17 February 2013

As we move into Lent, it is tempting to make services solemn and dark, to preach hellfire and brimstone and to focus on all the evil in the world that we must oppose. This is certainly necessary, and the first week in Lent gives much to support this approach. However, there is also a lot to inspire celebration and joy. This first week in Lent offers us an invitation to a life of abundance – found in the practice of spiritual disciplines and in the freedom of taking responsibility for our own light and darkness. And it assures us of God’s care and protection throughout.

May our worship teach us to confront the darkness within and without by becoming those who shine the light of Christ.

READINGS:
Deuteronomy 26:1-11: Instructions to bring the first produce from each crop as a thanksgiving offering to God, and a recognition of God’s care, provision and liberation of God’s people in the past and the present.

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16: A psalm celebrating God’s care and protection of those who dwell in God, and make God’s presence their safe refuge.

Romans 10:8b-13: The message of faith in Christ that ensures that we will never be disgraced, because all who call on God’s name are saved.

Luke 4:1-13: Jesus is tempted by the devil in the wilderness. He is challenged to turn stones into food, to jump from the top of the temple, and to gain all the world’s wealth and glory by bowing to the tempter. But, he resists, using God’s word as his guide.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
What is interesting about the readings for this week is that the focus, rather than being on Jesus’ temptation, is on God’s care, protection and provision for God’s people. When the temptation narrative is placed in that context, our focus shifts dramatically – and importantly – away from fear of failure or succumbing to evil, and on to God’s resources that are at our disposal to keep us strong and faithful. Perhaps the great temptation of this week in the lectionary is to make it all about evil and it’s attack on us and our world. The Lectionary, however, rightly calls us to make this week about God – God’s care, God’s Word, God’s protection, God’s provision – which means that we can rest assured that whatever we may face, “the best of all is ‘God is with us’” as Wesley said.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: With little scratching of the surface, the three temptations of Jesus are no different than the ones we wrestle with in the world today – power and influence, wealth and consumption, personal appetites and greed. Are there any of the big justice issues that don’t fall into one of these general categories? But, it is important for us to focus on God’s care and protection, or we can easily fall into the trap of fighting this evil on its own terms. Jesus refuses to do so. Trusting in God, and immersing himself in God’s word, Jesus simply embraces a different set of values – self-giving, humility and servanthood, fasting and self-control. Even in the big global issues, simply working to create communities of trust in God’s ways that live out these alternative values is a significant way to contribute and to push back the forces of evil. How can your community embody the values of Christ more visibly and publicly?

LOCAL APPLICATION: There are so many things at issue in this week’s readings, and similarly in our lives today: issues of identity; issues of security; issues of power; issues of appetite and consumption. It is out of these issues – and the knowledge that it is only “under the shadow of God’s wing” that we can hope to face them satisfactorily – that the three Lenten disciplines emerge – fasting (to confront our consumption and appetites); giving of time, abilities and resources (to confront our love of power and pride); prayer (to confront our self-dependence and security issues). As individuals, and as faith communities, embracing these practices – not just in Lent – is the easiest way to confront the evil within and without. As Mother Teresa famously said: “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP
:
Prayers:
Darkness And Light
Overcoming Temptation

Hymn Suggestions:
I Know Whom I Have Believed
I Cannot Tell Why He Whom Angels Worship
Be Thou My Vision
Saviour, Like A Shepherd Lead Us
Heart Word
How Long?
Thy Word (Link to YouTube video)
Blessed Be Your Name (Link to YouTube video)
Your Grace Is Enough (Link to YouTube video)
Everlasting God (Link to YouTube video)

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for the Celebration of Sacrifice

Video Suggestions:
Tempted By The Devil
Temptation
Shine Your Flashlight

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