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I was with my mother as she was doing errands and she stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts. I ordered a plain doughnut. Why would a kid order plain doughnut instead of the usual chocolate-covered doughnut? Because a guy an apron and flour all over his arms just came out of the doughnut-making room and brought out a fresh tray of plain doughnuts. It was crunchy on the outside and still warm inside. It was delicious because it was just made. The waitress brought my mother a cup of coffee in a porcelain cup with two free refills. Today at Dunkin’ Donuts, the coffee is served in paper, and if you want a re-fill you pay. The doughnuts are not as fresh. I am not downing one of the most successful businesses in the States. My point here is that over the passage of time, we often lose some of the qualities that made us special. They did a taste test and the majority of those who participated in the taste test said that McDonald’s coffee was tastier than Starbucks’s. That news, of course, didn’t go over very well with the Starbucks people. So they closed all their stores nationally for three hours and taught all the employees how to make a cup of coffee. Apparently, over time, the old formula was forgotten. Notice what the management at Starbucks teaches us. It is sometimes necessary to go back to the past and get some of the qualities that we lost with time.
There was a guy who had a great idea and all he had was a phone and a truck. Someone would call him and say, “I am moving to LA and I have all this nice furniture. I don’t want to drag it all with me so, could you use it?” The guy with the phone and the truck would go to the house, take away the furniture and bring it to a family that couldn’t afford furniture and even take away their junk furniture as well. It was such a brilliant idea that people started to throw money at the project. Money has a way of changing things and they ended up getting a fancy building with fancy offices and a fancy phone system with fancy procures and committee workshops. Someone who donated to the project looked at the attention to its progress and success that it made him said: “It was a lot better when it was a guy with a phone and a truck.” Sometimes through the passage of time, we lose what made us special and we have to go back and get it back. Today they have lots of trucks, cell phones, and people.
Josiah was eighteen years old when he became king of Judea. He noticed the people drifted apart from God. So the king decided to restore the Temple thinking that if the Temple looked really nice, people would go back to church again. While they were knocking down a few walls someone found a very old book. They blew the dust off of it and gave it to the king. It was the book of Deuteronomy. The book was written by Moses before he died. He gave some advice to the people before they crossed over to the Promised Land. He read about the stories when the Israelites were in the desert and how they became close to God. In the book Moses wrote: “Remember when we were released from Egypt. The Egyptians angry and came after us with their chariots to destroy us. We were trapped between the army rushing upon us and the sea. We turned to God and God made a path through the water and we were saved. Then we entered the desert and we had no water and we turned to God and He said, ‘Well, hit the rock with your staff.’ We did and water will come out. Then we didn’t have any food and so God let food fall from the sky. Remember how close our we bonded with God and never lose that relationship when you go into the Promise Land.” Josiah closed the book when he finished and said, “We lost that relationship with God. But we can get it back again. We can get back what we lost.”
That is why Jesus went into the desert for forty days and forty nights. To make sure he will never lose his special relationship with God.
It is true. Through the passage of time, we
sometimes lose some of the qualities that made us special. Yet, we can get it
back. That is what Lent means. We can return and win back our relationship with
God and others. I encounter a lot of medical students. I admire their
determination and commitment. It is not an easy road. They tell me how they get
through the sometimes grueling training. They dream. They dream about the
people they are going to help. They dream about the people they will save, and
the difference they will make. That is what I used to do. When I was in the
seminary for ten years, I used to dream about being a priest and what I would
do as one. I dreamt of the people I would help, I dreamt of the difference I
would make and my relationship with God. I often go back to those days when to
make sure that I am now living the dream. Sometimes, because of the passage of
time and the desire to succeed we lose some of the qualities that made us
special. Sometimes we need to go back. Lent is that time to make sure that we
are living the dream.