Weekly Worship Resources and Bible Study
Lent 1 (Colour = purple)
Gethsemane by Michael Freeman
|Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead :|
|Intercessions from our Sunday worship|
Our picture this week is of Gethsemane, painted by Michael Freeman. He has kindly allowed us to use his painting of Jesus as he went through this time of trial. Lent is also a time of trial, and our lesson from Matthew's Gospel today reminds us of the temptations which Jesus endured in his ministry. Lent is often viewed negatively as a time of don'ts. No eating, drinking or merriment. But Lent is supposed to be a time of hope. Jesus confronted temptation and was able to say 'no' to wrong actions, just as in Gethsemane he said 'yes' when called upon to do God's will. So now we know there is hope for us! It is possible to resist temptation. It is possible to resist the pressures of our culture and society and to be free. It is possible to turn away from consumerism, materialism, violence, racism, and all kinds of social and personal sin.
Jesus’ forty days in the desert and his encounter with the evil one is
a sign of hope for us all. Jesus was aware of the insidious
temptations to be a slave to bread or power or prestige. But instead
he choose a commitment to a non-violent compassionate love rather than
domination over others.
May our Lenten observance lead us to a deeper awareness of the world in which we live and its cultural challenge. So may we better prepared to wrestle with the important issues of our world and avoid the temptations to conform to things which are incompatible with our faith in Jesus.
Opening Verse of Scripture Psalm 51
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to
your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
Collect Prayer for the Day—Before we read we pray
Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness, and was tempted as we are, yet without sin: give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit; and, as you know our weakness, so may we your power to save; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen Common Worship & Methodist Worship
Heavenly Father, your Son battled with the powers of darkness, and grew closer to you in the desert: help us to use these days to grow in wisdom and prayer that we may witness to your saving love in Jesus Christ our Lord. Common Worship Shorter Collect
Gracious Father, your blessed Son Jesus Christ came from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world. Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Methodist Worship
First Bible Reading Genesis 2: 15-17, 3:
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it
and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to
eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "
You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Second Reading Romans 5: 12-19
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death
through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned– for
before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into
account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of
Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a
command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is
not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man,
how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one
man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like
the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought
condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought
justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through
that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision
of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man,
Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was
condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was
justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the
disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the
obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
Gospel Reading Matthew 4: 1-11
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came
to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become
bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ Then the devil took him
to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If
you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “
‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in
their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus
answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the
test.’ Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all
the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. “All this I will give you,”
he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away
from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him
only.’ Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Post Communion Prayer
Lord our God, you have renewed us with the living bread from heaven, by it you nourish our faith, increase our hope, and strengthen our love: teach us always to hunger for him who is the true and living bread, and enable us to live by every word that proceeds from out of your mouth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
After the spiritually uplifting experience of his baptism, Matthew tells us that Jesus was led out into the desert where he has a time of testing in the wilderness. That in itself will resonate with many people, the undulating nature of human existence, the highs and the lows. Our Christian faith does not shield us from the ups and downs.
We know that there were three temptations which faced Jesus
- To turn stone into bread
- To perform a miracle by throwing himself from the pinnacle of the temple
- To pursue worldly glory and authority through political power
We might not be tempted to turn stones into bread, but bread is symbolic of food and money. Jesus was offered a short cut to possessing material blessing. People of every generation have always been tempted to grasp wealth. Human greed was something which Jesus clearly considered and he faced that temptation and recognised it for what it was, futile. What good would it be to have all the wealth in the world, if he was not mindful of the need one day to give account. This is one of the greatest challenges in our materialistic secular culture, to seek satisfaction through possessions, often through short cuts.
That we can achieve happiness through satisfaction of human greed and materialism is summed up in this one temptation of turning stones into bread. Jesus calls it a lie and makes clear that obsession with wealth does not bring happiness in this life or the next. It was for this reason that the rich man who came to Jesus was told to give away all of his possessions. Jesus knew that they were making him spiritually sick but the man could not go through with the treatment and went away miserable. Jesus knew the temptation himself and he understood how hard it was for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
The temptations we read this morning are of Jesus, but they are ones we all face and Jesus calls us to follow his example and be different. To seek to give rather than to receive, to choose service rather than power. Jesus takes human tendencies to be selfish and stands them on their head and he tells us that if we really want to be happy in ourselves we must seek the welfare of others. The ability to think of others and consider the consequences of our greed, these are lessons which must be learned by everyone if we are ever to be able to live in peace with one another and creation. We must learn to be different. This is what Lent is all about. Lent is a time when we are called to think through our inner values and attitudes. We seek to have the mind of Christ in the judgements which we are called to make.
Jesus went into the wilderness, but he did not go alone, neither do we go alone as we journey along life's path, no matter if we walk in dangerous places. God is with us as we seek to walk in his ways. When we walk with Christ , the Spirit of Jesus comes with us to give us strength to make right choices and live in the knowledge that this mortal life is but a brief moment in God’s time. Our lives will be filled with many challenges, but we face those challenges not with the power of one, but with the strength of our Lord. Charles Royden
On Ash Wednesday we gathered for a service in which we smear ashes on our forehead to remind us of our mortality. As this is done we hear recited God's words to Adam in Genesis 3:19,
“for dust you are, and to dust you will return.”
This sombre truth stands in stark contrast to the archetypal lie that Satan told Eve in Genesis 3:4, and the denial that flourishes down to our own day:
"surely you will not die!"
Ours is a culture which is death denying and the ashes of Lent signify an outrageously counter-cultural act of humility. Lent is the most brutally realistic liturgical season of the year — it's a time when we tell the truth about ourselves, our brokenness, our mortality, and nevertheless trust in God's redemptive love.
That is why Lent is not depressing. Confessing our sins, marking ourselves with ashes and reminding each other that we are all going to die might not chime with those folks who are indulging in botox and anything else they can find to stave off ageing, but neither is it depressing. It is realistic and truthful and refuses to indulge in pretence. We acknowledge that without God we have no answer to the world’s problems and human kind is not progressing towards Utopia, we are as sinful as we ever were and death is a definite fact not a possible danger.
Lent is a time when we are honest enough to associate ourselves with the fact that what is wrong with the world comes from what is wrong inside each one of us and that no matter how good any one of us is we all share in what is making the world less than the place God intended it to be. At Lent Christians all over the world remind each other of the truth of our own mortality and inability to change ourselves and the world and our dependence need for God.
We are dust and to dust we shall return, but this it is not a threat which God holds over us, it is not
God getting us back, it is not a threat rather it is a promise if we are willing to hear it. It means that God was present when we entered this world and God will be present with us when we leave this world. We each come from God and to God we shall return. When the words earth to earth, ashes to ashes and dust to dust’ are read over us at our funeral, they are followed by the words ‘we do this in the sure and certain hope of everlasting life!’ So Lent is not a time for punishing ourselves for being human as God created us, Lent is a time when Christians can avoid the pretence and draw strength for daily living from God's promises.
- All my hope on God is founded (Tune ii Michael)
- All I once held dear On Partnership News Mission Praise
- Fight the good fight (Tune Duke Street)
- I need thee every hour
- Onward Christian soldiers
God, whose vision spans all the ages of the earth, help us to see beyond this moment and to embrace the wider perspective of your whole creation. Deliver us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge, and lead us into a way of love and justice that makes room for all peoples. Amen.
O God, forasmuch as without you we are not able to please you ; mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Be to us, O Lord, the affection of our hearts, the closest of our companions, our everlasting love, our enduring happiness and the fulfilment of all our desires. Through your Spirit, create in us holy fire and purity of life, that loving you above all things and our neighbours ardently, we may come at last to the glories of your everlasting kingdom; through Christ our Lord. Amen Thomas a Kempis, 1380-1471
Gracious Father, your blessed Son Jesus Christ came from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world. Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Opening Verse of Scripture—Psalm 32:11
Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are
upright in heart!
The Temptations of Jesus were real temptations, he was properly tested but
did not sin. For them to be real temptations, there must have been the
possibility that Jesus would have chosen the wrong path, so there was danger
and risk involved. The Book of Hebrews in the Bible tells us that in Jesus
we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our
weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are,
yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). Christ is subject to every human experience
that we are; hunger, pain, grief, and anger, otherwise, the Incarnation is
incomplete and his ministry is defective.
In a symbolic way the baptism and temptation of Jesus parallel the experience of Israel, whose baptism in the Red Sea was followed by their temptation in the wilderness (1 Cor 10:1-13). Remember the Israelites too were tempted with hunger, eventually satisfied by God's provision of manna (Exod 16). They were also tempted to false worship, they fell down before a golden calf. Jesus is a new Israel, after his baptism he is led into the wilderness by the Spirit, but Jesus will show a new way of obedience and faithfulness to God.
We are told that it was the Holy Spirit which led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, why would God’s Spirit lead Jesus into temptation? Actually the Spirit does not tempt Jesus, only leads him into the wilderness. The Spirit goes with him Jesus into the wilderness -- reminiscent of the 23rd Psalm, where God goes with us through the valley of the shadow of death. The Spirit accompanies Jesus, the tempting is the devil's business. The verb peirazo can mean tempt or test. To tempt is to entice a person to do what is wrong; to test is to give a person the opportunity to choose what is right. To tempt is to hope for failure; to test is to hope for success. In Matt 4:1 the verb clearly has both meanings. God, through the Spirit, intends to test Jesus; Satan, God's indirect agent, seeks to tempt Jesus.
"Forty days" does not have the same precision that we attach to it. It is like our phrase, "a couple of weeks," which might mean fourteen days -- or twelve -- or sixteen. Its function is to connect Jesus with Moses, who fasted for forty days (Exod 34:28), and the Israelites, who wandered for forty years in the wilderness (Exod 16:35).
The first temptation Following the baptism, a voice from heaven announced, "This is my Son." Now the devil says, "If you are the Son of God" -- introducing doubt -- challenging Jesus to prove the authenticity of his identity. Under different circumstances, Jesus will use his power to feed the hungry (Matt 14:13-21; 15: 32-39). Jesus does not claim that we do not live by bread, but that we do not live by bread alone. We must have bread, but our deeper need is satisfied only by the word of God. Jesus will provide bread, but he will not do so by turning his back on God.
The second temptation is to put God to the test. God has announced Jesus as Son (3:17). Now the devil quotes Psalm 91:11-12, challenging Jesus to take God at God's word. Again, the devil begins by saying, "If you are the Son of God...." The challenge is for Jesus to prove his identity to himself -- and to others -- and to take advantage of his power. As Shakespeare said in *The Merchant of Venice,* (Act I, Scene 3, line 99). "The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose". A lesson for the church is that evil intentions can be supported by quotations from scripture. It places a burden on us to listen with discriminating ears, not just to hear what is said but also to evaluate the person saying it. Are we listening to an adviser or a tempter -- a builder or a destroyer? Does the person have a hidden agenda -- an axe to grind?
The third temptation Again, we are reminded of Moses, who met God on a high mountain. On this high mountain, Jesus confronts the devil. Jesus has come to save the world, and the devil offers him the world. Given Israel's plight under Roman domination, an offer of the whole world is a powerful enticement. The Jews remember with longing the days of David and Solomon. In those days, Israel was a nation to be reckoned with -- small but great. Israeli armies defeated great nations. Now Israel is a shadow of its former self. Roman publicans collect taxes and Roman soldiers enforce the taxation. The emperor's face is on their coins. Jewish greatness is a distant memory. Nothing would draw people to Jesus faster than a credible promise of political and military power. The temptation is to believe that somebody other than God controls the kingdoms of the world. The kingdoms belong to god alone.
However we may choose to interpret the temptations, the choices Jesus had to make are also those which we confront in our own moral and spiritual decisions. It is not too much to say that his temptations are also ours. Jesus quotes Deut 6:13, reminding us that God is the only proper object of worship. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus will tell us that no one can serve two masters (6:24), but first he demonstrates that principle in his own life. We are not tempted to make a golden calf to worship. We would never fall down and worship the devil. Careful examination, however, might raise a question about our priorities. Is the world more important than God to us -- does the world occupy the first-place space in our lives that should be reserved for God? How can we evaluate that? How do we spend our time and money? Are we motivated to help others in need?
We are told that after the temptations the angels attended to Jesus. Remember when faced with temptations and difficulty, that in seeking to follow Christ we too will receive God’s blessing.
Commentary Temptation and the Presence of God
The story of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness and of the temptations he
endured there has been the subject of great analysis and speculation, being
considered in a very wide range of different ways. This is not surprising.
We are all subject to temptation in various guises. It is part of the very
essence of being. As Fulton Sheen wrote “You are not tempted because you are
evil: you are tempted because you are human.” Or as Thomas a Kempis put it,
“No man is so perfect and holy as not to have sometimes temptations: and we
cannot be wholly without them”..
And it is a mark of Jesus’ identification with us that he “has been tempted in every way just as we are – yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). And not just during that period in the wilderness. We can, I think, be quite sure that he was tempted on other occasions also. It happened even in the very last moments of his life – “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39).
Philip Potter, formerly Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, drew a distinction between those who are motivated by the love of power and those who are motivated by the power of love. Jesus was clearly in that second category. But being motivated by the power of love does not mean that there will be no temptations. In the wilderness Jesus pondered deeply about how best to fulfil his mission, and what means he should employ. And the challenges he faced all arose from that very reflection. Miraculously turning stones to bread would have been one way to meet the needs of poor and starving people. By becoming the universal ruler of a world as affected by divisions of race and nation as our is, Jesus might have brought peace. And earning the admiration of the crowds might have provided the sort of Messiah which the Jews at least yearned for and thought they needed.
Perhaps, therefore, one lesson which we might take from Jesus’ experience is the reminder that we too are subject to temptation, even in our acts of kindness and love, our worship and service in the church and in the world.
For Jesus to follow any of those courses of action would have been to have denied his humanity. And worse it would have given an example which none of us could have followed. It would have placed him and the life to which he continually calls us completely beyond our reach. But as we know he turned his back on that option, and chose to offer us an example of costly caring love which lies within our power if not always within our inclination.
In one way to act as Jesus was tempted to do might have achieved some of his ends – but only by putting an emphasis on himself which was totally against what he came to do. Underlying the challenge of the devil was an appeal to what medieval theologians thought of as the first great sin in the progression through the so called seven deadly sins – the sin of pride. And pride offers its own subtle ways of getting at us. We might say perhaps “God forgive me, the chief of sinners”. But then we must add “Please God forgive me for the pride which infects even that very confession”.
In responding to the Devil’s proposals, Jesus fell back onto the word of God. As the writer Fenelon put it “To realise God’s presence is the one sovereign remedy against temptation” It is therefore very fitting that we begin the period of Lent by reflecting on temptation because it is a period when we also try to realise more closely and clearly the presence of God in our lives. John Stubbs
Meditation: The Angel in the Stone
1564 saw the death of Michelangelo Buonarroti, one of the greatest artists,
architects and sculptors who ever lived. He was commissioned to paint the
ceiling and one of the walls in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, Rome (the
chapel in which the cardinals gather to elect a new pope). Michelangelo was
the architect of part of the massive church of St Peter’s, Rome, and he
designed its great dome.
Michelangelo thought of himself mainly as a sculptor. Two of his most famous pieces of sculpture are ‘David’ (in Florence) and ‘the Pieta’ in St Peter’s (the dead Jesus in his mother’s arms).
Michelangelo often saw potential in things that others did not see. On one occasion he was seen to be studying carefully what others simply saw as a large block of marble, and someone asked him just what he was doing. He was looking at the grain of the marble and its strengths, and he said: “I can see an angel imprisoned in the marble, and I must set it free.” He began the long and skilled job of carving a beautiful angel out of that stone. The story is a reminder that some people only see things as useless; others see beauty and potential.
Let us pray
God our Father, give us the power of your Spirit that we may see and love in others what you see and love in them. We want to see the positive in people and bring out the best in each other. It’s easy to say that, but not always easy to live it out, and so we ask you to help and inspire us to live as you would like us to live this day. Amen.
Praise to the holiest in the height
Seek ye first the kingdom of God
Son of God, if thy free grace
Now let us from this table rise
Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead.
Christ our partner, you invite us to bear your yoke, so that sharing in your
work, we may find our real selves in relationship with you and with those we
would bring to your friendship. Myra Birdsall
O Lord Jesus Christ, you taught your disciples to pray, to do good deeds and to fast cheerfully, without hypocrisy or ostentation; help us to use this season of Lent sincerely for your service, so that we may pray more, do more and discipline ourselves cheerfully for your sake; for you died for us and now you live, for ever and ever, world without end.
O Lord, whose way is perfect, help us always to trust in your goodness, to
walk in the way of faith, and to follow in the path of simplicity. Teach us
to cast our cares on your providence, that we may possess a quiet mind and a
contented spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen