when former vice president Hubert Humphrey died, Carter was president. There was a large memorial service. Hundreds of people gathered for the service, among them, former president Richard Nixon. It was not long after Nixon had been forced to resign in disgrace because of the Watergate scandal, and the memory of that scandal was fresh in people’s minds.

At the memorial service, people mixed freely, greeting old friends. Nixon, however, stood alone isolated, shunned. It was then that something very wonderful happened. President Carter came into the room and saw Nixon standing by himself at the edge of the crowd. Carter walked over to Nixon, smiling his big smile. Then he surprised everyone by greeting Nixon with these words: “Welcome home, Mr. President! Welcome back home again!”

President Carter was reaching out to the outcast, a small noble gospel deed that announces the kingdom of God is at hand. For the 40 days of Lent let a crucial Christian challenge characterize your daily living.

Why not shake loose the love in you. The love that is stronger than sin the love that casts out fear, not a vague or insipid love, not a sentimental or teenybopper love not just a lustful love. I mean the kind of love that carried Christ to the cross, I mean a love that can turn the other cheek at least at times. A love that does not sulk until apology arrives on bended knee, a love that keeps marriages alive through stress and sickness. Through dark nights and infidelity, a love that goes out to those who are different from you in any way.

Show me a man writhing on a cross and I will be moved to pity to disgust, to horror at man’s inhumanity to man. Show me a man writhing on a cross in love. Surrendering his flesh to crucifixion. Because he loves me, then I will be drawn to belief…to self-giving to love in return. This is the challenge of Lent…of Holy week. The effort of love to draw love, his love to draw mine.

I leave you with a poem by the rock star Alice Cooper who converted to Christianity in 1995. He said like Jesus I went to the desert and I learned to regret all those fake Gods. I want to reach out like Christ we should all try to become other Christs. He wrote, “I wish you deeper and deeper oneness with God, I pray that you will feel it. That the presence of Christ will make your spirit spin, your bones to quake, your blood run thin, your very pulse create a din; aware that heaven is not up but heaven is within. Share it give it away.

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