Today is Ash Wednesday. It is a time to think of sacrifice. It is a time to think of willing sacrifice. We give something up; usually physical in nature to appreciate the sacrifice of the cross and to sharpen our spiritual vision for Easter, which is just around the corner.
Two things that I heard recently have converged into a single idea.
The first was something I heard from Mike Hucakabee in an MTV interview. He spoke of the need for greater infrastructure in our nation. He correctly questioned the sensibility of the tax rebate incentive idea. He thinks that money should be spent on roads and bridges instead. He then quoted a statistic as an illustration of the need for greater infrastructure. He said: “The average American spends 38 hours a week stuck in traffic”.
For everyone that lives in a large city, you now have permission to laugh aloud–not at Huckabee, but that someone lives in a place where they “on average” lose less than seven minutes a day in traffic. My wife burns that waiting for her Starbucks every morning. I was reminded that I had once lived in a town of 500. I still think I lost 38 hours a year waiting for Thelma Pool to pull out of post office’s parking spot.
We did a “community blitz” with Buckner International last Friday. We went out into the community to look at “infrastructure”. We weren’t looking at roads or bridges. We were looking at the cracks in the social pavement.
For perspective, let me tell you where we live. We live in the Cypress Fairbanks area in Northwest Houston. We are 99 percent unincorporated. If we were incorporated, we would be the 12th largest city in the nation, somewhere between San Jose and Indianapolis. That is big, even by Texas standards. We have the third-largest school district in the state. We will add almost 20 new schools in the next five years.
We don’t have a women’s shelter.
Let that sink in for a minute. If one woman in our neighborhood is beaten by her husband or family member, she must make her way to downtown Houston.
We have no inpatient psychiatric hospital.
We have no community-wide effort to address the needs of the hungry or the homeless. We have a few bright and shining stars out there in our community, but it is a drop in the bucket. Boys and Girls Country is a remarkable in house facility for troubled teens, but there are so many who fall between the cracks.
I am anxious to get the report back to see what else we need.
We live in an area of great affluence, and yet our poor and needy are dramatically underserved.
Like any fast-growing community, we have great infrastructure programs. Our main highway is a parking lot most days. It will only get worse.
If it weren’t for Lent and community blitzes, we might forget that there are those out there who don’t have enough.
I have a computer program that helps me monitor my calorie intake. I have to work at not eating too much, while others struggle to find food to eat.
I shared with my church Sunday that one of the things I would give up for Lent was chips and salsa. There was an audible gasp from the congregants. You could see the bubble over their heads: “He must really mean this of he is giving up chips and salsa”!
We will never make a real difference without intentional and substantial sacrifice. To understand that is to understand in a very small way why Jesus went to the cross.
Sacrifice was His master plan and He gave it all that He had. He calls us to do the same.
Ed Hogan is pastor of Jersey Village Baptist Church in Houston.