11:15am in Riverside
Communion after this service at: https://youtu.be/7kwZzlmyxvI
Trials come so that your faith may prove itself worthy of all praise, glory, and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed1 Peter 1: 7
Hymn 120 God we praise you God we bless you
Following Jesus isn’t easy
The example he gave us of how we should live our lives
the teaching he gave us on the values and standards we should adopt
the challenge he gave us to be an example to the world around
involve what seem like impossible challenges:
- putting you at the centre of our lives
- loving others, including some who aren’t very loveable
- giving up time and effort we would rather spend on ourselves,
to do things we might not enjoy, or for which we receive precious little thanks
- being ready to forgive when we feel like lashing out
- being ready to give again and again
- being ready to get out of our depths, doing things we have never done before,
and for which we don’t feel capable
But your love for us is undeserved and unconditional
you forgive us, you call us to be your children
you gave your Son Jesus to suffer and die for us
through your Spirit, you give us all that we need to do your will
Forgive our weaknesses
Forgive our lack of faith
Forgive our preference for the easy road
Help us to go faithfully after Jesus our Lord
Walking in his way
Doing your will
And by the power of the Spirit being the people you want us to be
Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen
All age time
Parts of the Holy Land are lush and fertile, but a short distance away there is scrub and desert, and through its history people who lived there had to adapt to being close to a natural boundary – sometimes the desert bloomed, and sometimes the fertile lands ran short of water.
The area West of the Dead Sea, and between Jerusalem and Hebron, is usually identified as the area of ‘Wilderness’ that Jesus went to after his baptism (though there are other places East of the Jordan that would equally fit the description). There may have been a bit more fertile ground – or seasonally fertile ground – in the Wilderness in Jesus’ time, but it was still pretty arid and unwelcoming.
Without cloud cover the days were very hot and the nights bitterly cold. Tracks led over scree and bare rock – and people were going in open-toed sandals! There were few sources of water, and such as there were probably saw competition between different people and some animals for access. There may have been more animals like jackals in Jesus’ day, maybe snakes or scorpions [Petra]. The Wilderness was also a place of refuge for anyone escaping the ‘Authorities’ – loners, armed gangs, thieves, militant nationalists, people with serious mental conditions, could all seek refuge in its caves and crevices.
God promised the Hebrew people that they would live in a land flowing with ‘milk and honey’, he promised prosperity and good harvests, yet some of the key moments of Jewish history happened in the desert – in Sinai, in the lands south of the Dead Sea, and in the Wilderness South of Jerusalem. It was in the desert of Sinai that Moses encountered God, and it was there too that the Hebrew people received the Law and entered into their Covenant with God. It was in the desert lands of Sinai and the area South of the Dead Sea that they were sustained by manna. In the Judan Wilderness David built up his reputation as a powerful guerrilla leader able to defeat the Philistines. The Dead Sea Scrolls community settled in the Wilderness West of the Dead Sea. John the Baptist had prepared for his ministry in one of the desert areas, and Jesus did the same.
Life there was hard, survival and danger were constant concerns. There was no time for leisure or relaxation. But in the difficult and dangerous place Jesus wrestled with the challenges of his call to ministry, and emerged convinced of what it was God wanted him to do – even though that way would lead to the cross.
Hymn 356 Meekness and majesty
Luke 4: 1-13 Elspeth Johnson
It all seems so long ago now, that day by the Jordan, when I insisted that John baptise me, and I had that marvellous vision of God, and the voice saying, ‘This is my own dear Son, with whom I am pleased.’
But then the Spirit brought me out here into the desert, where it is blazing hot by day and freezing cold by night; where shady characters lurk in crevices, and there are strange, spine-chilling noises after dark.
It’s hard to pray when you’re hungry, to hear God’s voice when your stomach is rumbling. At least the Israelites got manna in the desert – all I’ve got are stones. Would it be wrong, Lord, to use a wee bit of your power to turn these stones to bread so that I could eat. Maybe I could use a wee bit more to feed the hungry of the world….
You shall not live by bread alone
but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord
The mending of broken hearts, the freeing of prisoners, letting the deaf hear and the lame dance, letting the blind see, and bringing lasting justice – such is the picture of what your Anointed One is to do. If I had power like Caesar and could insist and enforce, then maybe the world would be changed. Or maybe I’d end up being like Caesar and enjoy power for its own sake. Simply telling people to be loving and caring won’t make any difference. You can’t compel people to love, to be just, to create peace.
Only through weakness, only through suffering, only by going the way of the cross, will we build the world you want, Father.
Ask and it shall be given unto you
Seek and you shall find
Knock and the door shall be opened unto you
Standing here at the highest point of the Temple, looking out over the Holy City, I am reminded of all the tales in Scripture of the miracles performed in your name. If I could do something dramatic, something spectacular, that would draw the crowds, it would be so much easier that going round the streets on foot, telling stories, getting frustrated because they aren’t interested or paying attention. It would save having to suffer, having to die.
I don’t want to suffer, I don’t want to die, but I know that you said that your Servant will be despised and rejected, and will endure suffering and pain, not for himself, but to bring healing and wholeness, forgiveness and renewal for humanity. And in the end your servant will be vindicated, will be restored to new life, will bring in the new age of your rule on earth.
I am sorry, Lord, if I am thinking too much about me. Maybe being in the desert, thinking about the Israelites long years in the desert, I have been at risk of their mistakes – putting you to the test.
Help me to be your loving, faithful, dutiful Son. Even though I don’t like the shadow of the cross staring at me, I do see light and hope beyond it.
Seek ye first the Kingdom of God
and his righteousness
Hymn 191 Do not be afraid for I have redeemed you
Prayers for others
At the beginning of Lent, as we recall your commitment to us
and your desire for wholeness and fullness of life for everyone
we pray for those who lack the basic needs in life
those who do not have enough to eat
do not have somewhere to call home
either do not have a job, or are afraid of losing the one they have
who don’t have access to health care, fresh water
hygienic sanitation or education
who live in fear and anxiety
who long for peace and safety
who have fled from their homes seeking safety
we pray for those working to help people with their basic needs
and for those with a vested interest in resisting change
we pray for those seeking to find fulfilment in life
who need to be assured that they are loved and valued
who have not yet had the chance to reach their potential
we pray for those who do not know you
that they may encounter you and respond to you
for those who have known you but have turned away
and for those who do know you, that their faith may grow and deepen
we pray for all who are ill,
those who look after them
and those who worry about them
those waiting for or receiving treatment
and those for whom there is no treatment
those who are lonely, feeling down, or grieving a friend or loved one
We pray for the Queen, the Government
all in positions of leadership in this and every land
we pray for you church
the worldwide church
the wider church in Dumbarton
our own congregation
help us always to be faithful to Jesus our Lord
We bring to you our prayers for people and situations of special concern to us
And we sum up our prayers in the words of the prayer Jesus gave us
Hymn 338 Jesus tempted in the desert
Blessing (3-fold Amen)
Be bold to share the love of Christ
and show his love
and the blessing of God Almighty
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
rest and remain with you
today, and every day, and for ever