Sunday 14th

SERMON 1

9.45am  Holy Communion       First Sunday of Lent     Preacher  -  Carol Shelley

Psalm 91 v 1-2, 9- 16;

Luke 4 v 1- 13

Opening Prayer:

 

Sometimes when we come to faith we can make the mistake in thinking that now, full of the Holy Spirit, all will be well in our lives.

Not so, that strength is there for the difficult times, and difficult times there will almost certainly be.

That is the reality of life for human beings.

Because Jesus truly was human it was a reality for him too.

Why did Jesus need to be tempted you may ask?

Firstly, because to be fully human he needed to comprehend and share the experiences of man.

Secondly, through his defeat of Satan, Jesus set aside the original sin of Adam and offered man salvation through faith in God’s Son.

Even though on this occasion Jesus defeated Satan, it was certainly not the only time that such temptations arose.

This in itself is a warning for us.

So what is temptation?

Dictionary: Temptation is the state you are in when you want to do or have something, even though you know it might be wrong or harmful.

Perhaps what makes us most vulnerable is that our responses are frequently impulsive; at times when we are not thinking or in control of ourselves.

So that self knowledge and discipline are revealed once more as being vital elements for our success as individuals.

Temptations can be relatively trivial or extremely serious; and of course everything in between.

The devil is most likely to tempt us when we are in one of two situations:-

  • At our weakest; perhaps we are tired, challenged, stretched and stressed.

  • Equally it may be when we are experiences success or strength so that we are tempted to misuse our success or abilities.

It might help us to remember that Jesus’ temptation followed immediately after him hearing, along with many witnesses, God’s voice declaring that Jesus was indeed His Son who should be listened to.

Satan steps in to use this high point for his own ends.

Certainly the first Sunday of Lent is a very good time to consider what forms temptation may take for ourselves and how we may avoid it or deal with it.

One question we might ask of ourselves is:-

 ”What do we desire in our lives, and how may we achieve this?”

This may need to be closely followed by another question:-

“Do we think this is actually what God desires for us?”

A possible conflict with God’s will for us is exactly the opportunity that Satan is looking for.

It is essential for our peace of mind, and success in life to acknowledge the role of Satan.

Satan is not a symbol or a concept, Satan is real.

We cannot accept the reality of God or his Son, Jesus Christ, without acknowledging that Satan too is a reality.

The conflicts we experience are essential to fulfilling ourselves, and finding new strength through God’s Grace.

Lent is a time for us to practise gaining strength by determining actions we wish to take and sticking to them.

These actions always involve discipline but they do not need to all be negative: it is equally acceptable to make a choice for something with positive outcomes, so long as it needs self discipline to complete the task.

Although when tempted we may sometimes err, the most important part of the process is to actually learn from our experience.

Part of the nature of humans is to have some weaknesses, to gain strength and become better people we need determination and the strength of the Holy Spirit, God’s gift to all who seek it.

It is not coincidence that alongside our Gospel reading today we listen to the words of Psalm 91. The Psalm quoted by Satan, while he is tempting Jesus.

This Psalm opens with the words:-

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord “He is my refuge and strength”.

Initially this would seem to recognise that belief in God offers security and strength to carry us through life; and of course this is true – to a point.

However, the Psalm goes on to make it clear that such a state of Grace can only be achieved by both “Dwelling with God” and by “Trusting God in all we do”.

This like temptation is an enormous challenge for us.

As humans there is nothing we like more than feeling we are in control, we can deal with our own problems, we do not need the help of others.

Sadly this not only means we turn away from the support offered by our friends but also we are frequently turning away from the love and strength offered by God.

It is an irony that although we are offered the greatest gift, God’s love and strength, our very humanness often means that we do not ask for that love and strength when we are most in need.

When we are calm and thinking clearly we know exactly what our faith brings us and we long for all that is offered.

Sadly as we deal with the daily challenges and stresses of life we frequently forget or neglect to ask for the most important thing we can receive; God’s love and strength – God’s grace.

So while we use Lent as a time to practise self discipline perhaps we can also use it as a time to practise true reliance on and trust in the God who loves us.

Amen

 

SERMON 2

 

6.30pm Evening Prayer                        Lent 1        Preacher:-  Rev Lynn McKeon

Luke 4: 1-13

 

What are the temptations in your life??? Is it magazines? TV? Something on the internet? What about a nice looking lady or man? Are you tempted by food? The chocolate cake on the table is calling out “eat me, eat me.” Maybe you’re tempted by power. You could be the mayor, a school governor, or councillor.             

In Luke, Jesus had just been baptized by John in the Jordan. When he came out of the water, the Holy Spirit filled Jesus. Immediately he was led out to the wilderness.                                                                                                                 

For 40 days he was tempted by the devil. What does 40 days have to do with anything? For 40 years the Israelites were walking in the wilderness and were tempted by the unknown. For 40 days, Noah was in the ark being rained on, and Noah’s faith was tested.                                                                                               

For 40 days, Moses was on Mt. Sinai. The people did not know what had happened to Moses and even doubted he was alive. Elijah was on Mt. Horab for 40 days. Do you notice how 40 just keeps coming up. It’s this great time of testing.                                                                                                                          

Jesus went into the wilderness. Have you ever been in a spiritual wilderness?? This is a place where you can’t seem to feel the presence of God anywhere around you. You pray, you worship and raise your hands. But…nothing. There’s nothing there. Walking around in a daze, you ask “what happened to that mountain top experience I was on.” Wilderness.                                                            

So for 40 days Jesus ate nothing and he was famished. He was hungry. And the Devil tempted him. “If you are God, turn this stone into bread.” Ahhh bread. It’s a basic food to live on. Oh the smell of freshly baked bread smell - delicious. Is your mouth watering at the thought?                                                              

Jesus answered back…”man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” That’s a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3. He humbled you, then when you hungered he fed you with manna, to teach you man does not live on bread alone but by every word from the mouth of God.”                    

Jesus is saying that bread is just bread. There is nothing of real substance there to completely nourish you. He is saying “You got bread, but that bread came directly from God. God is the one that supplies all your needs.” He’s the one you have to lean on.                                                                                                          

While the Israelites were in the wilderness for 40 years, God supplied their every need. He was there for them.                                                                                 

After Jesus said that, the devil took Jesus up to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world. “If you worship me, all this will be yours. You will have glory and authority.”

That is a temptation. Riches, power, love, glory. The people also wanted Jesus to be a conquering messiah. They wanted him to come in on a white steed and save them. Which one of us would have given in to THIS temptation??               

Money equals power, right. People deferring to you whenever you come into their presence. Getting to be first in line every time and sitting at the head of the table. Giving the toast to start the party. Quick promotions. You name in the paper.                                                                                                                             

Bill Clinton when asked why he did some of the “least flattering” things he did, answered “because I could.” It wasn’t an arrogant answer, just an honest one. Unfortunately the devil is a liar. He does not have the authority to give that power to anyone. The devil shows his hand. “If you worship me…” yes that’s what those who want power are looking for.                                                                  

Worship. I’ll put my name on buildings all over the country and have large casinos and a TV show. Worship me. But Jesus answered him “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” Look back at the 10 commandments. “You shall not have any other Gods before me…nor serve them.” Did you notice that Jesus said to the devil “worship the Lord YOUR God”??                                              

Even if the devil didn’t believe him to be almighty God, he still was. If a guy jumps off a tall building and says “I don’t believe in gravity,” he is still going to fall. That reminds me of one of those car stickers which says: “God doesn’t   believe in atheists.”                                                                                                     

For the last test, the Devil takes Jesus to the top of the temple. “Jump off. If your angels are really yours, they will not let you be hurt.” Where were they?? On the temple. Why? Glory, honour!! Yes….the temple. That’s where the people go to meet with God.                                                                                       

The temple. If someone jumps off the top of the temple and then lands softly on the ground, people are going to notice. People are going to bow down and worship. We read this in Psalm 91, and believe me, the Israelites read the same Psalms. “His angels shall watch over him and he will not dash his foot on a stone.” Even the devil can quote scripture.                                                                 

Why do we go through scripture each Sunday?? There will be many false prophets that come into your life and they will know scripture. Jehovah’s Witness will say Jesus was a created being just like any other creature. Muslims will say Jesus was just a prophet. They will all use scriptures out of the bible to quote these. False teachers will come up in the church like wolves in sheep’s clothing. They will say thing to tickle your ears.                                                                    

Another way to test God….Homer Simpson says this “Dear Lord. The gods have been good to me.  For the first time in my life, everything is absolutely perfect just the way it is. So here's the deal: You freeze everything the way it is, and I won't ask for anything more. If that is OK, please give me absolutely NO sign. OK, deal.” You ever make a deal with God like that?? “Just get me out of this mess….just get me the money to make it through this month….just don’t let my wife find out.”                                                                                                      

Jesus answered “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” And the devil left him until a more opportune time. Do you know what that means?? The devil comes back again and again. He doesn’t just ping us once and then run away. This isn’t the drive by devil. This is the drive by, shoot, go around the square, shoot again, go back around the square, shoot again.                                                   

Have you ever said “I never fight with my husband/wife?” And then have a fight the next week. Have you ever said “I manage my money and don’t have problems?” And then miss a payment the next month. Each person has points of vulnerability that are like a crack in the dam.                                                             

Just a few drops of water will get through at first and you may not think anything about it. But soon it’s a squirt. Then a water fall. Then the whole dam comes crashing down. Temptation will come in when you least expect it. How do you deal with these temptations??  Be grounded in the Word of God.       

Psalm 91 says “They say of the Lord, he is my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” I had a conversation with a friend the other day about spiritual attacks and spiritual warfare. That is what Jesus was going through in those 40 days in the wilderness. This was not human attacks where people attack your credibility or authority.                                                                                                                    

These are spiritual attacks that can only be defended spiritually. That is what Jesus does. He holds up the shield of protection…that is the bible. Those flaming arrows that are hurled at us can be blocked by the Word of Life.                  

When you are attacked like this, ground yourself in the word. Seek out scriptures that talk about situations like yours. Seek out other believers who have gone through the same problems. Trust me, you are not the first person to go through ANY situation.                                                                                              

If you are having a situation right now (whether it be sickness, loss, loneliness, anything) and you’re not sure what to do we can pray about it. It’s not too great for you and God to tackle together.

Amen