Worship Service for the 1st Sunday in Lent

Hi everyone,

Here is our worship service for the 1st Sunday in Lent, ready to go live at 10am on February 21, 2021!

You can find the worship bulletin here, which will have the full order of worship, the all the page and hymn numbers corresponding with the ELW hymn book, and the sermon in full, which is also found below the video on this page.  All the words of the liturgy and lyrics to the hymns will also be on your screen.

For a more full at home worship experience, you can have a few things in your space.  A bowl of water which we will interact with during the Thanksgiving for Baptism, something small to eat and drink that will be consumed during communion as we sing the Lamb of God, and a lit candle for the whole service that can be extinguished with the candles on the altar at the end of the service.  These are optional, but meant only to enhance your worship experience!

May God’s presence be seen and felt through today’s worship and always!1

If the video doesn’t work, please try clicking here.

Gracious God, we confess our need of your sustaining Word.  Speak to us this day, that the truth of your good news lead us to repentance and renew our faith, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Here we are, in Lent, probably every liturgical church goer’s least favourite time of year.  Why?  Well, mostly because Lent isn’t exactly a happy time for most of us.  It happens near that lull after Christmas, we usually have more somber and depressing themes, and we don’t even get to sing Alleluia at all during these 5 weeks.  And to top it off, Lent is about reflection and repentance, which is an uncomfortable conversation that likely isn’t on the top of anyone’s list.

And this year it seems like it’ll be an even tougher Lent than usual, because we’re still in this pandemic, and we’ll be hitting the one year anniversary when all this started within this season.  So this Lent is coming with this big mix of emotion, different feelings, and just a bunch of baggage that you know we’d just rather not have to deal with.  Not this time around.  Not this season.  Maybe not ever.

But I’ll have to be frank (well, maybe not exactly Frank because that was my dad’s name), while I just totally bagged on this season, maybe put to words what some of us were already thinking, I don’t know if I can say that these feelings are 100% Lent’s fault.  I mean, Lent is what Lent is, but those feelings we might be having are really coming from within ourselves.

Not saying that this season isn’t about all those things, it is.  Not saying that this pandemic isn’t difficult, it is.  Not even saying that Lent is actually a favourite time of year, because it absolutely is not.  But what I’m saying is that much of that fault comes from us. 

Because really?  Life is tough for all of us, pretty much all the time, not just during Lent.  Not one of us has an easy life, no matter how it’s portrayed on social media.  Not a single one of us have gone for any great length of time without some kind of difficulty or less than ideal situation.  None of us are living a perfect utopian life, regardless what the happily ever after fairy tales would want us to believe.

Motivational author David Goggins says in one of his books: “The Buddha famously said that life is suffering, I’m not a Buddhist, but I know what he meant and so do you.  To exist in this world, we must contend with humiliation, broken dreams, sadness, and loss.  That’s just nature.  Each specific life comes with its own personalised portion of pain.  It’s coming for you.  You can’t stop it.  And you know it.”

Cheerful, I know.  And likely common sense.  But I think it is a good thing to be reminded every now and then of this fact that life is suffering.  Life during Lent is suffering.  Life outside of Lent is suffering.  Life in general is just… suffering.

When I think about this, this hardship that we face, this difficult life that just is life, this suffering that we go through, I sometimes think that it’d be nice to just hit the reset button.  You know, start all over.  Build from the ground up.  Take what we’ve learned in the past and avoid the mistakes in the future.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  Just a fresh clean slate to do create anything we would like, make an actual utopia for us all.

Well, the problem with that is that it was done before, and it didn’t work.  Remember the flood?  That was essentially hitting that reset button.  Quite literally the world was wiped out and washed clean, save Noah and his family, as they were supposedly the most righteous of us all.  And how did that work out for him?  As soon as they got off that ark life just went right on the way it was… suffering.  Even though they were literally floating above the earth, suffering wasn’t too far away.

And Jesus faced this suffering too.  Peter even says in our second reading today that Jesus suffered.  We read in this gospel according to Mark that Jesus was lifted up in baptism, and immediately was driven into the wilderness for suffering and temptation purposes.  Mark doesn’t give us the fine details of the temptations that Jesus faced like we do in the other gospel accounts of this story, but maybe for Mark, those details just don’t matter.  All that matters is that Jesus was in the wilderness and was tempted.  Jesus was taken by the Spirit away from people to be alone, hungry, and to face trials.  Jesus, right after the elation of being baptized and having the heavens breaking open in front of him in joy and thanksgiving of this event, suffered.

Now it’s getting really bleak.  I mean if Jesus isn’t free from suffering, what chance do we have?  Our suffering could be attributed to us giving into our temptations, but we read that Jesus didn’t give in and yet he still didn’t have it easy.  Jesus, the pronounced beloved Son of God, wasn’t free of hardship.  Jesus, our Messiah and Saviour, our brother and friend, our one true path to God, faced the difficulties of life.  Jesus our Lord suffered.  But yet through all of that, he continued to worship and praise our God.

Because God is worthy to be praised.

What?  Why?  If life is suffering then shouldn’t God be cursed?  Shouldn’t God be called out for not doing a very good job in protecting us and shielding us from harm?  Shouldn’t God be shunned out of our lives so then maybe our lives could get better?

Well, God didn’t promise anyone a life free of suffering, what God promised was that life would be full of blessing, relationship, and love.  God promised that even in the midst of our suffering, we will not be alone but the Spirit will walk alongside us along with all the saints.  God promised that no matter how bad the world can get, God will never again find it in God’s heart to hit that giant reset button, because to God, we are worthy to be saved.

Jesus knew this intimately.  This temptation story we get in Mark is the shortest of them all, as Mark is known the gospel of action, or point form if you will.  The veritable Cole’s Notes of the life of Jesus.  But I like how our lectionary framed the temptation story.  Perhaps it’s by accident because it’s so short, but it begins with Jesus being baptized.  It continues with Jesus driven in the wilderness and tempted.  But it ends… it ends with Jesus proclaiming the good news of God. 

Jesus, in the midst of his suffering, proclaimed the good news of God.  Jesus, while he faced the difficulties of life just like you and I, felt that God continued to be worthy of praise.  Jesus, even though having spent that 40 days alone in the wilderness, never forgot God’s promise and declaration to him that he is God’s Son, the Beloved, with whom God is well pleased.

And you know, there is a joy in that.  Even in this dreary season of Lent, even in this long and dragged out pandemic, even in the everyday suffering of life that we have to contend with, God continues to regard us as God’s beloved children, worthy to be saved, created to be in relationship with God, each other, and all of creation.  This isn’t because we’re so good and living our lives, but solely because God is gracious and merciful and whose love knows no bounds.  God is indeed worthy to be praised even when times are tough.

I know life is hard.  I know life can feel impossible, especially now as we just passed the statistically worst month in regards of burn out, depression, and mental health issues, all the while still dealing with a global pandemic.  I know life is suffering.  We can’t escape it.  But we can take it with the strength that God gives, we can endure it with the faith of Christ, and we can even find joy in it by the leading of the Spirit in all our lives.

Yes, Lent isn’t easy.  This pandemic is no picnic either.  And life is indeed suffering.  But with God at our side, we can weather this storm.  We can cling to the good news.  We can look at the rainbow and be reminded of the promise of a peace that comes from within, gifted to us by God, and brings us to new heights that are beyond all understanding.

So in this season of Lent, may we find the joy of Christ in our self-reflection and repentance, confidence in God’s forgiveness, and lean on the peace of the Holy Spirit.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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