READING: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91; Romans 10:8(b)-13; Luke 4:1-13
SERMON : "Pushing Against The Rock"
Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
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 Children's Story is based on one from "The Whole
People of God" for Lent 1 (1998). The Prayers of The People
are based in part on material provided by Craig S. Kirby-Grove
(firstname.lastname@example.org) "Sermon and Prayers and Worship Stuff" as
posted to the PRCL List, 1998. Some sermon thoughts are from
Theodore W. Schroederand Ken Waddell (email@example.com),
"When to say, Yes and No" as found in Ecunet's Sermonshop,
Feb 24 1998. "Pushing Against The Rock" is a traditional tale
found easily on the Internet and is apparently public domain.
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: "What Does The Lord Require of You" - VU 701
* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Loving God, you call us to prayer, and offer yourself to all who seek your
face. Pour out your Holy Spirit upon us today and deliver us from
coldness of heart, a wandering mind, and wrongful desire. By the power of
your living and active Word place within us a steadfast love and devotion,
so that we may worship and serve you with all of our lives. Satisfy our
longing with your Presence and through us bring glory to your name. We
ask it through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
* HYMN "How Sweet The Name of Jesus Sounds" - VU 344
CHILDREN'S TIME: "Joining Jesus For The Journey"
Object The Letters H A L T on separate pieces of paper
Theme Making Choices With Jesus
Source Whole People of God - Lent 1 (1998)
Good morning Today I brought with me to show you 4 Letters. I wonder if
you can tell me what they are? (Hold up A L H and T and let them be
Each of these four letters stand for a word that describes how we all feel
from time to time. I wonder if you can guess what each feeling is? I'll
give you some clues starting with the letter T.
T Tired (yawn) have a child then hold the letter. When I get tired I
get a bit grumpy at times, or I simply fall asleep when I should be
doing something else. How about you???
H Hungry (smack lips, rub belly) - When I get hungry I have a hard time
thinking about other things. Sometimes I raid the kitchen for
something to eat - even before meal time. How about you????
A Angry (frown, shake fist) - When I get angry - well sometimes I yell,
or just go really quiet. How about you???
L Lonely (look sad) - When I get lonely well, I get sad. Sometimes I'd
do anything for company. I'll pester Charlene or Mark for attention.
How about you???
Jesus at times also felt Tired, Hungry, Angry, and Lonely. Today in your
lessons you'll be hearing about a time when Jesus chose to spend 40 days
in the desert without food. At the end that time he was very hungry and
tired and lonely and he ended up having to face some hard choses about who
he was and who he belong to and what he was going to do.
Let's look at the letters again. You hold them up and face the people (T
H A L). What word does these letters spell? Ooopps rearrange the
kids for HALT. Ah - good - now we have a word. The letters we have
here spell the world HALT. And Halt means???? STOP. It means when I 'm
hungry or angry or lonely or tired it is a good idea to stop and think
before I do or say anything. What to do might be simple - when tired -
to have a nap, when hungry - eat, when lonely - find someone to talk to.
Or the answer might be harder. WE might have to ask ourselves what Jesus
asked himself. Who am I. Who do I belong to? What kind of person am I
going to be?
During the next few weeks we will talk about the answers to those
questions. As we travel through the season of Lent - we will stop and
think about the choices we are making.....
PRAYER ADN THE LORD'S PRAYER
Let Us Pray - Loving God - when we get tired or hungry - when we
feel angry or lonely - help us to stop and think a while - instead
of getting nasty or mean - help us to think about - what Jesus
would do - and to remember what you ask us to do - and that you can
help us do it. - Help us to walk each day with you - and to make
this world a better place - we ask this in the name of Jesus - Amen
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom
come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this
day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive
those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but
deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the
glory, for ever and ever. Amen
SONG OF PRAISE: "One More Step Along The World I Go" - VU 639
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Sharing Joys and Concerns
PRAYER OF CONFESSION:
L Loving God - you are both our judge and our redeemer.
Hear our prayer.
P We know, O Lord, that you see not only our deeds, but also what is in
the depths of our hearts.
L We come before you shorn of all pretence and without cause for pride.
P We come to ask you to forgive us and to make us new once again.
L We confess, O Lord, that when the pressure is on
P We do not always choose your way.
L We confess that when the choices are many
P We do not always choose your way.
L We confess that when temptation is great
P We do not always choose your way.
L Father and Mother of us all as you have promised through Christ
Jesus, forgive those things we have done that we ought not have done
and those things we have failed to do that we ought to have done.
Help us to choose your way.
.................... (silent prayer) ....................
L O God, touch us and make us whole. Amen.
SUNG RESPONSE (VU 948):
O Lord, hear my prayer. O Lord, hear my prayer; when I call answer
me. O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear my prayer; come and listen to
ASSURANCE OF GOD'S LOVE & MERCY
Paul writes that "if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Saviour
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will
be saved." Indeed God hears our cries and reaches out to rescue us.
God is here to bear us up, lest we stumble and fall. Therefore let
us hear and believe the good news of the gospel! In Jesus Christ we
are forgiven! Thanks be to God. Amen.
A READING FROM DEUTERONOMY 26:1-11
(NIV) When you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you
as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it,
take some of the first fruits of all that you produce from the
soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a
basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a
dwelling for his Name and say to the priest in office at the time,
"I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come to the land the
LORD swore to our forefathers to give us."
The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in
front of the altar of the LORD your God. Then you shall declare
before the LORD your God:
"My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt
with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful
and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer,
putting us to hard labour. Then we cried out to the LORD, the God
of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil
and oppression. So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty
hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous
signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this
land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the
first fruits of the soil that you, O LORD, have given me."
Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before him.
And you and the Levites and the aliens among you shall rejoice in
all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your
L This is the Word of the Lord.
P Thanks be to God.
RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 91 (Voices United 807 and Sung Refrain)
A READING FROM ROMANS 10:8(b)-13
(NIV) "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,"
that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess
with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God
raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your
heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth
that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone
who trusts in him will never be put to shame." For there is no
difference between Jew and Gentile - the same Lord is Lord of all and
richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on
the name of the Lord will be saved."
L This is the Word of the Lord.
P Thanks be to God.
* HYMN: "O Love, How Deep" - VU 348
A READING FROM LUKE 4:1-13
(NIV) Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and
was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was
tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the
end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, "If you are the
Son of God, tell this stone to become bread."
Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone.'"
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant
all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, "I will give you
all their authority and splendour, for it has been given to me, and
I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will
all be yours."
Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point
of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself
down from here. For it is written: "'He will command his angels
concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their
hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"
Jesus answered, "It says: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an
L This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord.
P Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
SERMON: "Pushing Against The Rock"
Lead us, O God, to streams of Living Water. Speak in this place,
in the calming of our minds and the longing of our hearts, by the
words of my lips and in the thoughts we form. Bring us freshness,
new growth and vitality, that we may be fruitful for thee, our rock
and our redeemer.
There was this man who got angry because this little church had rented an
empty store beneath his apartment, and they begun to hold the most noisy
revival services you ever heard. They were AMEN'ing and PRAISE THE
LORD'ing all night long. He complained to the Landlord. He complained to
the police. But nothing could be done.
Well, he got madder and madder and then one night, he decided he
was going to get even. He went down to a store that rented costumes
and he rented a Devil's suit. He went home and put it on. He
climbed down the stairs and waited for just the right moment. And
as it happened, a storm came up, and thunder rolled and lightning
stuck, and the lights went out. At that moment he burst into that
little church, yelling and screaming!
Man-o-man, everyone bailed out of that church, except one lady.
And this man stepped up to her, tail twitching, pitch fork
gleaming, and he said, "How come your not running away like all the
And she said, "Mr. Satan, I want you to know, I've been on your
side all along."
Today's gospel reading - to a great extent the readings from Deuteronomy
and from Paul's Letter to the Romans are about taking sides. About
putting God first in our lives. About remembering whose we are and what
has been done for us. About declaring our loyalties.
I want to look primarily at the gospel reading today. At the temptation
story - and try to understand a bit of what it is all about.
At first glance the temptations of Jesus seem strange. They seem so
unlike our temptations - to take things, to use people, and to ignore
God. They seem so odd. Make bread out of stones? Leap from the temple?
Worship Satan to gain the world? We can't really conceive of these kinds
of temptations being related to the temptations that we experience.
Yet the temptations of Jesus are ours for Satan is with us as he was with
Jesus; he is with us not so much to get us to do wrong things - we need no
help in that - but to develop in us life destroying attitudes and beliefs;
to develop in us those things that will take us further and further away
from God's love till one day we discover that we have no faith at all,
that we are people without hope and without purpose, that we are - in
short - completely lost - living only for today, living only for
As a friend of mine on the Internet put it: Satan is interested in what we
think; in what we believe about ourselves and God.
Look at Satan.
What is he saying in the temptation story that we heard today?
"If You are the Son of God ... If You are ... If You really think
You are -- then can You not prove Your power through a self-serving
If you are really loved by God, can You not prove God's care by
leaping from the temple?
If you really want to change the world - if that is your mission -
can You not do it better in the way that I show you?
If You are the child of God , then why can't you, why don't you..."
Think about that voice for a minute. The voice Jesus heard as he wandered
through the wilderness that we so often walk through in our lives - the
wilderness not of sand, rock, and bush - but the wilderness of the
soul.... the wilderness of a world that does not care - of a world that
does not provide anyone an easy time of things - but rather is coldly
indifferent if not openly hostile to us and to what we want and what we
How often have we heard the kind of words in ourselves that Jesus heard at
the end of his forty days of wandering - that voice speaking inside our
minds and hearts - whispering quietly - but insistently:
"If you really are a child of God, would you act that way"
"If you are really are a child of God - would you not be able to
overcome your weaknesses, do the good you intended, straighten
"If God loved really loved you, would God treat you this way.
Would God let you suffer?"
"Are you really? Really a child of God? Is God really there for
you? For anybody?"
"Isn't there an easier way? A better way? Better than this.
Better than now?"
The voice of Satan is the voice of doubt
and that doubt takes two major forms
- doubt in the goodness of God
- and what is commonly called "self-doubt", that doubt that questions who
we are and what we are about - not for the purpose of improving ourselves
or causing us to turn to God, but for the purpose of tearing down whatever
good that may have been built up in us and causing us to wonder if there
is any point in our continuing to live, or in trying to be faithful.
One of the biggest occasions of doubt that arises in the life of believers
is related to the reality of temptation - and to the fact that we all too
often succumb to it.
I think you all here know the feeling -
You promise God that you will pray more often:
- and you find yourself so busy - working - watching TV - running to
meetings, that you end up praying less than you had before.
You promise God that you will not be so impatient with the annoying people
in your life
- and you find yourself, a few days later, yelling at one of them
with more vigour than ever before.
You try to do something - or to not do something and you fail
- and you feel guilty about it - you feel that you are
a complete failure as a human being - let alone as a Christian.
Have you ever said to yourself: "If I was really who I believe myself to
be - then I would not be tempted?"
Have you ever said to yourself: "If God was real - if I was real - then I
would not be doing what I am doing?"
Self doubt - soul destroying doubt. It is a common thing. Like the other
doubt that Satan throws at us - the doubt that says to you when you are in
trouble: "If God really cared, then I would not be in this mess".
God does care. God cares like a parent cares for his or her child as they
are learning to walk.
First God holds our hands and calls to us to move toward him,
then, as we gain strength God lets go,
but is there to catch us lest we fall
and to encourage us
to encourage us to walk and to learn how to do the many other things
that make life so good.
Temptation is a reality of the Christian life.
It is there for two reasons.
The first reason is this:
Satan does not want us to succeed at being God's people.
I mean imagine a world where Christian's actually lived like Christ?
And did what he did? All the time! This is not a pleasant thought
for those who love darkness. And it leads to a spiritual principle
that I really want you to take note of - and that is this:
THE CLOSER YOU GET TO GOD
THE STRONGER THE TEMPTATIONS YOU WILL FEEL.
or to put it another way:
The devil never attacks those who are already on his side.
The second reason for temptation is this:
God wants us to choose Him freely.
God does not want you or anyone else to be obedient robots,
he wants us to be whole human beings who freely love him and others
to be people who in every way are made in His Image.
And that requires something for us to choose, something for us to do,
something for us to believe.
There was a man who was asleep one night in his cabin when suddenly
his room filled with light and the Saviour appeared. The Lord told
the man He had a work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in
front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push
against the rock with all his might. This the man did, day after
For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set
squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock
pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his
cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent
Seeing that the man was showing signs of discouragement, Satan
decided to enter the picture placing thoughts into the man's mind
such as; "You have been pushing against that rock for a long time
and it hasn't budged. Why kill yourself over this? You are never
going to move it?" Satan said many other things like this, giving
the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was
These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man even more.
"Why kill myself over this?" he thought. "I'll just put in my
time, giving just the minimum of effort and that will be good
And that he planned to do until one day he decided to make it a
matter of Prayer and take his troubled thoughts to the Lord.
"Lord" he said, "I have laboured long and hard in your service,
putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet,
after all this time, I have not even budged that rock a half a
millimetre. What is wrong? Why am I failing?"
To this the Lord responded compassionately, "My friend, when long
ago I asked you to serve me and you accepted, I told you that your
task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you
have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to
move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to me, your
strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really
Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back
brown, your hands are callused from constant pressure, and your
legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have
grown much and your abilities now surpass that which you used to
have. Yet you haven't moved the rock. BUT YOUR CALLING WAS TO BE
OBEDIENT, TO PUSH AND TO EXERCISE YOUR FAITH AND TRUST IN MY
This you have done. I, my friend, will now move the rock."
Each of us is called to be obedient, to push and exercise our faith and to
trust in God's wisdom.
In the doing of this it is not a sin to be tempted - indeed often it is
part of God's plan for us - that same plan that led to the Spirit driving
Jesus out into the wilderness where he was tempted.
Nor is it a sign that we are lost, that we are beyond hope, when we
succumb to temptation and do those thing we ought not to do and fail to do
those things we ought. For that to be so would mean that the cross of
Christ was to no avail and that his sacrifice on our behalf means nothing.
And that most certainly is not the case. God's word does not come back to
him empty. His love is not without power and impact and effect. As a
loving parent helps his or her child back to their feet when they stumble
and fall so God helps us backs to our feet when we fall and call out for
help. Over and over again - until we finally are strong enough to go onto
the next lesson.
What God wants from us is not that we be perfect - but that we strive to
be that way - that we give it our best shot - and keep on trying.
What the devil wants is that we give up - for he has no victory when we do
wrong things - for he knows that God will forgive us when we seek him.
What the devil wants is that we give up entirely
and that we abandon faith in God and the idea that what we are made in
God's image for a purpose and a reason.
Don't give up. Have faith. Remember, as I said at the beginning when I
told that little joke about the man who dressed up as Satan to scare all
the good church folk who were making noise - it is all a question of whose
side we are on.
God is on our side - the devil is not.
Do not give up faith in God because of the temptations you feel -
nor because of the ones you give in too -
but instead get up on your feet, turn afresh to God,
and begin walking once again,
remembering the word that God has given us
the word of faith that says simply and clearly - "if you confess with your
lips that Jesus is Saviour and believe in your heart that God raised him
from the dead, you will be saved."
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Loving and Compassionate God, you know that the battle of good and evil
rages within and around us, and that our ancient foe tempts us with his
deceits and empty promises. We pray that you would keep us steadfast in
your Word and, when we fall, raise us again and restore us through your
Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was tempted as we are tempted - but
resisted the wiles of the evil one.... Lord hear our prayer....
Father, in those moments when our weaknesses and our strengths are tested,
fill us with your holy presence that we may always remember whose we are.
Keep from us the temptation to give up on seeking to do your will, and
shield us from the despair that doubts your goodness. Help us to remember
that you are the one who is able to move the rock aside, the one who gives
new life.... Lord hear our prayer....
Lord, we pray to you for healing and courage and grace to live on. We ask
this both for ourselves and for others... BIDDING PRAYER...
...Lord hear our prayer....
O Lord our God, listen to the voice of your church, calling to you from
the desert of this world. Protect us with your strong hand and
outstretched arm, that, nourished by the bread of your word and fortified
by your Spirit we may proclaim the good news of your love to all people in
word and deed, even as Jesus showed us. We ask it in his name. Amen
MINUTE FOR MISSION
* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) & Prayer of
For all the riches you bestow, for all the good you supply, for the
guidance you offer day by day, we give you thanks, O Lord. We
dedicate our lives with our offerings, to your honour and glory.
May what we offer be used to bring refuge to the aimless,
deliverance to the captives, and protection to all who call on your
name. We ask it in Christ's name. AMEN.
* DEPARTING HYMN: "O Jesus, I Have Promised" - VU 120
* COMMISSIONING (unison): 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 & THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace - love and care for one another in Christ's name;
- and may almighty God strengthen you through all that you endure,
- may his love sustain in you a Spirit of peace and joy in the midst of
- and may his grace and his healing power be evident through your life and
both this day and forevermore. - Amen
THREE FOLD AMEN & SUNG BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace" - VU 964
copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2004
please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.