FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT SUNDAY 26TH FEBRUARY 2023
I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.
COLLECT FOR PURITY
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
SUMMARY OF THE LAW
Our Lord Jesus Christ said:
The first commandment is this:
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”
The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
There is no other commandment greater than these.
Amen. Lord, have mercy.
God is love and we are God’s children.
There is no room for fear in love.
We love because God loved us first.
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith.
God our Father, we confess to you
and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ
that we have sinned in thought, word and deed,
and in what we have failed to do.
We are truly sorry.
Forgive us our sins,
and deliver us from the power of evil,
for the sake of your Son who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
God, who is both power and love,
forgive you and free you from our sins,
heal and strengthen you by the Holy Spirit,
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.
LENTEN PROSE sung by Sue Turner
whose Son fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet did not sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in submission to your Spirit,
that, as you know our weakness,
so we may know your power to save;
through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen
PROCLAIMING & RECEIVING GOD’S WORD
FIRST READING Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 read by Simon Lidwell
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
The First Sin and Its Punishment
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So, when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
SECOND READING Romans 5: 12-19 read by Gill Swales
Adam and Christ
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— for sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin in the likeness of Adam, who is a pattern of the one who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
Therefore, just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
GOSPEL Mathew 4: 1-11 read by Reverend Steven Ballard
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew chapter 4 beginning at
Glory to Christ our Saviour
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,
‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. ”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is 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 glory, and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him. ”
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious gospel.
Praise to Christ our Lord
The story is told of four high school boys who couldn’t resist the temptation to skip morning classes. Each had been smitten with a bad case of spring fever. After lunch they showed up at school and reported to the teacher that their car had a flat tyre. Much to their relief, she smiled and said, “Well, you missed a test this morning, so take your seats and get out a pencil and paper.” Still smiling, she waited as they settled down and got ready for her questions. Then she said, “First question–which tyre was flat?” I think that it was Oscar Wilde who said: ‘I can resist everything, except temptation!
Today’s Gospel text is on temptation. Traditionally the lesson that is to be read on this Sunday, the first Sunday in the season of Lent, is the story of Jesus’ Temptation. There is a reason. Lent begins forty days before Easter, excluding the Sundays. Forty days were chosen as the length of the season because Jesus was in the wilderness during his temptation for forty days. The number has an even more ancient significance. Israel spent forty years in the wilderness, in what is called the Exodus. The Exodus and the Temptation are tied together, not only by the number “forty,” but also by their purpose. The Jews believed that they were in the wilderness to prepare them for their vocation as the “chosen people.” And Jesus was in the desert for forty days to prepare him for his special vocation as the “chosen one,” as the Messiah.
With that in mind, you can anticipate that the purpose of Lent is also about preparation. Lent is to prepare the Christian for his for her vocation, or calling, to follow Jesus. You might also anticipate that Lent would be consistent with the pattern of attaching the number “forty” to a decreasing length of time. The Jewish exodus lasted forty years. Jesus’ temptations lasted forty days in the wilderness but temptation faced Jesus throughout his life.
It might startle some of us to think Jesus could possibly be tempted at all. Shouldn’t he be above all that? After all he is the Son of God, and James tells us, “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” But the Incarnation required that the Son of God empty himself of his divine prerogatives and become one of us and so open to the possibility of temptation. We see his temptation here and also in the Garden of Gethsemane, and indeed in other parts of Scripture. In these instances, he chooses his Father’s will over the temptation to pursue an easier path. But notice that he has no extraordinary weapons in his temptation; he has the same tools we have — the Spirit and the Word are his implements to fight temptation and these are the same tools that you and I have too.
Temptation can makes us feel dirty. The spontaneous thoughts of hatred or lust or envy or our desire for revenge shock us. An important lesson for disciples is this: temptation is not sin. Satan may tempt us by putting evil thoughts into our mind, but we can push them right out again with God’s help. I’ve always appreciated a saying attributed to Martin Luther: “You can’t help it if a bird flies over your head, but you don’t need to let him make a nest in your hair.” Temptation is not sin, but the giving in to temptation is sin.
Could Jesus have sinned? We can’t imagine it. And yet, part of being human is to have a will free to choose wrong as well as right. He must have been able to sin, or temptation is just a big play-act. What if he had sinned? What would have happened? We can’t imagine or comprehend it. And yet I get the feeling that the Incarnation was not risk-free for the Father. When he sent his Only Begotten Son, he took a huge risk — because he loved us.
Did this huge risk work as God the Father hoped? It did. The first temptation seems pretty simple. Jesus has been fasting for 40 days and Satan offers him a quick way to feed his hunger, to turn the rounded bread-shaped stones scattered on the desert floor into actual loaves of bread. The devil’s suggestion is instant, within Jesus’ power, and he IS very hungry. This is the temptation to meet legitimate physical needs by illegitimate or unnecessary means.
But there’s another subtle temptation here, as well. The devil slyly begins, “If you are the Son of God….” He’s basically saying to Jesus, “You may not be the Son of God at all. Prove it to me by doing this minor miracle.” When we’re new at any role — not to mention Messiahship for Jesus– we feel insecure. And when someone taunts us and doubts our role we’re very tempted to SHOW THEM, to prove it. This is the temptation to pride, to prove ourselves to others — and, in our insecurity, to prove to ourselves as well. There’s nothing wrong with meeting physical needs — food, shelter, love, companionship, sex — by legitimate means. Jesus’ point is that physical needs must be met God’s way, not our own selfish, short-cut way. God is able to supply our needs, but we must wait on him and seek to do things his way. Just because we CAN work miracles doesn’t mean we should in any given circumstance.
The second temptation is to authority and worldly glory. The devil leads Jesus up to a high place and shows him the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. This sounds like a vision. Instantly, Jesus can see each of the kingdoms of his day: Herod’s petty domain closest to him, then Rome’s towering buildings and Caesar’s court, and all the other empires on the Russian steppes, the Indian subcontinent, and ancient China. Jesus could see it all. If you’ve ever been near the pinnacle of political or corporate power, you know that temptations to comprise are abundant and the stakes are high. Just “play the game,” you’re told. “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” is the mantra. “Just look the other way,” they say. The rewards can be tremendous. In the last few years we’ve seen many overnight millionaires but at what cost? The incentives to compromise are almost impossible to resist, especially if the love of money and power have found a ready place in your heart. Can a person live in the business or political arena and retain his integrity? Yes, but not without facing and passing the kind of tests that Jesus met in the desert. No one can serve two masters … You cannot serve both God and Money.
Have you ever had dreams of fame-of being a movie star or sports hero? Who hasn’t? But the desire to be respected in your profession, or popular in your school are the more common ways we deal with this desire. I think that Jesus’ third temptation is for popularity. “The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple” (4:9). A vision or a physical event- could be either! Jesus answered the devil with the words of Deuteronomy 6:16: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” In other words, do not take some action that forces God’s hand that seeks to manipulate God to do what he otherwise would not wish to do
At the human level, we see manipulation constantly. We see people trying to manipulate others to accept their views, to copy their ways, to influence and have power over others. We see this in marriages. If we can’t get our spouse to do something we want, then we take an action that leaves them no other choice. We see this in people with low self –esteem who force people to say nice things about them by their own carefully chosen words of self-deprecation. Some people force others to see them as a philanthropist by visible gifts to charitable causes. The forms of manipulation are innumerable in the home, in the workplace, in church, and in politics and often so subtle that unless we are self-aware, we may almost fool ourselves and deceive ourselves in our motives. Too often, we try to manipulate God, too, with bargains and deals. We need to take seriously Jesus’ words, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Have you ever wondered how Matthew heard the story of Jesus’ temptation? Jesus was alone in the desert; no one had observed him. Jesus doubtless told his disciples about his own temptation experience to teach them how to resist temptation themselves and today he instruct us, may we in the words of Ephesians be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Amen.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the almighty, maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living
and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.
with the Father and the Son,
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen
Let us still ourselves in God’s presence and tell him what is on our hearts for his people and the world
Loving God, we pray for St John’s
and for the wider church at home and overseas
that together we might choose
the right values and priorities.
May our thoughts be touched by your wisdom,
that they might reflect your thoughts.
May your light shine on us
that our ways may be your ways.
May we be wise builders of your kingdom,
and may we produce good fruit,
that touches and blesses the lives of others.
In the silence we pray for all who minister in this place and in the Diocese.
Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer.
Loving God, look at those who live
their lives in constant fear
and in the face of hostility and violence,
and be near them, protect and comfort them.
We think especially of Ukraine and
the refugees who have fled from there
looking for peace and a fresh start.
Help us as your people to welcome
and embrace them and make accommodation
available for them in our country and also in our hearts.
Be with all who are charged with the task
of finding solutions to this ever -increasing problem,
and may peace and security for all be found.
In the silence we pray for Ukraine
Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer.
Loving God look at our hurting world
where devastation has come through floods and hurricanes,
through earthquakes and natural disasters,
thinking especially of Syria and Turkey
and guide the work of aid agencies and relief workers
that lives might be helped and cared for.
In the silence we pray for places that are struggling with hardship.
Loving God look at our places of government
throughout the world,
and give us a desire for integrity and a determination
to stamp out corruption, deceit and injustice.
Guide all who lead and advise,
and be with all who will select a new first Minister in Scotland.
In the silence we pray for our politicians at home and abroad.
Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer.
Loving God, look at our family life
speak your peace and reconciliation,
into any family disputes
and hurtful misunderstandings,
nurture a spirit of loving community
in our churches, local communities and places of work,
and heighten our awareness of one another’s needs.
In the silence we pray for our own families, church family and places of work.
Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer.
Loving God, look at the heartache
and longing of your people,
we lift to you all,
those who are close to despair through stress and strain,
those who are battling against illness,
those who fighting the darkness of depression,
those who struggling to make ends meet,
those whose relationships have fallen apart,
those who feel alone and isolated
surround them with your love
and meet them at their point of need
with your strength, peace and healing.
In the silence we pray for those in need at this time.
Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer.
Loving Lord look at us your children with your steadfast love
and help us to put our lives right with you
and with one another,
so that we might be free from all
that would hinder us from running well the race of faith,
and enable us to have a good and faithful Lent.
Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those
who sin against us.
Do not bring us to the time of trial
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.
May Christ give you grace to grow in holiness, to deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow him; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.