Sharing Our Faith Together

Worship for 6 March 2022

by Terry Root 6 March 2022

Welcome to our worship this morning. The service below reflects the worship taking place in church this morning.

Hymn: What a friend we have in Jesus

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Opening Prayers

Eternal God, it was your Spirit, hovering over the waters at the dawning of that first day.It was your voice echoing through the darkness, that brought forth light. 

God of all ages Accept our sacrifice of praise

Eternal God, it was your love that birthed humankind, and placed them in a garden. It was your hand that helped them to their feet, each time they fell.
God of all ages Accept our sacrifice of praise

Eternal God, it was your prophets who spoke forth your word, to a rebellious generation. It was your Son who showed the depth of love that will not let us go.
God of all ages Accept our sacrifice of praise
God of life, whose love enfolds us, and spirit fills us, we praise your holy name. God of joy, whose sunrise wakes us, and sunset amazes us, we praise your holy name.

God of hope, whose promise sustains us, and power upholds us, we praise your holy name.

God of love, whose patience humbles us, and touch can heal us, we praise your holy name.

God of peace, who breaks down barriers, and walls that divide us, we praise your holy name.

God of eternity, who has always loved us, and by grace has saved us, we praise your holy name

The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn: Lord I need you

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Prayers of Intercession
To God who welcomes all in love, let us pray for the good of the church and the concerns for those in need.

We ask Lord, for your blessing on the church in your world. We thank you for the many varieties of expression in worship style and church life and we pray that Christians throughout your world seek your will for our nations and peoples. Unite us in trying to build a world of common causes, peace and a love for all humanity. We pray for a world without war, oppression and rivalries.

Lord Jesus, we continue to thank you for our church here at Newmount. Please bless our church family as we meet together to worship you. Enable us to step out in faith holding on to you Lord as you lead and guide us.
Lord, in your mercy,  hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, we pray for those in national government and those serving locally. May they seek your help and wisdom in making the difficult decisions that ultimately have an effect on all our lives.  At this time we especially think of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.  We pray that diplomacy wins through and brings to an end this awful loss of life. May your power bring peace to Ukraine.
Lord, in your mercy,  hear our prayer.

We pray for all those who are in a dark place in their lives. Please  touch the lives of those facing hard times, difficult decisions or problematic relationships. Lord, we also bring before you those who are ill or waiting for procedures. We ask you, Jesus, to give them your light and may your light bring stirrings of hope. 

In a few moments of prayer, let us bring before the Lord people who are known to us personally. . . 

Please give to each the peace, light and healing of your loving presence.
Lord, in your mercy,  hear our prayer.

Gracious and loving God, we praise and thank you for all those who have died and have now been given eternal life with you. Please give ALL those who mourn the strength and comfort that they need. May they, with your help, trust in you for support and courage as they face a new reality without their loved ones.
Lord, in your mercy,  hear our prayer.

God of every land and nation, you have created all people equal and you came to live amongst us in Jesus Christ. Please listen to the cries of those who pray to you, and grant that, as we proclaim the greatness of your name, all people will know the power of your love in the world. 

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Hymn: Before the throne of God above

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Readings: Psalm 91: 1 - 2 and 9 – 16,  Luke 4: 1 - 13

Oscar Wild famously said “I can resist anything except temptation.”

The actress Mae West said: “I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.”

And an unknown but very wise person said, “free cheese is always available in mousetraps.”

These are just a few of the myriad musings of people on the subject of temptation but what they demonstrate is that humans, all humans, are subject to temptations.

Today is the first Sunday in Lent and it is quite traditional that we have heard about the temptation of Jesus. Lent is a time when we tend to focus on temptations, repentance and new beginnings. But as we reflect on our readings from scripture today I want to ask you a question. 

I know that you all pay rapt attention to scripture and that many of you continue to study scripture when you’re at home. That is as it should be of course because scripture is after all a gift from God. It is one of the ways in which God communicates with us both collectively – like here in communal worship – and individually in our private devotions. 

So here is my question. In our two scripture readings today – one from the OT and one from the NT -- what was the powerful and most direct connection between them?   

The answer is that our first reading from Psalm 91 contains the words of scripture that in our second reading the devil uses to tempt Jesus. In Luke 4 v 10 we heard:

  10for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. The devil uses a direct quote from Psalm 91 vv 11 – 12. 

So we learn here that the Devil knows scripture and will try to use it to catch us off guard. Of course it didn’t work with Jesus for two reasons. First Jesus was powerfully committed to the work that God had given him and nothing, no matter how tough, was going to deflect him from that work. 

The second reason was that Jesus not only recognised what the devil was up to with scripture but had a much greater knowledge and love of the word of God. So he was able to counter and answer the devil with a true use of scripture. 

All three of the devil’s temptations are rebutted by Jesus with the use of scripture. The temptation whilst starving to turn stones into bread is answered ‘it is written, one does not live by bread alone.’ That is found in Deut 8:3.

The temptation to receive all the kingdoms of the world if he worships the devil is answered “It is written ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” That is found in Deut 6: 13.

The temptation to prove he is God’s Son by an improper use of the power he has been given is answered with ‘It is written, Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ That is found in Deut. 6: 16.

 It is interesting that the Devil does not deny Jesus is God’s son but uses it to urge Jesus to use his power for himself not for God.

So here is our first tip about how to resist temptation. 

Turn to the word of God. When you’re tempted to get angry – and who isn’t – think of James who said … the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.  

When you’re tempted to seek revenge or just be hateful towards someone who has upset you – and who hasn’t been – think of Jesus words in the Sermon on the Mount: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.

We need the help of scripture because to be human is to be tempted. We are all subject to temptation at some time in our lives. Temptation is not just a question of spectacular mistakes or huge bad decisions. Temptation is often about trivialities, you know that moment when you find yourself saying “I shouldn’t really but it is just too tempting”.

Right at the beginning of the bible we have the ancient story of the fall of humanity into temptation. Having fallen victim to temptation Adam says, “the woman persuaded me and I ate”, whilst the woman says, “It was the serpent who persuaded me to eat”. Temptation got the better of them both and even persuaded them to blame each other.

Now let us not forget as we think about our scripture passages today that Jesus was a man. A human man. He was tempted just as we are. The Christian dogma of the sinlessness of Christ is – well just that – dogmatic. We can neither prove nor disprove the sinlessness of Christ, but we don’t need to. What we should focus on is the positive goodness of the Lord. The striving to obey God; the willingness to sacrifice his own desires for those of His Father in heaven; his willingness to lay down his life for me – a sinner.

Now speaking as we are of the importance of scripture, it is interesting that there are a number of differences in the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer that he taught his disciples to pray, as recorded by Matthew and Luke. But one place in which they are identical is Jesus’ request to God, “Lead us not into temptation”. 

It is clear that Jesus knew as a human that temptation comes to us all. He also knew that in our own strength we will probably fail to resist. We need the power of God.

Here then is the second way in which we can try to resist temptation. PRAYER. 

Asking God for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of faith. To teach us about prayer Jesus used the parable of the man who comes at midnight asking his friend for bread to feed a guest. The friend wouldn’t get up but did in the end because he kept on knocking. Jesus added these words after the parable (Lk 11): 

 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 

And just to make the point even clearer. Jesus added these words: 

11 “Which of you (parents), if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

And there we have the third tip on how to combat temptation

We can seek and be open to the work of the Holy Spirit. If we go right back to the beginning of our Gospel reading today Luke said this: 4Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.

Jesus, who has just been baptised and received the Holy Spirit is now in the wilderness about to undergo the temptations of the devil. It cannot be a coincidence that for his battle with the devil he has been “filled with the Holy Spirit” and is accompanied by the Holy Spirit. 

Here then is our example from God himself who has filled his Son with His Spirit to battle temptation. 

So when you are feeling weak and tempted – seek the Holy Spirit. Ask God for it and you will receive that Blessing. Cry out when temptation assails you and He will send the Holy Spirit. How do I know?

Listen to St Paul in his magisterial teaching on the work of the Spirit. You will find it in Romans chapter 8. 

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

So God in Jesus has demonstrated to us three ways in which to fight the temptations which come to everyone. 

  1. The word of God directs us into the right way. Read it. 
  2. Prayer to God asking for strength is not weakness but faith. Ask it. 
  3. The Holy Spirit is ready and waiting to be your guard and guide against evil. Seek it.  

You and I are human. We will be tempted. But we are not alone and we don’t have to fail. God has provided three clear ways to use HIS power, not ours, to resist even the wiles of a scripture quoting Satan.

Thanks be to God.

Hymn: When I survey the wondrous cross

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May the love of the Father,
the tenderness of the Son,
and the presence of the Spirit,
gladden your heart
and bring peace to your soul,
this day and all days, Amen.