Worship was led on Sunday February 22nd at Wesley Chapel by Susan Langley, who is a local preacher and the chaplain of the Methodist Home for the Aged (MHA). I usually have her as my organist when I lead worship in her chapel Park Grove Knaresborough or have her support when I lead worship at Berwick Grange MHA. I am always relieved if she is there when I lead worship at the home as she can play if the organist doesn’t come! We are now getting used to the screens at Wesley Chapel being used to display the hymns we are singing, although some people prefer to have a book to look at, in case their view is obscured by a tall person. I like using books or the screens. The writing on the screen is very large and therefore easy to read and it frees us from finding the hymns.
Today is the first Sunday in Lent and our minister Trevor led the Lenten devotion at the beginning of worship. We sang the first verse of the hymn: Tree of Life:
Tree of life and awesome mystery
In your death we are reborn
Though you die in all of history
Still you rise with every morn.
The first candle is extinguished as we pray for light for the darkness and pain of injustice in the world. Trevor prayed for God to give us courage to make changes that are needed in our lives. We are to open our hearts and minds to God’s steadfast presence and help us to put our trust in him.
Susan began worship as she read some verses from Psalm 93. We sang ‘Praise to the holiest in the heights’ before she led the opening prayers. We then sang ‘Guide me O thou great Jehovah,’ before Susan gave her first short talk based on her and her sons’ love of rugby, called ‘Identifying and dealing with opposition tactics.’ In rugby they have to practice and make sure they make full use of their particular skills and they watch footage of the opposition at play to see how they can play successfully against them. They need to train hard and be disciplined to keep themselves fit. The Christian can use similar tactics as they need also to train hard, be disciplined and study the tactics of the opposition. Susan explained that we were to look at 2 case studies of the struggle between God and Satan; the first Satan won and the second Jesus won. The first reading from Genesis was heard where Eve was tempted by the serpent and succumbed to the temptation by eating the forbidden fruit.
How does Satan tempt Eve? First he exaggerates the rule that God had given by implying that they cannot eat any fruit not the actual rule that they could not eat the fruit from one particular tree. Then the second tactic Satan used was to lie; he told Eve she would not die as God had said. However Adam and Eve lost eternal life when they disobeyed God and they lost their innocence and felt guilt and shame. It was as if Satan was portraying God not as a father but as a tyrant not allowing Adam and Eve to know good and evil. Eve had distorted what God had said through weakness when she said that if she ate the fruit or even just touched the fruit she would die. Eve was tempted by the lust of food, lust of her eyes and the lust of pride of life. Adam was there too and must have seen what happened and he ate the fruit. Their eyes were opened and they became aware of good and evil. We too are tempted in the same way.
Satan used the same methods with Jesus when he was tempted in the desert after not having eaten for 40 days and 40 nights. Satan appealed to the flesh when he tempted Jesus to turn the stones into bread as he was so hungry. Jesus used scripture to counteract Satan when he said that man did not live by bread alone but by every word which comes from the mouth of God. He had just been driven into the wilderness after his Father had affirmed him as his beloved son in whom he was well pleased at his baptism. We can experience low times after a spiritual high. The second temptation was the pride of life – Satan appealed to Jesus’ status and popularity when he took him to the highest point of the temple. He also used scripture to tempt him by reminding him that the angels would protect Jesus if he did jump from the temple, but Jesus countered it with saying Satan should not tempt the Lord God. Sensationalism would not be a good way forward as ever greater feats would be required to maintain the interest of the people. That was no way to use God’s power. The third temptation appealed to the eyes when Satan took him to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and said that he would give him all the kingdoms if he would only bow down and worship him. Jesus replied by dismissing Satan and telling him that it was written in scripture that you are to worship the Lord your God only.
Jesus was tempted as he worked out his strategy and his tactics in putting God’s plan of sacrificial love into action, through Gethsemane to the cross. We too need to be alone with God and plan tactics through prayer and Bible study; we can easily make mistakes if we do not have time alone with God. Jesus was concerned that the disciples would fall into temptation. It is no good to test God, putting ourselves into risky situations from which God could rescue us, as that would be for our own prestige. The way of sensations is the way of failure. Scripture should only be used for God’s glory.
Do we fall into temptation as we don’t know the Bible well enough? Susan suggested that it would be good discipleship to learn Bible verses, pray and study the Bible to prepare for service. After great moments in our lives we too can find ourselves in the desert. For example a great score in rugby could allow a team to drop its guard and allow the opposition to strike. In the same way if we lose our guard and become complacent we can fall into temptation. When God burnt the sacrifice, Elijah’s faith in him had been vindicated but shortly after that he fled when Jezebel threatened his life; he experienced fear and an extreme low. Satan attacked Jesus straight after his mountain top experience of baptism when God had affirmed him as his son in whom he was well pleased. We too have to be especially on our guard after we have had a deeply spiritual experience lest we fall into temptation. We can even be tempted through our particular gifts. Where we are strongest we must always be on our guard. We need to walk closely with God, studying the Bible and pray so we can resist temptation.
We then sang ‘Spirit of wisdom turn our eyes’ as part of our prayers of intercession. Worship concluded as we sang ‘Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us.’