On Sunday February 14th I led worship at Wesley Chapel. It was the first Sunday in Lent. We had the first Lenten devotion led by our minister Rev Trevor Dixon to start worship, singing a verse of a hymn and leading a meditation and prayer. One of the candles was extinguished to reflect the suffering and darkness of the world; the focus for the first Sunday was seeking justice. I used some verses of Psalm 91 as my call to worship. We sang ‘Love divine, all loves excelling,’ as it was also Valentine’s day; God’s love is above all human love as it is unconditional and keeps no memory of wrongs. I led the prayers of praise, thanksgiving, confession and the Lord’s Prayer. I then read an extract from an ancient legend of how St Dominic was at prayer, when the Devil arrived, and he took him round the monastery asking him how he tempted the brethren in each section; it was the recreation room when the Devil was able to do the most harm as most idle words were spoken there. We then sang ‘Tell me the old, old story’ before a member of our congregation, Janet read the Old Testament reading from Deuteronomy 26.1-11 and I read the New Testament reading from Romans 10.8b-13. We sang ‘Forty days and forty nights,’ before Christine our worship leader, Mike and Maureen Greenberg did the dramatised reading based on Luke 4.1-13, the temptation of Jesus.
As an introduction to the sermon I read some ideas suggested for Valentine’s Day by Christian Aid in its Lenten studies. We were all encouraged to have ‘Greenhearts’ and in our Lenten studies be aware of the effect of climate change on poor and marginalised communities. We were reminded to care for our common home and share with one another. We are to remember we are sisters and brothers and live in good relationships with all other people, as we are all members of the one worldwide family. We thought of the way Jesus had a ministry of restoring relationships, healing and serving others; we too are called to build up the kingdom of God in the same way as Jesus did. It is so easy for us to become complacent and take all we have for granted. Deuteronomy warned the Israelites not to forget all God had done for them when they reached the Promised Land and had settled there, but to bring the first fruits of their harvest in gratitude to God.
When Jesus was baptised God confirmed that he was God’s Son and that he was well pleased with him. Jesus then full of the Holy Spirit was led into the wilderness for 40 days and nights. He needed to work out what kind of Messiah he was called to be. At the end of his vigil he was tired and hungry and the Devil said, if you really are the Son of God then you can turn these stones into bread. He was being tempted to meet his own needs and to meet the material needs of those he would be teaching and serving later; the Devil suggested he might bribe his potential followers to follow him. The wilderness was covered in limestone and those stones looked like bread. Jesus answered the Devil with scripture saying, ‘that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
The Devil took Jesus to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world and told him that all could be his if he would only worship him. Jesus would have to compromise with the Devil but he again responded with scripture by saying that you must worship the Lord God and him only must you serve. Nowadays people attempt spectacular challenges to break records or achieve 15 minutes of fame and the Devil tempted Jesus to do something spectacular. He again taunted Jesus by saying you really are the Son of God throw yourself down from here for it is written, He has given his angels instructions concerning you and they will bear you up in their hands lest you dash your foot against a stone’. Here the Devil quoted from psalm 91.11-12 to tempt Jesus, but again responded with scripture saying ‘You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’ Jesus knew if he produced a sensation he would have his 15 minutes of fame but that was not the way he was called to go. Jesus chose the way of service, suffering and pain not spectacular actions to reveal God’s love to people.
Paul said in Romans that no one could become righteous without having Jesus as Lord and calling on His name. Jesus had to use scripture to counter the temptations of the Devil, as he knew he could not conquer them in his own strength. We too need to keep in close relationship with Jesus to avoid temptation and we need to study scripture so we can be better protected when faced by temptation. Jesus faced repeated temptations but he built up his prayer life to strengthen himself in relationship with his Father God, so he could conquer the temptations. If Jesus needed to do that; how much more do we need to build up our prayer life through Jesus and learn scripture to prepare us to fight temptation. In this time of Lent we must not become complacent with our lives and forget to give thanks to God for all we have and be open to see the needs around us; help us to be positive in our discipleship to deepen our relationship with God.
We sang the first 3 verses of ‘Longing for light’ before I led the prayers of intercession and remained seated after the prayers as we sang the final two verses. Worship concluded when we sang ‘O Jesus I have promised.’