Welcome, Cheviot churches! We worship together on this First Sunday of Lent.
We live in the shelter of the Most High,
We abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
The Lord will deliver us from the perils that threaten us.
Under God’s wings, we will find refuge and not be afraid.
So let us praise God, in song and in silence, with thankful hearts!
We will worship God with heart, mind, soul and strength, now and always.
Hymn 212 – Morning has broken
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
God ever creating, ever loving, ever leading:
when things around us feel chaotic, you are peace.
When so much we hear is not reliable, your word is truth. When we are paralyzed by fear and anxiety, your presence is freedom. When we feel bereft and helpless, your love gives us hope.
God, you are the Source of all that matters.
We bring you our prayers and our praise this day,
for you reveal yourself to us in the goodness of creation, in the love and mercy of Christ, your beloved, and through the energy and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. We worship you, O God,
ever Three and ever One, world without end.
Merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in things we have done,
and things we have neglected to do.
We have held back from giving
to protect what we have.
We have not trusted in your goodness
and relied on the world’s empty promises instead.
Forgive what we have done and direct who we shall become.
Help us to serve you
by serving your world with generous spirits.
Readings – Deuteronomy 26: 1-11
Luke 4: 1-13
Hymn 338 – Jesus tempted in the desert (1,3,4)
Gracious God, you call us to worship today and remind us that Jesus refused the temptation to worship the evil one. Rather than receive the glorious kingdoms of this world, he endured first, the time in the wilderness and ultimately the pain and suffering of the cross. Help us during our Lenten journey to rejoice in all the good things God has given us, to fix our eyes on him and resist our temptations. Amen
In the early church there was a new phenomenon. People were starting to follow the example of Jesus and go out into the desert and live lives of prayer and self-examination. They would sell everything they had to live without possessions and to endure hardship. They felt it was a way of becoming closer to God. It was the beginning of monasticism. It became so popular in Egypt that Christians from the cities used to go as sightseers, to ogle at the hermits and monks!
The story is told of one very holy monk. The demons worked hard to tempt him, but they got nowhere. When the devil asked them what the problem was, they said, ‘We have tried everything. Food, flattery, alcohol, sex - everything. Nothing works’. The devil smiled, went over to the monk and whispered in his ear. All of a sudden, the monk jumped up, threw his bible against the wall and stomped out. ‘What did you say to him?’, the demons asked. ‘Oh, church politics. I just mentioned that his brother had been made bishop in Alexandria!’, the devil replied.
We all have our limits. As we enter into Lent, we are introduced to the story of Jesus in the wilderness and the sparring match with the devil, as Jesus wrestles with who he is. He had just been baptised in the Jordan by John, but before embarking on his ministry he feels the need to have time in the bleak landscape of the desert. We say ‘desert’ and think of sand dunes. It wasn’t like that. It was a barren place of stones, a forbidding place of searing temperatures. A place without shelter from the sun - or from the cold at night. A place without food or water. It was a place he could learn about himself, be assailed by doubts, be tested.
It was also a place with a history, for the Israelites had also spent a long time in the desert. We read in Deuteronomy an ancient statement of faith, you could say. ‘A wandering Aramean was my father…’. In a nutshell, it tells the story of the Israelites, being brought out of slavery from Egypt and led to the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey, the good things of life. But they had to go through the wilderness first. They were tempted – and they gave in. They complained about no water, no food. When God gave manna, they complained that it was too boring eating the same thing every day. Then they succumbed to the worst temptation and melted their jewellery and made a golden calf to worship. However, it was all part of forging themselves together as a nation and learning to put their trust in God.
Jesus went into the desert, and he was tested. This was not a charade. Forty days alone would take Jesus to the limits of his physical and mental endurance. Exhausted and hungry, he faced the realty of evil. He faced the subtle temptations probing his sense of identity. ‘If you are the Son of God, prove it’. Prove it by turning stones into bread; prove it by leaping from a temple roof to impress people; prove it by bowing before the throne of power, greed and popularity. But secure in his identity and assured of his Father’s love, Jesus resists these temptations. And the barren, unpromising desert becomes a place of discovery, growth and freedom, and he is able to leave it strengthened for his ministry.
There are those in our world today, who readily succumb to the temptations for power and domination, who believe that might is right. There are those in our world today who court popularity. Each of us have our own demons to face. The temptations are still there. C S Lewis wrote that each time we make a choice, we turn ourselves into a heavenly creature or a hellish one. In other words, we turn ourselves to God or away from God to self.
Hebrews reminds us that Jesus was tested as we are, yet without sin. As we go through this season of Lent, as we go through our own wilderness experiences, let us look to Jesus for the strength ever to choose God.
Hymn 485 – Dear Lord and Father (1,2,3,6)
Prayers of Intercession
Generous God, we thank you for all the goodness we receive in Christ and in creation.
Bless the gifts we offer to share in the work of the kingdom Jesus declared,
and bless our lives so that we may be witnesses to his love and mercy.
We pray for the earth as your creation,
staggering under the demands of human activity and expectation.
May this planet, our home, be held in reverence in every culture.
Where we are tempted to use resources carelessly,
where human lifestyles endanger homes and habitats of other peoples or other species,
where immediate gain tempts people to give no thought for the future,
send your wisdom to guide citizens and decision makers to act responsibly.
We pray for the Church facing the challenges of rebuilding ministry and mission.
Where congregations are tempted to guard traditions and resist new possibilities,
where members magnify differences instead of celebrating our unity in Christ,
where energy for leadership and community life has grown weaker,
send your healing and transforming grace.
We pray for the world filled with increasing threats and conflicts, and especially in the Ukraine. God of all,
with alarm and concern we bring before you
the military intervention in Ukraine. In a world you made for peace and flourishing,
we lament the use of armed force.
We mourn every casualty of this conflict,
every precious life extinguished by war.
We pray comfort for those who grieve
and those who are fearful.
We pray for the churches in Ukraine, that they may remain faithful to you. We pray that leaders and nations will honour the worth of all people by having the courage to resolve conflict through dialogue.
May all our human failings be transformed
by your wonderful grace and goodness.
We pray for all who are troubled and find it hard to face these uncertain times,
we pray for those who face illness or loss of any kind,
for those challenged by economic hardship,
and for those faced with the reality of death, their own or of someone dear.
In silence, we name those on our hearts this day:
Keep a time of silence
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
Hymn 547 – What a friend
God who meets us in the wilderness, give us grace to see through our competing desires and ambitions. Jesus who emptied himself of all but love, who stands with us in temptation, strengthen us to walk with you. Holy Spirit, present with us now, empower our living and open our hearts to receive your blessing, now and forevermore. Amen