Materials for Worship for the First Sunday in Lent

Nerys writes: When we enter into the season of Lent, we step into the unfolding story of God’s love for us and for all creation. Today in Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7, we are taken right back to the beginning to walk with Adam and Eve as they are driven out of the Garden of Eden into the harsh world that we inhabit. In Matthew 4:1-11, we accompany Christ on his journey from his baptism into the harsh wilderness, led by God’s Spirit to be tempted by the devil. There and on the hard road to Jerusalem and the Cross, Jesus offered God the obedience which Adam refused, choosing the way Eve had sought to avoid – the way of death – so that we may have life. St Paul expresses this divine circle of love in Romans 5:12-19 as sin and death coming into our life through one man, Adam, and life and grace coming into the world through one man, Jesus Christ.

As you reflect on today’s two stories which are mirror images of one another, I would encourage you to think of your own unfolding inner story as you prepare to observe Lent.

Our Lord Confronts the Disobedience of Adam & Eve; Nave Mosaics from Palatine Chapel, Palermo, Sicily.

Notice that Jesus begins his journey with the experience of being filled by God’s Spirit at his baptism and being declared Beloved. This is the starting point of our journey too. We travel into our inner wilderness this Lent aware of our failings but also knowing that we are loved and accepted by God. This love is not a reward for effort or achievement but a free gift which enables us to persevere with our inner struggles and to prevail.

Even Jesus, the Messiah, needed to wrestle with himself and be tempted in order to know himself more deeply and understand the limits and possibilities of his humanity. His forty days and nights in the wilderness can be seen as a holy time of prayerfully discerning between competing demands and possibilities. Such times are essential for us too if we are to become fully ourselves as we continue to respond to God’s call to walk the path of self-giving love.

Jesus faced the ‘if …’ of the Tempter accompanied by God’s Spirit and armed with Scripture. Our inner struggles can sometimes unsettle, overwhelm or exhaust us to such an extent that we’re tempted to give up. We need the nourishment of God’s word to give us strength to stay the course. We also need to experience the presence of God in prayer and worship to inspire us.

At the end of his account, Matthew speaks of angels coming to wait on Jesus after the Tempter left him. Although each of us needs to make the inner journey for ourselves, we will be traveling through Lent together as a worshipping community. We can hold the Christ light for each another, accompanying one another in companionable silence or conversation.

So let’s take the time this Lent to journey into the wilderness with Christ so that on Easter morning we will arrive together at the empty tomb, each of us transformed and ready to take the unfolding story of God’s love out into our world.
Almighty God, whose Son didn’t eat for forty days in the wilderness, and was tempted, as we are, but did not sin: help us to be disciplined and to listen to your Spirit, that, as you know our weaknesses, so we may know your power to save; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

Today, I invite you to pray especially for peace in Ukraine. You are welcome to use the prayers below written by members of the Iona Community.

Loving God, because you have the whole world in your hands,
cradle gently those who are rocked by fear,
shocked to a depth they have never known
and frightened to face tomorrow.

On the people of Ukraine: their children, their old people,
their vulnerable adults, their babies soon to be born,
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

On the people of Ukraine: their defenders, their advocates,
those who care for the wounded, who sit with the despairing,
who witness and report on the savagery and destruction,
who bury the dead,
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

On the people of Ukraine: their leaders
that they may continue to inspire, in word and by example,
and continue to receive help and solidarity from across the world.
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

On the people of Russia,
that they might learn the truth kept from their hearing;
On the churches in Russia
that they might find the vocabulary and courage
to speak truth to power,
On the soldiers of Russia who do not believe in the carnage they cause.
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

On the Russian president, and those who affirm his policies,
we ask the judgement of heaven, a radical conversion
and an end to their lies, scheming and murder.
Lord hear us, Lord graciously hear us.

And for our own nation we ask for commitment to match conviction
so that the pain of the Ukrainian nation be shared by us,
their weary people sheltered by us,
their peace assured by us.
Lord hear us, Lord graciously hear us. Amen.