February 13, 2005 – 1st Sunday in Lent
Revised Common Lectionary Readings
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
The Time of Trial
*Call to Worship
Enthroned in earthliness writ large,
held into our grappling for truth,
alone among the temptations of this world,
the Christ holds the faith in fragile arms.
Walker in the wilderness,
surrounded with our questions
and human in all life’s journeys,
The Christ creates the way before us.
Truly human, truly God,
trustworthy in life and death.
*Prayer of Invocation
Wonder of wonders!
God is to be found within our wildernesses,
deep in the center of our harshest places
and placing a caring hand under our questions.
Be known to us here, O God,
whether we are on firm ground
or treacherous sands of indecision.
Come, gracious Jesus, come. Amen.
*Prayer of Confession
as we listen to the story of your temptations,
we realize that we are hearing something like your confessions,
the struggles that lay within your earthly life.
Even though you unswervingly chose
for good and truth,
we know that you will believe us
when we share how hard it is to choose that way.
In the silence of our own wilderness,
we know how we are
and what challenges our life.
We confess that we are often most at risk
when we are feeling good about our lives,
satisfied that we are well-placed
to advise or help others.
Forgive us, O God,
if we are tempted to do good for our own profit.
We confess that we are tempted
to listen to voices,
that confirm us in ways
that lead us astray.
They often sound so convincing and attractive,
so Christian and virtuous,
so comfortable for us to follow.
Forgive us, O God.
Call us away from this temptation.
Help us to let go of grappling with our questions
because we do not want to hear the answers.
Forgive us, O God.
Sound your truth strongly into our hearts
in the voice of one who knows us well.
*Words of Assurance
There is no pathway in life
that is out of bounds for God.
For, in Christ, we are forever joined
with grace that comes from earthly experience.
We are forgiven.
Thanks be to God.
*Prayer of Thanksgiving
We thank you, O God,
from the bottom of our hearts,
that we are given the good news
of the vulnerability of Jesus.
We thank you that, in this,
Christ has made us a pathway
toward your understanding of all that we face.
We thank you for honest struggles
that arise out of the awe-inspiring freedom
that you give to us
and for your safe hands around us. Amen.
It is interesting to note that Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted. The Spirit does sometimes lead us into places apart to sit with our temptations, just as we are led up the mountain to stay with our God. To sit with our temptations and wrestle with them is to mature in the faith, face all sorts of difficult choices, and get our lives on track. It should be noted that in this wrestling for the truth, both Jesus and the devil quote the Bible – such is the complexity of the search for truth. It would have been easy for Jesus to give in to his temptations toward further popularity and power because they were couched in forms which made them seem as though he was actually doing good and bringing glory to God. Such is the subtlety of real temptation. It is often not about being tempted to do things that are clearly wrong but things that are ambiguous but hold within them God’s uneasiness.
Our offering will now be received.
Let us give to God with glad hearts.
It is a privilege to share your work, O God.
We bring these offerings as a sign
that we walk with you in faith. Amen.
*Prayer of Intercession
Visit us now in the center of the wilderness
of our life, O Christ.
Hold firm among our frail holding to truth,
stand tall when we would lower
our life’s aspirations,
speak boldly into our false assumptions,
and look us in the eye when we fool ourselves
for reasons of power and privilege,
pretending to be doing your will.
Make transparent the wiles
of those who would tempt us,
calling the people
in voices of sweetness and reason
while attempting to capture their very souls.
Strip away the pious coverings
of the false prophets among us,
speaking your word
as though it belongs to them,
while playing with the future of our lives
and inviting us down dangerous paths.
Remind us, O Christ, of your true way.
Go with us along the path of humility,
in the spreading of good, justice,
and compassion into the world,
in offering love
that is not founded on our own gain
and in finding peace
that is beyond describing.
This we pray in trembling faith. Amen.
The world is often found
by passing through the wilderness,
but go in courage
because Christ has walked that way before us.
May truth shine as a star in the night sky,
righteousness shout its freedom
into the center of confusions,
and God be in our beginning,
our center, and our endings. Amen.