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On March 6, 2022, the First Sunday in Lent

sunny 86 °F

HYMN: How Great Thou Art

Thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, "I dwell in the high and holy place and also with the one who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite." Isaiah 57:15.

Let us pray. Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted in the wilderness; Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Psalm 25: 3-9

Make known to me your ways O Lord: and teach me your paths.

Lead me in the way of your truth and teach me: you are God, for you have I waited all the day long.

Call to remembrance, O Lord, your tender care and the unfailing love you have shown from of old.

Do not remember the sins and offences of my youth: but according to your mercy, remember me Lord in your goodness.

You, O Lord, are upright and good: therefore you show the path to those who go astray.

You guide the humble to do what is right: and those who are gentle you teach your way.

All your ways are loving and sure: to those who keep your covenant and your commandments.

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards 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 splendor; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ 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. (4:1-11)

The Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

A Reflection The Reverend William J. Eakins

For thirty years, Jesus had been preparing for his ministry, and he knew that his hour had come when he heard God’s voice say, “You are my Son ... with you I am well pleased.” But before Jesus began preaching Good News, he went into the wilderness to prepare himself. Just as Noah spent forty days on Mount Ararat, and Moses wandered for forty years in the wilderness, and Elijah fasted for forty days in the desert, Jesus withdrew to the desert for forty days to pray. He was led there by the Spirit, the Bible says, to be tempted by Satan.

The story of temptation is at the very beginning of the Bible. It happens in the Garden of Eden and is too often understood as the story of Adam, a nice guy, who was seduced by a naked woman named Eve. But here lies the first mistaken notion about temptation: temptation does not exist in other people or in juicy apples; temptation lies within us. Women and apples are good things; they become temptations only when we prefer them to God. We are not the prey of those who would entice us to do wrong; we are not victims; we are people who can choose right from wrong. So don’t blame the snake.

Faulty notion #2 is that temptation is located in places of ill repute. And while it is true that such a place can try our resolve to avoid sin, remember: Jesus was not tempted in a rowdy section of Jerusalem, but in the solitary quiet of a mountain wilderness. We can be tempted to sin wherever we are, even on a ship in the Indian Ocean..

Faulty notion #3 is that we can ‘just say no’ to sin. We can’t. If we are going to avoid temptation, we have to ask God to help us. This is the basis of all the Twelve Step programs like AA. We are powerless over what bedevils us and must depend upon a higher power.

That is the very reason Jesus went into the wilderness: he knew he needed to seek God’s strength as he began his mission. And he was ready when Satan hurled his first challenge. The Gospels give us the details. “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread,” Satan taunts. Bread was probably what Jesus wanted most after fasting for forty days, and, after all, what was so wrong about it? “Man does not live by bread alone,” insisted Jesus. What is wrong is not bread but meeting our immediate needs without seeing where that will lead us. “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread,” said Satan. “Be a man…,” they say, “have a drink, put another notch in your belt.” “Tell us what you’ve heard.” So, tempted by our need for inclusion, we tell stories and forget the way gossip can destroy truth and corrode someone’s reputation. We order another drink and forget that we have to drive home.

We can be tempted so easily. A book called God Wants You to be Rich promotes a subtle temptation. It says that faith will unlock fortunes for you. At its worst, this gospel of prosperity sells holy oil to pour on your bills and make them disappear; at its best this attitude praises the fortunate as God’s chosen ones and condemns the poor because if they are poor, they must be sinners.

So what can we do about temptation? We can do what Jesus did, in direct contrast to Eve who chatted up the serpent, wondering if she couldn’t eat just a little morsel of forbidden fruit. Jesus didn’t chat. He said, “Begone, Satan.” The first way to avoid temptation is to get away from it quickly. Alcoholics avoid the people, places and things that were part of their drinking days. Dieters do better a long way away from hot fudge sundaes.

Mary, I’ll call her, was contemplating an affair, but she made the hard decision to end her infatuation by writing a brief letter. Now she isn’t so sure. She wants to meet the object of her affection “just to explain,” to see if they could still have a friendship. We know what will happen if she does. To avoid temptation, you have to get away from it. Recovering alcoholics don’t hang out in bars.

The second thing we can do about temptation is to be grounded in our faith. Jesus didn't use his own words to argue with Satan; he said, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

Temptations never have easy answers, but there are answers to be found. A manager is told to fire the employee who has got a disease that will cost them money; is his obligation to the corporation or the worker? A woman without resources is pregnant; is abortion murder or responsible behavior? A church needs more space, but there are people outside the doors who are homeless. Knowing what the Bible has to say about these issues and what our Christian tradition holds can make moral reasoning a lot easier than being tempted to figure things out by ourselves.

The third thing we can do about temptation is to have a safe place to anchor us when temptation threatens. The captain of a freighter was offered $50,000 to stash drugs in the hold. When he refused, the bribe was raised to $100,000. He refused again, but when the ante got up to $500,000 he called the FBI. When the FBI agent asked why the captain didn't call sooner, the captain told him, “They were getting close to my price, so I had to call you before I gave in to temptation.”

The captain needed the safety of being with people who held his standards of compliance with the law, and we need the same thing. The church has always been a sanctuary where we can find God, our very present help in time of trouble, and a place where we can be supported by a community of faith and hope and love. And if we face temptation as Jesus did, if we move out of temptation’s way and stay grounded in our Christian heritage and Christian community, God promises that angels will come and wait upon us too.

The Prayers

Have mercy on us, O God, according to your loving kindness; in your great compassion, hear our prayers in this Lenten season and give us grace to repent of our sins and turn unto you. Wash us through and through,
and cleanse us from our sin.

We pray for the nations of the earth and for their rulers, especially in Ukraine and in all places of conflict. Create in us clean hearts, O God,
and renew a right spirit within us.

We pray for those who hunger and thirst, those who cry out for justice, those who live under the threat of terror, and those without a place to lay their head. Make them hear of joy and gladness,
that those who are broken may rejoice.

We pray for our family and friends at home, asking your blessing upon them and giving you our thanks for all the ways in which they enrich our lives. We give thanks for Andrea Ryan on her birthday this week. Open our lips, O Lord,
and our mouths shall proclaim your praise.

We pray for those who are fearful, sick and in pain, especially those suffering the ravages of war. Give them the joy of your saving help,
and sustain them with your bountiful Spirit.

We pray for those who have died and for those who mourn. Cast us not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from us.

Lord Jesus, you were tempted in the wilderness yet did not waver. Be present with us who live with temptation this day, and give us your strength and your grace.

Summing up all our petitions and all our thanksgivings, we pray in the words Jesus taught us

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Blessing

Life is short and we have little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So, be swift to love and make haste to be kind….and may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you now and always. Amen.

HYMN: Rise Up, Ye Saints of God

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Officiants: The Reverend Hope H. Eakins, The Reverend William J. Eakins
Music: Alex Manev
Usher: Andrea Ryan

Posted by HopeEakins 09:19 Archived in Mozambique

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Wow! That hit home. Thanks, Bill.
Query: Is "40 days" a magical, symbolic number. 40 days of lent? Why?

by Seabury

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