A Travellerspoint blog

Worship and sermon on Sunday, March 10

following two services on Ash Wednesday, March 6

overcast 62 °F

WORSHIP SERVICE aboard the Silver Whisper
March 10, 2019, the First Sunday in Lent, at 9:15 am

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.

The Holy Gospel

A Reading from the Gospel of Mark

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. (1:9-13)

A Reflection The Reverend Hope H. Eakins

“And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness, where he was for forty days, tempted by Satan.”

Scene One: Jesus has just been baptized. Crowds gather around and a voice calls down from heaven, “You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Scene Two, without any interruption: Immediately the Spirit drives Jesus put into the wilderness where he is tempted. The shift in the setting is dramatic. Jesus’ Baptism is in gentle land in the warm waters of the Jordan River; the voice of the Spirit speaks words of love. Then, without warning, that same Spirit drives Jesus to a barren place filled with jagged rocks and wild beasts. What kind of a God would do this? What kind of a God would drive beloved children into the wilderness?

Then there are the familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer: ‘lead us not into temptation’. What kind of God would deliberately lead us into temptation?

That question isn’t really about temptation, it is about God. We don’t really need to worry about being led into temptation because we can easily find it all by ourselves - little temptations like another piece of candy, putting off writing the sympathy letter until tomorrow, having another drink; bigger temptations like leaving government to the politicians and education to the teachers and morality to the preachers; serious temptations like worshipping things instead of God or betraying vows we have made.

The Bible wrestles with the question of temptation and God’s role in it from the very beginning. Remember the Garden of Eden - and the snake? Remember wondering how that bad snake got himself into Paradise in the first place? Remember how God tested Abraham and asked him to sacrifice Isaac and how God led the Israelites for forty years in the wilderness, testing them to see whether or not they would keep the commandments? And in this morning’s Gospel, the Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness where he is tested as we are. Jesus’ baptism does not save him from temptation - or from the cross, and our Baptism does not save us either.

God created the world with temptation in place; God created the Garden of Eden with the snake right there in the grass. God gave Adam and Eve knowledge of good and evil and asked them to make the right choices because they knew what evil looked like. God does the same thing for us. God gives us the rules, ten of them, and asks us to make the right choices. And we usually do. Not many of us are tempted to murder, but there are those of us who drive too fast or drive when we have been drinking. Not many of us are tempted to embezzle, but there are those of us who would put their hands in the till to keep up a public image of success. It is not that God deliberately tempts us; it is that we know what is right and wrong and choose to do wrong anyway because we are weak.

Temptations are actually good things - otherwise we wouldn’t be tempted by them. Wine, women, and song are gifts of God, good gifts until they are abused by alcoholics and adulterers and carousers. The world is filled with good things which can be enjoyed as gifts from God - or misused when we are tempted.

God created us with freedom and with freedom comes the possibility of temptation. God says, “I am setting before you this day the ways of life and death.” Life or death, happiness or misery, virtue or sin - it is our choice. I think God gives us this freedom because God wants to give us love, and that requires our freedom because love can’t be forced. Shotgun weddings rarely lead to good marriages. Children who obey only from fear of punishment seldom grow up to love or enjoy their parents. Love has to be free in order to be love. And that is why God made us: to love God freely and happily and joyfully. God could have created us as puppets who never sinned, but what would have been the point of that? It would be like making wind-up toys to spin on the world’s sidewalk, obedient machines incapable of relationship, beings who could not love because they could not make choices. So instead of making us obedient robots, free from all temptation, God gives us consciences to warn us when temptation comes.

Sometimes we stagger under the burden of our own freedom and want to give it back to God, but we can’t because free is the way God made us. God has given us both the freedom and responsibility to avoid temptation and choose the right. Our Baptism doesn’t come with an insurance policy for a cushy life; our Baptism promises us only that we will not be alone in the wilderness of temptation because God will send angels to minister to us there.

This is the first Sunday of Lent, a season in which we reflect on the temptations that would draw us away from God, a season when we try to take on a Lenten discipline to give us practice in making right decisions, in turning away from small things to give us strength to turn away from big sins. Temptation is there - how many of you have already failed to keep a Lenten resolution you made last Wednesday? But along with the temptations comes God’s promise. (1 Corinthians 10:13) “God is faithful, and God will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing God will also provide the way out so that you will be able to endure it.” And for that gift we say, Thanks be to God.

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 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.
Open our lips, O Lord,
and our mouths shall proclaim your praise.

We pray for those who are sick and in pain, those unemployed and in financial need, those who are lonely, remembering those we now name silently or aloud..... 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 amazing 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.

Officiants: The Reverend Hope H. Eakins, The Reverend William J. Eakins
Music: Alex Manev
Altar Guild: Jane Kline, Directress, Jill Ingham
Usher: Douglas Kline

Expected time of next service: Sunday, March 17, at 9:15 am

Posted by HopeEakins 20:42 Archived in China

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