FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT

SUNDAY 6TH MARCH 2022

OPENING SENTENCE

You, O Lord are my refuge, my God in whom I put my trust.

HYMN

COLLECT FOR PURITY

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen
.

SUMMARY OF THE LAW

Our Lord Jesus Christ said:
The first commandment is this:
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”
The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
There is no other commandment greater than these.

Amen. Lord, have mercy.

CONFESSION

God is love and we are God’s children.
There is no room for fear in love.
We love because God loved us first.
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith.

God our Father, we confess to you
and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ
that we have sinned in thought, word and deed,
and in what we have failed to do.
We are truly sorry.
Forgive us our sins,
and deliver us from the power of evil,
for the sake of your Son who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

ABSOLUTION

God, who is both power and love,
forgive you and free you from our sins,
heal and strengthen you by the Holy Spirit,
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.

LENTEN PROSE/ KYRIE
sung by Billy Dewar Riddick

COLLECT

Almighty God,
whose Son fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet did not sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in submission to your Spirit,
that, as you know our weakness,
so we may know your power to save;
through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen

PROCLAIMING & RECEIVING GOD’S WORD

FIRST READING
Deuteronomy 26:1-11
read by Margaret Morton

First Fruits and Tithes

When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lord your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labour on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 

So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.” You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.

SECOND READING
Romans 10:8b-13
read by Amie Byers

“The word is near you,
   on your lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

GRADUAL HYMN

GOSPEL LUKE
4: 1-13
read by Reverend Chris Wren

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Luke chapter 4 beginning at verse 1

The Temptation of Jesus

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God,
    and serve only him.’”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    to protect you,’

and

‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious gospel.

Praise to Christ our Lord

SERMON

I wonder if you have ever heard of the marshmallow test. In the 1960s, a Stanford professor named Walter Mischel began conducting a series of important psychological studies. During his experiments, Mischel and his team tested hundreds of children — most of them around the ages of 4 and 5 years old — and revealed what is now believed to be one of the most important characteristics for success in health, work, and life.

Let’s look at what happened.

The Marshmallow Experiment

The experiment began by bringing each child into a private room, sitting them down in a chair, and placing a marshmallow on the table in front of them. At this point, the researcher offered a deal to the child. The researcher told the child that he was going to leave the room and that if the child did not eat the marshmallow while he was away, then they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. However, if the child decided to eat the first one before the researcher came back, then they would not get a second marshmallow.

So the choice was simple: one treat right now or two treats later. The researcher left the room for 15 minutes. As you can imagine, the footage of the children waiting alone in the room was rather entertaining. Some kids jumped up and ate the first marshmallow as soon as the researcher closed the door. Others wiggled and bounced and scooted in their chairs as they tried to restrain themselves, but eventually gave in to temptation a few minutes later. And finally, a few of the children did manage to wait the entire time.

Published in 1972, this popular study became known as The Marshmallow Experiment, but it wasn’t the treat that made it famous. The interesting part came years later. As the years rolled on and the children grew up, the researchers conducted follow up studies and tracked each child’s progress in a number of areas. What they found was surprising. The children who were willing to delay gratification and waited to receive the second marshmallow ended up having higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, better social skills as reported by their parents, and generally better scores in a range of other life measures. The researchers followed each child for more than 40 years and over and over again, the group who waited patiently for the second marshmallow succeed in whatever capacity they were measuring. In other words, this series of experiments proved that the ability to delay gratification was critical for success in life.

Today in our Gospel reading Jesus is offered instant gratification. Turn these stones into bread. This is a real temptation for Jesus – he has not eaten for a long time. He is ravenous and this is something within his power to do- to turn stones into bread. The whole point of the temptations is that they could only come to a man who could do astonishing things. It is no temptation to us to turn stones into bread or leap from a temple pinnacle, for the simple reason that it is impossible for us to do such things. These temptations which could have come only to a man whose powers were unique and who had to decide how to use them.

Temptations do not tend to trip us up in the areas we are weak in, since we are weak in them already but in the areas you are strong. The temptations tackle our strengths. What are your strengths- ask God to help you guard them for these are the areas that the source of evil would try and break down- marriage and fidelity, honesty and integrity, generosity and kindness! Watch your strengths for as it says in Compline in the Book of Common Prayer the devil is a prowling lion, ready to devour.

He is ready to devour the strengths of Jesus. The first strength is his charisma and compassion- will he use his charisma and his compassion to win them to himself through material gains, will he bribe people by what he gives them to follow him, or will he simply draw people to himself to be his followers with no material benefits out of a pure heart of care? Material benefits are not all they are cracked up to be- in fact Jesus says a man will never find life in material things. Elvis Presley became as you know very rich. He owned 8 cars, 6 motorbikes, 2 planes, 16 television sets, a vast mansion, and several bulging bank accounts. On top of all of that he was idolised by legions of fans. Yet he wasn’t happy. In the midst of all his power and success he experienced a spiritual malaise and complained of loneliness and boredom. Money, he said, brings a lot of headaches. Many of the lottery winners would testify to this- 65 per cent of lottery winners ended up bankrupt. 75 per cent of lottery winners ended up divorced. All this is a stark reminder that as Jesus said man does not live on bread alone. Jesus did not choose instant gratification by turning stones into bread, he chose the harder path of channelling his power for the glory of God and to show compassion to others, rather than satisfy his own needs and his own glory.

The second temptation is centred around his strength of commitment. Will Jesus be whole heartedly committed to his Father and his values and ways or will he compromise? Jesus literally or either in his imagination stood upon a mountain from which the whole civilised world could be seen. The tempter said worship me and all will be yours. This is Jesus’ temptation to compromise. The devil said I have people in my grip. Don’t set your standards too high. Strike a bargain with me. Just compromise a little with evil and people will follow you. Just set up your own political kingdom with your own power. Seemingly in the film the last temptation of Christ Judas is forever tempting Jesus to compromise to the standards of the world when he keeps asking when are you going to set up your kingdom? You can almost hear the continual call for Jesus from the devil. The call that is both direct and subtle, issuing even from friends like Judas- the call to compromise God’s standards and to yield to the world’ standards. Back came Jesus’ answer: God is God, right is right and wrong is wrong.

Jesus does not yield in his commitment and compromise. He does not desire to win followers by compromising with the standards of the world. What about us- how compromised are we in adopting the standards of the world? How we agreed to let consumerism in, have we agreed to let relativism overtake us, have we allowed individualism and selfishness to be our priorities, have we abandoned biblical reading reflection and prayer? Have we compromised or are we holding on to our commitment to God and in God?

The third and final temptation is attacking Jesus’ strength in his courage and in his conviction to humbly walk with God. Jesus literally or in his imagination saw himself on the pinnacle of the temple. There was a sheer drop of 450 feet down into the Kedron valley below. This was the temptation to abandon his courage and his conviction and choose to give the people sensations. His courage to walk God’s path is challenged by the devil and he invites him to abandon that route and yield to sensationalism. He encourages Jesus to win people over as followers by the spectacular, by the dazzling and brilliant acts he could perform. He is attacking Jesus’ conviction to walk humbly with his God his father and to instead choose show, pomp, and pride. Sensationalism would play to his own glory rather than to the glory of God. He didn’t want screaming fans. He wanted followers who would imitate his way of living. He also knew that if he produced sensations, he would be only a nine- day wonder for sensationalism does not last. So, Jesus refuses to jump. He holds on to his courage and conviction to walk God’s path. His integrity is intact. This integrity marks his public ministry. Throughout his ministry Jesus refused to give people these kinds of signs. These kinds of signs are not helpful. They do not demand the best of us. They cheapen faith.

Today’s culture even in church can be to entertain me, like me and distract me. Faith is not magic or entertainment. Faith leads to holiness and holiness consists, not in trying to get God to do our will, but in trying to get ourselves to do God’s will. Holiness is about purity. A silversmith was asked when he knew that the properties of the silver had been properly refined- he replied when I can see clearly my reflection. So, in our holiness we know when we are being purified and refined when we in some measure reflect the image of God.

Temptations helped Jesus clarify in his own mind what his mission was and how he was to achieve it and he set out wholeheartedly to fulfil it. Temptations were no once- off affair either for Jesus. Temptations are never over- they return at opportune times. Temptations continued throughout Jesus’ ministry, even as he hung on the cross we hear an echo of the second temptation- if you are the son of God save yourself. So, in the temptations Jesus held on to his charisma and compassion, his commitment, his courage and conviction. All of us will face temptations which attack our strengths and so like Christ we need to be rooted in scripture and know that in Christ “I can do all things through him who gives me strength”, and so hold on to our charisma and compassion, our commitment, our courage and conviction to walk humbly with our God. Amen

NICENE CREED

We believe in one God,
the Father, the almighty, maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true
God from true God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living
and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.
with the Father and the Son,
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen

PRAYERS

Let us still ourselves in God’s presence and tell him what is on our hearts for his people and the world

Loving God, we pray for St John’s
and for the wider church at home and overseas
that together we might choose
the right values and priorities.
May our thoughts be touched by your wisdom,
that they might reflect your thoughts.
May your light shine on us
that our ways may be your ways.
May we be wise builders of your kingdom,
and may we produce good fruit,
that touches and blesses the lives of others.

In the silence we pray for all who minister in this place and in the Diocese.

Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Loving God, look at those who live
their lives in constant fear
and in the face of hostility and violence,
and be near them, protect and comfort them.

We think especially of Ukraine and
the refugees who have fled from there
looking for peace and a fresh start.
Help us as your people to welcome
and embrace them and make accommodation
available for them in our country and also in our hearts.
Be with all who are charged with the task
of finding solutions to this ever -increasing problem,
and may peace and security for all be found.

In the silence we pray for Ukraine

Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Loving God look at our hurting world
where devastation has come through floods and hurricanes,
through earthquakes and natural disasters,
and guide the work of aid agencies and relief workers
that lives might be helped and cared for.

In the silence we pray for places that are struggling with hardship.

Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Loving God look at our places of government
throughout the world
with a desire for integrity and for a determination
to stamp out corruption, deceit and injustice.
Guide all who lead and advise.

In the silence we pray for our politicians at home and abroad.

Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Loving God, look at our family life
speak your peace and reconciliation,
into any family disputes
and hurtful misunderstandings,
nurture a spirit of loving community
in our churches, local communities and places of work,
and heighten our awareness of one another’s needs.

In the silence we pray for our own families, church family and places of work.

Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Loving God, look at the heartache
and longing of your people,
we lift to you all,
those who are close to despair through stress and strain,
those who are battling against illness,
those who fighting the darkness of depression,
those who struggling to make ends meet,
those whose relationships have fallen apart,
those who feel alone and isolated
surround them with your love
and meet them at their point of need
with your strength, peace and healing.

In the silence we pray for those in need at this time.

Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer.

our prayer.

Loving Lord look at us your children with your steadfast love
and help us to put our lives right with you
and with one another,
so that we might be free from all
that would hinder us from running well the race of faith,
and enable us to have a good and faithful Lent.

Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those
who sin against us.
Do not bring us to the time of trial
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.

HYMN

BLESSING

May Christ give you grace to grow in holiness, to deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow him; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.