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Sermon and Liturgy (2) for Lent One - Year C
Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91; Romans 10:8(b)-13; Luke 4:1-13
"Pushing Against The Rock"

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 c-le01sn.y-c 770000 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 ( "Sermon and Prayers and Worship Stuff" as posted to the PRCL List, 1998. Some sermon thoughts are from Theodore W. Schroederand Ken Waddell (, "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 identified)... 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 - Announcements - Birthdays and Anniversaries - Sharing Joys and Concerns ANTHEM 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 me. 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 household. 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 him only.'" 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 opportune time. 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 rest?" 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 ourselves. 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 miracle? 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 feel 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 yourself out?" "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 day. 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 in vain. 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 a failure. 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 enough." 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 so? 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 WISDOM. 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 Dedication 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 adversity - and may his grace and his healing power be evident through your life and ministry 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.

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