Welcome to worship for this 1st Sunday in Lent, landing on March 6, 2022!
The bulletin for this service can be found here. In it will be the order and words for worship with your responses in bold, the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the sermon in full. The sermon can also be found on this page after the video and the words that you need to know including the hymn lyrics will also be on your screen. You can follow along however works best for you.
For a fuller worship experience at home, we suggest you have a lit candle in your space for the whole service that can be put out during the sending hymn, and something small to eat and drink for communion. Instructions for communion will be given during the worship service. These are both optional, but designed with the hopes that God could be seen more clearly in your midst and the connection we share together in Christ be strengthened through these practices.
May God’s unchanging love fill you with confidence and joy, this day and always!
May your Word, O God, be near to us, on our lips and in our hearts. By the power of your Spirit, help us to respond to your leading and guiding, humbling us into faith and salvation in you, our dwelling place, through Jesus Christ our brother and Lord. Amen.
You know it’s Lent when we get the Temptation of Jesus story in our readings. Even when it’s Mark’s one-liner “Jesus was tempted by Satan” that we get in year B of the Lectionary cycle, it is so characteristic of this season to talk about Jesus’ 40-day wilderness excursion. Which makes sense, I mean it’s because of this story that Lent is 40 days long, between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, excluding Sundays. This season is set up for us to enter this same kind of journey that Jesus took, in preparation of what is to come with the Easter season just 40 days excluding Sundays away.
But how is this even preparation? I’ve always wondered the significance of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, as to me it seems like it would have been easier if he just stayed at home instead of wandering out there for 40 days. It would have been more comfortable to not have to endure those hunger pangs and rumbly stomach and the possible shaky hands due to low blood sugar. It would have been safer to not have to face the tempter, the adversary, the satan in case things go horribly wrong. And in my experience, most people would rather play things safe.
However, we’re told that Jesus didn’t play it safe and went anyway, and thankfully his excursion was successful. He was able to withstand the temptations and came out of there with a greater grasp on his mission, his call, and the identity that was given to him just 40 days prior at his baptism as God’s beloved son with whom God is well pleased. Don’t forget that this happens right after Jesus is baptized, so it’s like his initiation, inauguration, installation into his ministry during his physical time on Earth. In fact, I have heard that this experience of Jesus could equate to his seminary training, the kind of training that many clergy (such as myself) have to go through, except Jesus’ training was somewhat shorter and a whole lot cheaper. I mean he didn’t even have to pay for food.
But how is this like seminary training? How is being tempted in these ways like preparing anyone for anything? How is purposely going out of your way to make yourself uncomfortable by fasting for 40 days in the middle of nowhere supposed to help anyone?
Well, to be honest, seminary was uncomfortable. I might not have gone hungry per se as food was included in my room and board, but I was starving for something, some kind of fulfilling enrichment or something. And as they warned us at the very first day of school, seminary tore us down, smashed all that we already believed, and built us back up with the tools to be stronger and more equipped for the ministry ahead of us.
I know, I’m not really selling the whole seminary thing. I admit it sounds downright awful. And it probably was in more ways than one. But it was and integral part of our growth, of our development, of our journey to answer God’s call.
And this is why I think Jesus’ time in the wilderness was like his seminary training. He spent his time out there wrestling with his call. The temptations tore apart the common preconceptions of how the world works. And scripture was used to build Jesus back up, built him up to remember who he is, what he’s doing, and why he’s even here.
Still, not really selling it, I know. And I’m not trying to convince any of you to go to seminary although I don’t think it’s ever too late to start. In fact, when I started, there was a second year student who was 63 years old, but that neither here nor there. The point is that my seminary training was uncomfortable. Jesus’ time in the wilderness was uncomfortable. And this here season of Lent? Well if we were to follow its practices and disciplines, it’s pretty uncomfortable as well.
And so, along with a lot of uncomfortable things, we push it aside. We avoid it. We try to make excuses like we don’t really need it or we’re too busy to pursue it or maybe we just didn’t know it was even a thing. We just don’t like to be uncomfortable.
But as we see in this temptation story, perhaps the discomfort is a necessary part of growth. I think that in my seminary training, the discomfort that I went through and often continue to go through definitely was important for me in becoming the pastor that I am today. And for the rest of us then, I wonder what discomforts we need to face in order to see, I mean really see God in our midst. I’m not saying that we should go out and look at ways to feel uncomfortable in hopes that we’d grow from it, but perhaps we don’t let the possibility of being uncomfortable to get in our way.
And how do we do that? Well, I think the same way that Jesus did onto his way into the wilderness. He was filled, led, called by the Spirit. He was strengthened through his identity-affirming baptism. He was reminded of how loved he is and how he is never abandoned by God.
We too, can draw from this graciously given strength. We too, can face our hardship and discomfort with confidence knowing that God is with us and fills us with God’s Spirit. We too, can grow in our ministry and service as we are reminded of how loved we are, along with our siblings around the world.
So what discomforts that we know will lead to good have we been avoiding in our lives? Perhaps it’s the actual fasting in Lent, giving up certain things that aren’t good for us like chocolate, chips, fried chicken. Those are three things by the way, not chocolate chip fried chicken… which now that I think about it gives me a great idea for a new fast food restaurant…
Perhaps it’s confronting someone in our lives whom we’ve been unhappy or displeased with, or we know has been unhappy or displeased with us, and working on mending that relationship. Or maybe it’s something internal, like we know that our mental health has been suffering because of the ways various things in and around our lives has been affecting us, and we need to reach out and talk to someone about it.
Whatever it might be, I encourage you to follow up with it. I encourage you to follow the leading of the Spirit, as you are filled with God’s grace, and taken by the hand to journey into these uncomfortable places. I encourage you to not shy away from the discomfort, but lean into it confident that God is with you and bringing about growth and development. I know it’s not easy. In fact, I am sure that it will be quite hard. But I do believe that God is with you through it all, surrounding you with a community of support, and strengthening you with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
And this is what I believe this season of Lent is for. I’ve been reflecting on this season for the past 100 years or so (give or take 50 or 60), and I’ve come to see it as a time for us to come to grips with who we are. Who we are as people in our role in society whatever that might be. Who we are as sinners who can’t help but live in our own selfishness and pride. Who we are as God’s beloved children, forgiven and saved, healed and made whole, invited and welcomed into God’s everlasting kingdom. And I see this season no longer as something to dread because of how uncomfortable it could be, but one that we can look forward to and enter in as led and filled by the Spirit, to care for each other, our sense of calling and identity, and above all, our own mental health, erasing all taboos around “getting help” and knowing that we all have those inner demons to face and we can face them with the support and care of our community, our faith, and our God.
As we begin our journey into this season of Lent, may we be humbled to look within ourselves, face our inner demons, and lean on the strength and support of God in our community, in this congregation, and with our companions on this journey of life, that we can be reminded again and again in spite of discomfort and hardships of our unchanging and everlasting identity as God’s beloved children. Thanks be to God. Amen.