February 21, 2020 Worship (Lent 1)
Call to Worship
Friends in Christ, Lent is a time to prepare and to renew our lives. We mark this holy season by acknowledging our need for repentance, and for the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel. We are invited, in the name of Christ, to observe a holy Lent by self-examination and penitence, by prayer and fasting, by works of love, and by reading and meditating on the Word of God.
Beginner of all things, begin in us again: take these tired limbs and rouse them to dance your joy from sunbreak to sundown. Amen.
Prayer of Confession
O God, we confess that we often come to you reluctantly, afraid of what we might have to give up or change when we enter your presence. In our reluctance, we often miss opportunities for your grace to touch us, and through us to touch others. Touch us that we might be healed; forgive us that we might be born again. Amen.
Words of Assurance
God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. God has compassion for our fears and failures; God stays with us on our Lenten journey. WE are a forgiven people. Thanks be to God!
Scripture Reading 1: Psalm 25:1-10
Prayer for Guidance and for Deliverance Of David.
1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. 2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me. 3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. 5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. 6 Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. 7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord! 8 Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. 10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
Scripture Reading 2: Mark 1:9-15
The Baptism of Jesus
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved;[a] with you I am well pleased.”
The Temptation of Jesus
12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news[b] of God,[c] 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;[d] repent, and believe in the good news.”[e]
Beginning of a Journey
At the beginning of everything, there is a preparation or training period. I spent four years in the theological school to be a pastor. I train all year and practise my piano repertoires for at least several months to perform at the performing arts festival. To move to Sicamous, I had to pack and hire a moving truck. Before I work out, I need to stretch and prepare my body.
Jesus, the leader of the first century’s Jesus movement, also had to train and prepare for his public ministry. He probably had to train harder than any of us because his ministry was going to be extra hard and full of obstacles. As the first step, he got baptized and received God’s approval. Then he had to pray and fight the temptations in the wilderness for forty days. Facing the demon/the Tempter was useful when Jesus had to face all sorts of social evil during his ministry. Preparation and training are essential.
His first disciples had to be trained, for they would have to continue the ministry of God’s kingdom after Jesus left them. Then, we too, as God’s children and disciples of Jesus, must be spiritually trained. For the followers of Jesus all over the world and throughout history, the Season of Lent is a period of spiritual training and renewal. Before we can participate in the celebration of Easter, we must spiritually prepare ourselves.
Spiritual training starts with reflecting on our hearts and lives. We ask forgiveness for our wrongdoings and shortcomings that the Church calls sin. Repentance is about turning our lives around and resemble more and more the image of Christ. Saying sorry and receiving forgiveness is meaningless unless this process makes us to live better. This is why, traditionally, the Christian Church taught repentance, fasting, and works of charity (together) as a spiritual training regime. Change of heart must be followed by the change of life; we should use our changed hearts to love and serve more as Jesus taught us. Fasting is to help us focus better on our relationship with God because food takes up a lot of our thoughts and distracts us from spiritual matters. We do not have to abstain from food, but it is important to abstain from any source of obsession and distraction in our lives. We often hear people say, “What are you giving up for God this Lent?” Although abstaining from something is highly beneficial for our spiritual training, let us think more about what we are taking up than what we give up. Let us volunteer and/or give to charity to serve our communities and God’s people.
At the beginning of another Lenten journey, we find ourselves in a metaphorical wilderness due to the pandemic that has been going on for more than a year now. Due to the pandemic, the suffering of the world has become worse, with more of God’s people in need of God’s love and our service. In this wilderness of ours, let us start this journey by following the prayer that we read in today’s psalm: “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust… Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. 5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. 6 Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. 7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!” At the beginning of this journey, let us ask for God’s guidance in self-examination and reflection that we will experience a spiritual growth and live more like Jesus, whom we follow. Let us ask God to guide us to the directions where our prayers and services are needed in our community and in the world. Blessed be our journeys.
Jesus Christ, vulnerable and alone, in the desert, you faced the force of evil yet withstood temptation. Be with us in our struggles and temptations, that by your strength, we may resist the devil in whatever form it comes. Amen.
Blessing and Sending Forth
God, you are in the desert places as you are in the green and growing land. Help us to look for you when life is barren and our spirits ache. Help us to walk with you in the wilderness, and to be changed in spending time with you.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
And the love of God,
And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
Be with us in our Lenten journeys, now and forever. Amen.