COCU19A.Lent 1A

See also Lent 1B and Lent 1C

Christ in the desertIwan Nikolajewitsch Kramskoi.1872

See also Autumn (southern hemisphere)

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7: God warns the man and woman in Eden not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but they are tempted by the serpent, and eat some of the fruit, at which point they realise their nakedness and cover themselves with fig leaves.
Psalm 32: A Psalm of David celebrating God’s forgiveness which is given so freely to those who confess their sin and do not try to hide it, and also an acknowledgement of God’s invitation to guide God’s people and lead them to life.
Romans 5:12-19: Through one person sin entered the world, and all people have likewise sinned against God, but in Christ, God has given the free gift of forgiveness and right relationship with God.
Matthew 4:1-11: Jesus is tempted by the devil in the wilderness, but overcomes the temptation to satisfy his appetites by turning stone into bread, to gain power and influence by the miraculous act of throwing himself off the temple, and to gain the world’s wealth by worshiping the devil.
(Lectionary readings summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Church of Scotland Starters for Sunday
Singing from the Lectionary
Rex AE Hunt Progressive

As we prepare to start the journey of Lent – let us pray that as we walk towards the cross, in the promise of the resurrection, that we and this world may be transfigured and transformed.Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4.1)
Desert wind
blow through me.
Expose me.
Let the sun of your grace
sear down to its bones
my sin.
Erode the stones
of my wants.
I walk among
my desires’ skeletons laid bare.
Starve me of all
but you.
There in the wild, the empty,
be my only food.
In the harsh be my only safety,
in the solitude my one true love.
In my fear bear me,
in my aloneness join me,
in my weakness be me.
In this valley of my death
be my life,
verdant and eternal.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light

Command these stones to become loaves of bread…
Throw yourself down…
All these I will give you, if you will worship me…
—from Matthew 3-9
Power to command,
control, to force – 
I want.
Safety from hurt,
from risk, from limitation – 
I crave.
Fitting in, being right,
well thought of – 
I insist.
Solitude strips me
of them. Leaves me
with you alone.
And stone.
And height,
the broken bone of fear,
and being
alone, a soul
solely being.
I fast from needs
I did not need. So freeing.
Their teeth let go
till only you I need,
and only you remain,
blessing the broken bread
of me, now new, now freed:
my bread, my life,
my pain, my fullness,
my love.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light

It’s not that unusual among desert stones
and jagged wastes where you are sure to falter,
the stripped, eroded places of your want,
to crave a little comfort.
To seek some mastery is not unnatural,
a perfectly reasonable illusion.
But there is only one hunger.
The body knows more than we want it to
of what we need, but not where to look.
A leopard in the city, beautiful, and ravenous.
Don’t be harsh with yourself.
Desire is as readily a path as a trap.
Befriend those temptations,
each one whispers a name of God.
You don’t need to be cold or closed,
but to want more than you have dared.
Teach the hunter where to seek,
how to not give up at the first delight,
and how to shoot you from the bow of desire.
Even if your hand trembles, and it will tremble,
your longing will save you.
For the Beloved also has desires,
and will draw you in,
if only you are desperate enough.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness
to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4.1
The devil’s not some red-suit guy
trying to trick me into doing evil.
I seem to do that quite well on my own.
No, these are the real temptations
of being human,
the things that lead me away from you, God:
the longing for power, security and belonging
I confess these to you, God,
not to prove how bad I am,
but to see more clearly
how this works in me,
how my appetites can carry me away
from you.
I go into the wilderness
to expose my hungers,
to confront my distrust,
to renew my absolute dependence on you.
I won’t banish my temptations,
but welcome them, name them,
and let them become my path to you.
Beneath all that I want,
beyond all that I think I need,
is you.
I walk this desert journey
that you might transform my desires.
In this desert, God,
help me come to desire
but you.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Prayer for the Beginning of Lent
For forty days and forty nights,
it rained on Noah.
For forty days and forty nights,
Moses fasted on Mount Sinai.
For forty days and forty nights,
Jesus wandered the desert.
Now God of the Rainbow, Fiery Pillar, Holy Spirit,
we are asked into forty days of Lent.
Our personal and societal struggles are real:
selfishness and insincerity,
pettiness and prejudice,
judgement and justification,
apathy and indifference,
violence and greed.
Sin is amongst, and in, us.
Nevertheless, let this Lent be a journey,
not of guilt or shame or humiliation,
but let this Lent be a walk toward freedom.
Like Jesus in the desert,
may we resist the temptations to
miracle, spectacle and power.
May we withstand
materialism, patriarchy and hatred.
May we say “no” to all realms of
oppression and persecution.
And may we live into the values of our faith.
May we live loyalty to a God of justice and compassion.
May we embrace
holiness, abundant life, and new beginnings.
May we know that we have, and that we are, enough.
(Source: Ted Dodd, Diaconal Minister, United Church in Canada)

Call to Worship
Ashes have been smeared and sins have been confessed…
We follow our faithful Lord.
These times, they are troubling. This journey, it is hard…
We follow our faithful Lord.
It is God who sustains, not the temptations of this world…
We follow our faithful Lord.
In the Lord is our trust, our protection from harm…
We follow our faithful Lord.
Come, let us worship the One whom we serve…
We follow our faithful Lord.
(Stephen Fearing, Wild and Precious Life)

Call to Worship for Lent
Lent calls us to journey, this and every day,
following Jesus wherever he leads us.
Lent calls us to journey:
to the place where God covenants with us,
to receive the new names we are given.
Lent calls us to worship together,
to tell future generations the good news.
Lent calls us to practice justice,
to bring God’s hope to all people.
Lent calls us to faithful living,
to trust the One who gives us life.
Lent calls each of us to take up our cross,
to trust the One who bears it with us.
Lent calls us to journey with God.
Let us worship God, who walks with us,
this and every day.
(Source: Thom Shuman, Lectionary Liturgies)

Darkness and Light
(could be used to accompany candle lighting at start of service, and as a call to worship)
The darkness loves to parade itself, God,
to draw our attention and steal our energy,
with fearful threats
and dire prophecies of doom;
and we all too easily give it just what it seeks.
Community candle (or Christ candle) is lit
But, if we can just drag our gaze away
we discover that there is another reality;
that your light shines undimmed,
that your care is undiminished,
that your strength and protection
are unfailing.
And so, even in the midst of pain, suffering, evil
even when it seems your light is almost out,
we choose to remain under the shadow of your wings;
to trust in your salvation,
to speak your words,
and to dispel the darkness
by lighting the flame of faith again
in our hearts. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Prayer of thanksgiving
This prayer picks up on the images of the Garden of Eden and the desert wilderness
God of all the earth,
for our luscious garden places, we offer You thanks:
for the beauty of nature and the freshness of air,
for the fruits of the earth which feed and sustain us,
for our places of solace and quiet retreat,
where we feel safe and secure,
accept our thanksgiving and praise.

God of all the earth,
for our dry desert places, we offer You thanks:
for times of reflection and discernment,
for seasons of preparation and winds of change,
for the seemingly impossible situations
from which we learn and grow,
accept our thanksgiving and praise.

God of all the earth,
for Your new creation, made possible in Jesus, we offer you thanks:
for the abundance of grace, and the challenge of faith,
for the beauty of scripture, and the privilege of prayer,
for the great cloud of witnesses
who inspire and disturb us,
accept our thanksgiving and praise.
God of all the earth,
accept our thanksgiving and praise
in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen
(Source: Darren Philip, Church of Scotland)

Jesus of the temptations,
you enter the wilderness
of our hungers,
our lust for power,
our eagerness to test God:
be with us on our journey to Jerusalem, we pray.
Jesus of hopes,
you set aside your glory,
choosing to cradle us
in your scarred hands:
hold us in your tender embrace, we pray.
Jesus of the Feast,
you are broken
so we might be healed,
you pour our your self
so we might be drenched in your grace:
feed us from the simple gifts of creation, we pray.
Silence is kept
Lamb of God:
have mercy.
Servant to the poor:
have mercy on us.
Free gift of our righteousness:
have mercy on us.
(Source: Thom Shuman, Lectionary Liturgies)

Prayers of who we are (prayer of confession): Overcoming temptation
When we are drawn to the easy satisfaction of our appetites,
to the simple addictions of pleasure:
We pray for the strength to say ‘no’
and to live by your soul-feeding word.
When we are caught up in the self-aggrandising song
of power and self-sufficiency:
We pray for the humility to serve,
and to worship the only One who is worthy.
When we are challenged to accumulate
and to find our security in wealth:
We pray for the grace to give,
and for the faith to trust in your careA silence is kept
And so, for us and for our world:
we embrace your wisdom and your word,
and we commit to living in your light
so that in some small way,
we may dispel the darkness. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Call to Reconciliation (introduction to prayer of confession)
We are easily seduced by the temptations all around us. But if we are willing to trust God and offer our confessions, God is quick to forgive us and fill us with hope. Join me, as we pray together:
Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
Led by the crafter of lies, Lord God, we wander into the wasteland of wrong-doing. We hunger for more and more, and feel emptier and emptier. We seek power, especially over others, only to do harm. By our choices, we worship the false gods of success, wealth, and spectacle.
Have mercy on us, God of love, and forgive us for the power we give to temptation in our lives. Help us to become as vulnerable as Jesus, for in that vulnerability, we find the humility to trust you in all things; in that trust, we discover the grace which sets us free from the grasp of the shrewd one; in that freedom, we can leave our badlands behind, in order to follow Jesus in this life, and into the next. Silence is kept
Assurance of Pardon
Be glad and rejoice! Give thanks with shouts of joy! Grace abounds for everyone.
With glad cries of deliverance, we offer our thanks to God who loves us and forgives us. Amen.
(Source: Thom Shuman, Lectionary Liturgies)

Prayer of Confession
A prayer for two voices, where Voice 1 reads Psalm 32 and Voice 2 echoes it with prayer. It is intended as a template, where you can re-write the words of Voice 2 to suit your own context.
Voice 1:
Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Voice 2:
Merciful God,
Through Jesus our Lord,
every sin is forgiven,
every debt released,
every record of wrong erased.
We come before You now to confess our sin, and ask for that forgiveness.
Voice 1: 
When I kept silence, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Voice 2: 
For all those times when we think we can go it alone, 
for all our tendencies to cover-up what we have done, 
for our habit of observing our neighbour’s sin
while being blind to our own, forgive us, Lord.
Voice 1: 
Then I acknowledged my sin to You,
and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” 
and You forgave the guilt of my sin.
Therefore, let all who are faithful
offer prayer to you;
at times of distress, the rush of mighty waters
shall not reach them.
Voice 2:
For the sins of our eyes,
when we judge or covet another,
forgive us, Lord. For the sins of our hands,
when we misuse or mistreat one another and the world you created, forgive us, Lord.
For the sins of our heart,
when we have not loved as we should,
forgive us, Lord. For the sins of our ego,
when we trust our own power more than Yours, forgive us, Lord.
Voice 1: 
You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.
Voice 2:
Deliver us, God,
from all that tempts and tests us.
Voice 1: 
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Do not be like a horse or mule, without understanding,
whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,
else it will not stay near you.
Voice 2: 
In asking Your forgiveness, gracious God,
help us to be transformed,
that we might live as people of your kingdom, 
following your way and trusting your wise counsel.
Voice 1: 
Many are the torments of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord. 
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.
Voice 2: 
We bring You these our prayers, in and through the name of Jesus. Amen
(Source: Darren Philip, Church of Scotland)

If you are the Son of God,
take away my crying
If you are the Son of God,
take away her dying
If you are the Son of God,
take him away in his lying
If you are the Son of God,
show us you are even trying?!
Jesus is the Son of God,
and he takes away our turning,
and the consequences of burning
our bridges back to God.
Jesus is the Son of God
and he gives us back our living,
restores the bridges so we can turn
back to the Way of God
Son of God
you take away
all our tyranny*;
have mercy on us,
and grant us peace. Amen
* Sarah translates ‘sinners’ as ‘participants in tyranny’  for her PhD performance of Romans
(Source: Sarah Agnew, Pray the Story)

God, soothing our wasteland,
you have spirited us
through life’s desert ways.
Drive us deeper yet,
our true way testing,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen
(Source: Bob Eldan. See also Bob’s preaching tip).

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
Too often, we give into the temptation to keep everything for ourselves. But you would have us notice those how hunger for hope, as well as bread; those who are caught in the injustices of the world; those who struggle to find themselves. And in noticing, we become generous and loving, even as we have been graced by our Brother and Savior, Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.
(Source: Thom Shuman, Lectionary Liturgies)

May God lead us to all who are afraid.
We will follow God into the barren spots of our world.
May Jesus lead us to all who look for a friend, a companion in this life.
We will follow Jesus into all the places where the lonely live.
May the Spirit lead us to all who are tossed aside by the world.
We will follow the Spirit to the neighborhoods filled with injustice, to bring hope.
(Source: Thom Shuman, Lectionary Liturgies)

The Temptation  Song (score, lyrics and backing track here)
1. Life is like one big temptation
Tempted ev-e-ry which way
When we’re faced with big temptations
Time to heed what Jesus say:
Bread alone – it just won’t feed us
We must feast on God’s own word
Take the word of God to heart each day
Finding life in God’s own word

ooh-wah, ooh-wah, ooh-wah, ooh-wah

2. For temptation keeps on tempting
Always subtle, in disguise
Who’s the one in life we live for?
Who’s the one with whom we’ll side?
Come and worship God completely
God alone be whom we serve
Take the word of God to heart each day
God alone be whom we serve

(remaining verses – click on link next to title of song)

Music: Beside us (scroll to end for Youtube clip and words) – wonderful for prayers for others and God being beside us in the time of trials and troubles

Communion – an introduction 
(‘Past Glory’ – justaposing the Transfiguration of Christ from last week with the forlorness of Lent 1)
Where is the glory now?
All that light from last week
all that wonder
and mystery
turns to dust and ashes
and a single set of footprints in the sand
Where is the glory now?
All that revelation on the mountain top
and sharp light
turns to bread and wine
and a table waiting for those willing to pick up the cross
Let us break bread together
and begin this new journey
finding in the crumbs and the dust
the deeper, broken glory
of love’s way
(Source: Roddy Hamilton, Mucky Paws)

Communion liturgy
Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of discipleship be with you.
And also with you.
Let us begin our Lenten journey with open hearts.
We offer them to the One who walks with us.
Let our voices resound with thanksgiving to the One who shows us faithful care.
We rejoice in our God of hope and love.
You held nothing back,
Gardener of grace,
as the Spirit led creation
into the hinterlands of nothingness:
spreading rich soil in the valleys,
planting seedlings and flower bulbs,
making mountains from river clay,
sprinkling water over everything.
Mornings came in Eden’s beauty,
all that wonder and goodness
given for your children,
but we listened to evil’s whispers,
believing those lies so easily told.
Like a crew launching in boat
to rescue those who are adrift,
prophets came, counseling us
to let go of our stubbornness
and return to your side,
but with our eyes wide open,
we followed that path which
took us away from the middle of the garden.
So you sent Jesus to us,
that free gift of grace for all.
With the faithful who have gone before us,
with companions through this journey today,
we offer glad songs of deliverance:
Holy, holy, holy are you, God of steadfast love.
Creation sings your praises as on that first morning.
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the One who brings grace to us.
Hosanna in the highest!
You alone are holy, Hope of our lives,
and Jesus Christ is your blessed righteousness.
When we got what we wanted
in knowing both good and evil,
he came, so we might receive
what we need most – your grace.
When we left the garden
to enter the deserts of temptation,
he came , to show us
the path back to your heart.
When we had given control
of our lives to sin and death,
he came, to break their hold on us
as he was resurrected from the grave.
As we begin to follow him to Jerusalem,
as we would choose to embrace his suffering,
we speak of that free gift called faith:
Christ died, going into the wilderness of the grave;
Christ was raised, shattering the grip of sin and death;
Christ will come, so we might follow him to the New Jerusalem.
You hold nothing back from us
as the Spirit comes to rest
on the gifts of the bread and the cup,
so that those gathered might be fed.
Like your heart, the bread is broken,
so we might be made whole and,
by our healing, go forth
to bring hope to those around us.
Like your Child, the cup is poured out,
so we might be filled with your grace, and
go out into the world
to empty ourselves for others.
And when our journeys in and out
of the wildernesses of the world are ended,
you will gather us around the
great Feast of the Lamb,
where we will sing glad songs of joy to you,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.
(Source: 2017 Thom M. Shuman, Lectionary Liturgies)

Sarah Samuelson post on ELCA Facebook post
Sarah Samuelson on ELCA Facebook post

BESIDE US (the video can be used for Prayers for Others)
O God, your wounded world cries out
in grief and sorrow, pain and fear
and suffering causes some to doubt
that you are here beside us.
Restore our hope,
enrich our faith,
give us the courage to believe 
that in the darkest of our days
you’ll come and walk beside us.

When those in power abuse their trust
and crush the ones whom they oppose
the weak are trampled in the dust
yet you are here beside them.
Let mercy reign,
let justice flow,
tear down the walls of hate and fear
till in their place forgiveness grows
because you walk beside us.

When some are victims of deceit
and truth is twisted out of shape,
when lies define the battle-lines
come near and walk beside us
until we learn the ways of peace
and all can share the feast of life.
Then all the world shall come to see
You always walk beside us.
(Source: Iain D. Cunningham 2014 [Tune: An Cluinn Thu Mo Nighheann Donn])

Sermon ideas: Choose Life – Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7
It was always a strange strap-line – the product was a germ-killer – and this product, we were told, “kills all known germs dead”. Very strange indeed! Is there any other way? Killing them alive? So was that original strap-line just a rhetorical flourish? Perhaps not.The poetry of the Garden of Eden is more complex than childlike renderings sometimes allow. And it is a tale of two trees and different deaths. The tree giving the fruit that precipitated the Fall is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.God said death would follow if that fruit was eaten. The serpent said death would not follow. We must presume God would not lie and we might presume that the serpent in the
story would lie as a natural default. But it just might be a case of both telling the truth. There would both be a death and there would not be a death in this Garden tale.
“Who wants to live forever?” sang Freddie Mercury of the rock band Queen, at a time when he may well have already known that his own life expectancy was seriously limited. The answer is that no one would want to live forever in an earthly sense if such endless living merely means a continual diminution of abilities and capacities.
And yet the Garden poetry shows God’s intention for us is life. The Tree of Life—the second tree in the Garden tale— was not a forbidden fruit. We are outside of Eden but life is still God’s intention.
There is a death, however, when the forbidden fruit is eaten. But it is not earthly life’s expiring. We may wonder that surely a knowledge of good and evil is a welcome thing, but the poetry of the story intends to suggest that to eat of that fruit is to look to seize for oneself the right to make the judgment of good and evil: presuming our own superiority and rendering God inferior. And that is a death within us: we become dead to God and alive to a diminished understanding. God was right. There is a death. The serpent was right, however, because life continues, but not the life of God’s intention. Not the germ-killer’s advert strap-line “killing dead” but instead a “killing alive”.
The character Renton in the film Trainspotting, deeply immersed in the Edinburgh heroin scene yet trying to get clean, gives a speech—more a rant— about choices. The long list of choices he lists are bracketed, beginning and end, with “Choose life!” The character is an addict. Maybe he was addressing whoever might listen, or perhaps it was more a note to self. The chaos and the anguish were no garden picnic. The pain was real. The fall from grace grim. And death—premature death—was a distinct possibility. Yet, despite that, “Choose life!” rings out from his very own lips.
It is notable that the strategy and action plan to prevent suicide in Scotland is called “Choose Life”.
Moses would offer the Hebrew people wandering through the wilderness a stark choice, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life!” Choose life, as God intends. To do otherwise is a death.
Later, Jesus would bring the Garden poetry and the Moses challenge together in his challenging call that we are to lose our life in order to find it. Here is death, too, a reversal of the Garden error: a choosing of death in self-denial in order to find full life as God intends: finding the good as God judges and living it heart and soul.
(Source: Darren Philip, Church of Scotland)

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Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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