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Sermon and Liturgy for Lent One - Year C
Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Luke 4:1-13
"The Easy Way and Christ's Way"


READING:  Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Luke 4:1-13
SERMON :  "The Easy Way and Christ's Way"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-le01sm 599

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.
   
   Sources: The sermon is indebted to the work of the late Gerard D
   Fuller (oblate@JUNO.COM) as it was sent to the PRCL List in February
   1998.


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)
 

CALL TO WORSHIP:  (based on Isaiah 55:1-7)
L:   The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,
     and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P:   And also with you.
L:   God says to everyone who thirsts, "come to the waters", 
     and to those that have no money, "come, buy, and eat."
P:   God invites us, saying,
     "Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price."
L:   Incline your ear to the Lord and come to him.  
     Listen that you may live.
p:   We will seek the Lord while he may be found.  
     We will call upon him while he is near.
L:   Let the wicked forsake their way 
     and the unrighteous their thoughts. 
     Let them return to the Lord that he may have mercy on them, 
     and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.


* INTROIT: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Lord God - your ways are holy and good - and we would learn them
and live them.  We gather to worship you and to hear your word
and to ask your blessing upon us and our world.  As we begin this
season of Lent we pray that you will speak to us in our hearts
and in our minds and show us how to live and love better than we
have to this time.  Pour out your Spirit upon us --  we ask it in
the name of Jesus - Amen.


* HYMN: O Love, How Deep


FIRST READING: Deuteronomy 26:1-11


CHILDREN'S TIME: "Marked With A Cross"
Object:   - Ashes - half burnt Palm Crosses - Whole Palm Crosses
Theme     - Sorrow and Salvation
Source    - Self

Good morning --  We are starting a new season in the church - and
a new section of our Sunday School curriculum.   Does anyone know
what the season is called???   Yes- it is the season of Lent - a
season in which we especially think about who we are and who God
is - when we think about how much we need God in our lives and
how Jesus came so that we might all become very close to God.  
During Lent we try especially hard to remember God and to live in
the way Jesus told us to.  We try to slow down a bit - and think
about the changes we might have to make in our lives so that God
will be especially pleased with us.  We try to share more - to
care more than we already do.

Lent has certain symbols and a colour associated with - the
colour purple - and the symbol of the cross and the crown of
thorn's that remind us of how Jesus loved us so much that he
suffered and died for us.

Lent starts on a special day - does anyone know what day that is? 
Ash Wednesday.

On Ash Wednesday we take the palm crosses that you were given
last Palm Sunday and we prepare them in special bowl - by burning
them - by turning them into ashes.   In the bible ashes are a
sign of sorrow - when people were very sad they used to dress in
old sack cloth and cover their heads with Ashes.   The Ashes that
I have in this bowl -the ashes I made from Palm Crosses remind us
of the sadness of sin - and of the sorrow it causes us and it
causes God.  On Ash Wednesday people come to church and are
marked with the ashes on their forehead to remind them of their
sinfulness and their need for God's help.

The Mark that is made on the forehead is the mark of the cross -
does anyone know why we use the sign of the cross???   It is to
reminds us that God forgives us our sins.  When Jesus was dying
on the cross he asked God to forgive us all - and his prayer was
answered.  The cross is a sign of God's love for us.

Today - I want us all to come up - after the prayer - and be
marked with the sign of the cross as everyone else sings - Will
Your Anchor Hold.

Let us Pray 

     DEAR LORD GOD - WE ARE SORRY FOR WHAT WE HAVE DONE
     WRONG - WE ASK YOU TO HELP US DO BETTER - SHOW US YOUR
     LOVE ANEW - THE LOVE OF CHRIST JESUS - WHO DIED THAT WE
     MIGHT LIVE - AND LIVES THAT WE  MIGHT NEVER DIE -- WE
     ASK IT IN HIS NAME.   AMEN


* FAMILY HYMN:  Will Your Anchor Hold


RESPONSIVE PSALM READING: PSALM 91


GOSPEL READING: Luke 4:1-13                                      
L:  This is the gospel of the Lord.
P:  Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


FAVOURITE HYMN OR ANTHEM:                    


SERMON:  "The Easy Way and Christ's Way"

A young man was sent to Spain by his company to work in a new
plant.  He accepted because it would enable him to earn enough to
marry his long-time girlfriend.  Their plan was to pool their
resources and put a down payment on a house when he returned.  

     As the lonely weeks went by, she began expressing
     doubts that he was being true to her.   After all,
     Spain is populated by beautiful women.  The young man
     declared that he was paying absolutely no attention to
     the local girls.  "I admit," he wrote, "that sometimes
     I'm tempted.  But I fight it. I'm keeping myself for
     you." 

     In the next mail, the young man received a package.  It
     contained a note and a harmonica.  "I'm sending this to
     you," his girlfriend wrote, "so you can have something
     to take your mind off those girls."  The young man
     wrote back that he was practising on the harmonica
     every night and thinking only of her. 
   
     When the young man returned home his girl was waiting
     at the airport.  As he rushed forward to embrace her,
     she held up a restraining hand and said sternly, "Hold
     on there. First I want to hear you play that
     harmonica!" 

Every year the season of Lent starts with the story of how Jesus
was tempted in the wilderness by the devil.

I think that many of us are alarmed by the fact of temptation,
by the fact that when we pause and look into our hearts 
we notice that there within them are desires that we are know are
wrong, 
wants that we know if indulged will lead to evil.

We are alarmed because we think of ourselves as good people -
basically honest,
hardworking,
upright folk -
yet there - lurking inside some of us is anger, jealousy, envy,
or bitterness...
    - inside still others of us, there are cravings of every
     sort - from the desire to own ever more material things than
     we now own, to the desire to possess other people - to
     control other people - to be able to use their bodies for
     our own pleasure - their time to meet our own needs - their
     talent to earn praise and profit for our own selves.

The fact of temptation, the fact of evil desire,
insofar as it exists in us, as it exists in me,
is distressing.

For some people, the more vivid the sense of temptation - the
more disturbed they become.
They begin to question their spirituality, their faithfulness,
their ability to do good,
they begin to feel inferior - weak - uncertain - and insecure.

I think that at the heart of this uneasiness, at the heart of
this distress, lies the thought that if we are really doing what
we should be doing then we would not experience the temptations
that we do experience, that our impulses would all be for the
good, that our habits would keep us from even considering doing
something we ought not to do.

To this feeling the gospel today replies - No!  That is not how
it works.

Temptation is a part of the human condition - indeed it is so
much a part of our humanity - that when we are most connected to
God then we are most tempted.

Look at Jesus for a minute -
He is raised in righteousness by Mary and Joseph,
     he studies, he works, he observes the Sabbath, and sits with
     the teachers of the law,
          and finally - when the time is right he is baptised by
          John in the Jordan and the voice of God approves him
          and the spirit of God settles upon him
and then wham - he is tempted in the wilderness... not once - not
twice - but three times 
     and we are told that when the devil finally leaves Jesus -
     he does so only to wait for another time
              - for an opportune time says my translation...

The good news of today's gospel reading lies in the fact that
Jesus himself was tempted.

You are not spiritually or morally inferior because there lies
within you desires that are unworthy,
     you are not less than faithful simply because you consider
     cutting a corner or two here or there.
In fact the opposite might well be the case -
     - you might be experiencing temptation because you are
     worthy of being tempted.

My friends - if you are already travelling toward's a particular
destination as fast as your feet can take you - and that
destination happens to be the one that the devil wants you to
arrive at - he is hardly going to stick out his leg and try to
trip you - he's not going to suggest that you turn around and go
the other way is he?

You are not spiritually or morally inferior simply because you
experience temptation.
     Nor are you a sinner because you feel sinful desires.
Sin only comes in when you succumb to temptation,
     when you indulge the impulses that you should not indulge.
 
Some people break down temptation into three categories -
categories that roughly match the experience that Jesus went
through while wandering in the wilderness in the days immediately
after his baptism.

First there are physical temptations - the urges we have to
satisfy our physical wants regardless of how we go about it.  

Then there are emotional temptations - temptations to indulge
one's feelings - one's ego - to make oneself the centre of all
things - to receive all glory and all praise and all power - all
the attention that you want - that you should have... 

And then their are spiritual temptations - the temptation to test
God - to dare God to prove his love - to manipulate God - to get
God to use his magic powers on your behalf that you may impress
others with them - that you may show to others your favoured
status in the eyes of the Lord.

Personally I am not convinced by this threefold division of the
nature of temptation - though we are tempted in all three ways. 

I not convinced - because when all is said and done temptation is
always a spiritual matter and because temptation rarely comes to
us as a clear cut decision between good and evil.  

Temptation always comes to us shrouded in goodness 
- in plausibility - in attractiveness.
It comes as an outgrowth of the circumstances that we are in 
- circumstances that have their own logic and their own appeal

Do we put on our sweats and walk or run this morning?  
No.  It's raining and we don't want to get sick.

Should we talk about the issue that we have been avoiding with
our spouse?  
No - the kids will be home soon and we'll be interrupted.  
No - she is not in a good mood.  
No - it won't do any good anyway...

Should I go to the doctor about the pain in my chest?  
No - it's probably just gas.  
No - if it is serious then it won't make any difference anyway.  
No - other people are sicker than I am and I don't want to 
abuse the Medicare system like others do.

We face situation after situation everyday, some of them
relatively trivial, and some of major consequence, in which the
choice is not between good and evil, but between what is hard and
what is easy.

To be tempted is to accept what comes naturally - food when
hungry - water when thirsty - sex when lonely - power when an
authority - condescension when working with inferiors -
impatience when dealing with the slow, the old or the feeble -
rudeness when dealing with those who are paid to serve -
intolerance when dealing with those who don't fish or cut bait -
hatefulness when dealing with those who contradict you - smugness
when considering one's own performance... pride when thinking of
ones' own humility, one's own generosity, one's own political
astuteness, social grace, tolerance, or faithfulness,

All these things are natural - all these things are easy - and -
as you know - all these things are common.  They are the fruit of
temptations that are hard to refuse.

You're hungry Jesus - if you are the Son of God - do what comes
naturally to you - turn these rocks into bread.  Use your
advantage to your advantage - it won't hurt anyone.

You want to change the world - to make a difference - to see
justice done - to help the poor - to set your people free - all
you have to do is simply bow down right now and worship me...

Jesus - you know God loves you.  Your plan will sell a lot easier
if people see that you are special to Him.  Let God save you from
certain disaster - let his angels carry you up from the ground in
the presence of the priests and the teachers and everyone in
Jerusalem.  You won't have to go around from home to home then -
preaching and healing people.  You won't have to work to convince
people to follow your way - they'll line up for miles and miles
just for a chance to see you...

Temptation is a natural thing.  It appeals to our natural
impulses - both for good and for bad.
Temptation is also an easy thing - that is a major part of it's
attraction.

And there is only one cure for it - 
That cure is focus - or faith.

Christ showed us the way - by rebuffing the things that tempted
him with his focus on what God revealed to Israel through Moses
and the prophets.

When tempted with the easy way - he drew from his heart to his
mind the word of God that he had been taught:
     One does not live by bread alone - 
     Worship the Lord your God and serve only him,
     Do not put the Lord your god to the test..

Christ resisted the easy way, the natural way - by recalling
God's way - by speaking it out in the midst of his vision, his
dream, his temptation.

And so can we - and even more so.  
More so - because Christ is in us, 
  he who won the victory over the evil one
      he who resisted successfully 
  - dwells within us.

He knows how hard it is to walk the walk and talk the talk -
    he knows how easy it is to close your eyes to the troubles
    around you
          your ears to the cries of need and despair
               and your hearts to the hearts of those who live
               with you or near to you.
    He knows the attraction of the quick fix and the struggle to keep
on the difficult road.  And he stands ready to help when we call
upon him.

When we touch the Christ who is in us -
    When we reach inside ourselves and ask of ourselves 
    - What would Jesus do here and now -
then we are on the road we should be on - .

At the end of our days God will not ask us if we did wrong - 
     nor will he ask us if we have been tempted -
but he will ask us if we have learned to play the tunes of love
on the spiritual harmonica he has given us.
     He will ask if we have walked the road that Christ was on in
     the direction that Christ walked it.

And if we have - and in doing so we happened to stumble and fall
once in a while - God will bandage the wounds and wipe the tears
from our eyes - and give us a hug - for we will have done all
that he expects of us.

Praise be to his name.  Amen.


* HYMN: O Jesus, I Have Promised


LET US PRAY
Lord - listen to our prayers for ourselves at this time - bring
to our minds the places we have compromised the truth for that
which is convenient to us - the times we have shut our eyes and
ears and hearts to the needs of others - the times we have
indulged ourselves to our own detriment...  - Help us dear God to
know that you forgive these things - and give us strength to
resist them in the future... Lord hear our prayer....

Lord, listen to our prayers for others at this time - for those
who hunger for bread - but only find stones - for those who seek
justice - but can find no advocate who will help them -- for
those who are in danger and have no one watching over them.... 
Lord hear our prayer....

Lord - speak to us in the silence of our hearts - show us the way
to go.................

We pray to you in the name of Jesus - who taught us to come to
you saying, OUR FATHER...


* HYMN: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah


COMMISSIONING  In the power of the Holy Spirit, we now go forth
    into the world to fulfil our calling as the people
    of God, the body of Christ.


BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace, and may the Holy Spirit of our Lord and Saviour fill
you with power and with love and with joy and with the strength
and wisdom to resist all evil - both now and forevermore.  Amen


CHORAL BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace"                          - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2001 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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