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  • Writer's pictureScugog Island United Church

Even in the Desert

Sunday March 6th 2022


Territorial Acknowledgement


Since time immemorial this land has been the meeting point of different languages, faiths and cultures. From the original peoples and first stewards of this land: the Huron-Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, the Ojibway, Mississaugas, and Anishinabek, to those who journeyed to this land from Europe, Asia and Africa. May our church be a meeting point among different peoples where we build relationships of mutual respect and love.

Hymn: “Jesus Tempted in the Desert”


Call to Worship


One: Jesus went to the mountaintop to pray.

All: Jesus went into the city to heal.

One: Jesus walked to Samaria to extend love.

All: Jesus went to the water’s edge to teach.

One: Jesus went to places of peace and connection,

All: but Jesus also went to the wilderness.

One: There is nowhere we can go

that God does not walk with us.

All: We are in God’s house.

Let us worship Holy God.


Lighting The Christ Candle


Announcements


Restarting Fellowship Time: Starting on March 6th the church will be restarting fellowship time after services. Food and refreshments will be served. We ask that everyone continues to practice social distancing. Please continue wearing masks during the fellowship time when not consuming food or drink.

Craft Show: Check out the craft show today Sunday March 6th from 8am to 4pm in the Scugog Island Community Hall.

Guest Worship Leader: We are very happy to welcome Robert Bennett back to lead worship on March 20th and 27th while Rev. Ned takes some study leave time.

Good Friday walk: Plans have started being made by the Scugog Ministerial Association to resume the tradition of leading a walk through downtown Port Perry on Good Friday morning, April 15th.

Lenten Devotionals: Available at the entrance for anyone who would like one.

Copyright: Prayers by Rev. Sarah (Are) Speed | A Sanctified Art LLC | sanctifiedart.org.

Offering Prayer from Celebrate God’s Presence: A Book of Services for The United Church of Canada. United Church Publishing House. Copyright © 2000



Prayer List


Jean Law, Elsie Nicholson, Terry Petroff, John and Diane Findlay, Nancy and Don Scarrow, Debbie McIntyre, Anne Chillingworth, John Black, Lynne and Ian McLeod, Nellie Van Dyke, Tim Pelyk, Bob Currie, Derrick Linton, Sharen Bobbie, Ed and Jane Williams, Bill Statton, Cheryl Helm, Tracy Harper, and Robert Bennett’s cousin Joanne.


Children’s Story


Hymn- “Hallelujah (your Love is Amazing)


Prayer of Confession


One: Holy God, when we think that expansive life is about power—

All: Teach us a new way.

One: Gracious Creator, when we think that expansive life

is about material wealth—

All: Teach us a new way.

One: Gracious Author, when we think that expansive life is about control

All: Teach us a new way.

One: Teach us to live as you live.

All: Teach us to love as you love.

One: Forgive us when we don’t.

All: Gratefully we pray, amen.


Words of Forgiveness


One: Siblings in Christ,

no matter how many times we mess up,

no matter how far we wander,

no matter how lost we feel,

God’s grace is full to the brim.

It overflows in desert places.

It finds us where we are and it covers us in mercy.

Hear and believe this good news—


All: God’s love is overflowing.

We are drenched in mercy.

Thanks be to God, amen.


Prayer of Illumination


God of the wilderness places in our lives,

it can be hard to hear you in the desert.

It can be hard to hear you in the city,

in the midst of our calendar reminders,

rush-hour traffic, and notification alerts.

It can be hard to hear you, so we ask:

make everything quiet.

Pause the chaos.

Still the rushing.

Ease our racing thoughts.

Give us ears to hear your Word for us today

which promises that even in the desert

you are full to the brim.

We are listening.

We ache for your good news.

Gratefully we pray, amen.


Scripture: Luke 4: 1-13


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.



Anthem- “On Eagles Wings”


Sermon


Every year the Church marks this season of Lent as a time to grow in discipleship. Lent has traditionally involved some form of fasting and other spiritual practices that help us to grow spiritually. “What are you giving up for Lent?” is a common question. Common answers might be chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, or maybe in this digital age it is giving up some of the time spent online. There is a poem that I’ve heard that expresses this idea well. It is called Lightening the Load by Francis Dorff O. Praem. “The first thing we have to do is to notice that we’ve loaded down this camel with so much baggage we’ll never get through the desert alive. Something has to go. Then we can begin to dump the thousand things we’ve brought along until even the camel has to go and we’re walking barefoot on the desert sand. There’s no telling what will happen then. But I’ve heard that someone, walking in this way, has seen a burning bush.”


Giving up something for Lent is only part of the practice though. The other part of when we give something up is to consider what are we making room for? Is it to lighten the load in order to make a long journey? By itself the practice of giving something up isn’t necessarily helpful. If I was to give up my time spent on social media and in front of my computer screen, only to fill that time by watching more TV what do I gain from the practice? It doesn’t help me if I say no to one temptation just to pick up another.


During my seminary years I volunteered at a church to support their youth program. As part of the program we had a series of guest speakers from different religious traditions who would share a bit about their religion. Such as a Jewish teacher, a Buddhist monk, a church minister, and a Muslim Imam. I remember the imam telling us about the practice of fasting. He shared how the time of not eating any food during the day is a way of emptying the body both physically and spiritually. He shared how this is a practice to clean the body of the unhealthy things we consume on a daily basis. He talked about how when he sees people break their fast with a meal of junk food and pop he felt they were missing the whole point. It isn’t just about emptying the body of negative things like junk food, it is also about making space for filling up with good things like a healthy meal. This lent instead of asking what are you giving up I am asking what are you making room for?


Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. But the Spirit didn’t abandon him there. Jesus continued to be filled with the Spirit during his time in the desert and throughout his life. Jesus emptied himself through his fasting, but at the same time he was filled by the Spirit. Jesus was faced with the temptations to perform miracles to serve his own needs, to gain power over kingdoms through worshiping the devil, and to put God’s faithfulness to the test; each of these is a test to see if Jesus will trust God to provide. Could Jesus trust that if he was going to starve in the desert that God would act? Perhaps sending mana just like the Hebrews collected during their 40 year exodus in the wilderness? Or would Jesus need to rely on himself to ensure he had food? The second temptation is to question if Jesus can trust that God’s kingdom will be realized on earth, or if Jesus will need to seek power himself over the earthly kingdoms to achieve this goal. For the final temptation the devil proposes a test that would show how faithful God is to keep the promises that were made to Jesus. With each answer to these temptations Jesus shows that he has fully put his trust in God. Jesus let go of any agenda or personal ambitions he might have had and chose to be fully committed to following God’s will.


Several years ago a friend of mine enjoyed a holiday in France that was transformational for him. He went to a place called Taizé. It is a Christian community with a distinct style of worship. While he was there with thousands of others from around the world who had also made the journey he felt a sense of peace and calm. My friend had been very stressed at work so this peacefulness was just what he needed. On his third day at Taizé he suddenly felt all the tension in his shoulders disappear. When he was back in Canada he told me, “I knew I was carrying a lot of stress in my body, but I had no idea it was so much.” The stress and tension that he let go of were things that he didn’t want to pick back up again. He had to make a serious commitment that he would set boundaries and change some things in his life so that he could respond to the stresses in his life without carrying them with him. He let go of the tension in his body to make room for a new and healthier approach to stressful situations.


We’ve all given up so much these past two years. The pandemic started in the season of lent and for a long time it felt like lent was just dragging along into every season after. As one person online put it “This is the lentiest lent I’ve ever lented!” So at this point we are well practiced in giving things up. We can consider what we have made room for. What is it we want to carry with us going forward? As this season of pandemic is hopefully coming to a close, or at least to something more manageable what will we be picking back up after having to let go of so much these past two years? There are many things from the past that we will certainly want to take up again. The fellowship time after worship for example. This is a great opportunity for people to reconnect, socialize, and provide support to one another. I’ve been hearing about people who have been separated throughout the pandemic who have finally been able to get together and others who are making plans for long awaited reunions. There are many things and activities that we’ve had to let go of that we are eager to pick up again with renewed appreciation. Perhaps during the pandemic we have discovered something new that we want be intentional about carrying with us going forward.


I started with a poem and I think this poem by Rev. Sarah Are Speed has a good message to close with: “You’ve been here before. I squeeze that truth like an orange in my hands, willing some form of comfort to run out, roll down my wrists, calm these aching nerves. You’ve been here before— in the wilderness, in the desert, in the place where nothing is what it seems and everything is sharp. You’ve been here before so surely you know how hard it is to hold tight to what is real in the middle of a storm. But because you’ve been here before, I will stand tall. I will sing songs of the river, from here in the sand. I will sing songs of the river, into the wind.”


As we make decisions about what we are letting go of and what we are taking up we will face challenges and temptations. We can take comfort that where we are Jesus has been. In whatever situation we are facing, we do not face it alone. Thanks be to God. Amen.


Prayer of the People (From worldinprayer.org)


Almighty and Everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have made and forgive the sins of all those who will turn away from them. Create and make in us new and apologetic hearts, that, mournful of our sins and acknowledging our misery, we may receive from you, the God of all mercy, perfect forgiveness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. As we embark on our journey through Lent as individuals, and in community, we lift before you the brokenness in our lives, and in this, your world. We remember those who are suffering due to weather, suffering because of the isolation, suffering because of illness, suffering because of grief, suffering because of war and terror. Change our hearts, O God. May our transformation this season be lifegiving and thorough. May we wash ourselves inside and out, cleaning not only the outside, but our inner lives as well. Gracious One, we know your desire for us is true transformation not just empty promises but justice, kindness, mercy, and humility. Help us to choose the work to which you call us: saving people from oppression… feeding the hungry… providing shelter for the homeless… clothing the naked… ceasing to place blame on others… quieting our evil speech… putting an end to war and violence… This is not easy work. These are lofty tasks. There is no way for any one of us to solve any of these problems on our own. So, we learn to rely on you, O God, and to rely on our fellow travelers through life. We lift our eyes up to you, Great Shepherd, knowing that it if from you our help comes. Empower us to do your will and your work in this your world, we pray. Amen.


The Lord’s Prayer


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, the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.


Hymn: “Come Thou Font of Every Blessing”


Offering Prayer


Gracious God, bless and transform all that we offer: our faltering steps, our brokenness, our hope, our risking, our hearts, that your covenant may be written on our hearts and we may be a blessed and transformed covenant people. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Blessing


As you leave this place, may you be awestruck by the beauty of this world. May you laugh, and may it be contagious. May you overflow with love for those around you. May you be effusive with hope and quick to point out joy. And in all of your living, and breathing, and being, may you find yourself full to the brim with God’s Holy Spirit, and may it change your life. In the name of the Lover, the Beloved, and Love itself— go in peace, full to the brim. Amen.


Go Now in Peace

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