God of revelation,
unveil your Kingdom in our midst.
Show us who we truly are in you:
expose the illusions that distort our vision,
deliver us from temptations that contort our living, open our eyes in this time of trial –
that resistance may be the secret of our joy
and our joy a sign of your shalom.
Christian Aid, Prayer for the start of the Lent Season,
StF 236 – Forty days and forty nights
Forty days and forty nights
you were fasting in the wild;
Forty days and forty nights
tempted and yet undefiled.
Burning heat throughout the day,
bitter cold when light had fled;
prowling beasts around your way,
stones your pillow, earth your bed.
Shall not we your trials share,
learn your discipline of will;
and with you by fast and prayer
wrestle with the powers of hell?
So if Satan, pressing hard,
soul and body would destroy:
Christ who conquered, be our guard;
give to us the victor’s joy.
Saviour, may we hear your voice
keep us constant at your side;
and with you we shall rejoice
at the eternal Eastertide.
Jubilate Hymns version of Forty days and forty nights George H Smyttan (1822 – 1870) © Jubilate Hymns Ltd.
Matthew 4: 1-11
The Temptation of Jesus
4Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ 4But he answered, ‘It is written,
“One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you”,
and “On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’
7Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; 9and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ 10Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.” ’
11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Time to Reflect
In the Gospel reading for the first Sunday in Lent, following his baptism, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. The temptations that Jesus faces include breaking his fast, through an act of self-sufficiency rather than relying on God’s provision; testing God through an arbitrary self-serving act of recklessness and exhibitionism that involves jumping off the temple; and finally, worshipping Satan and being granted self-centred earthly power and control.
Jesus temptations are therefore a choice between being self-centred and self-serving with being God-centred and God-serving. On each occasion, Jesus responds by rejecting Satan’s temptations and affirms his obedience to God and the Divine Kingdom. The third temptation, in particular, seeks to draw Jesus’s allegiances away from the Kingdom of God to become a worldly ruler. The major power of Jesus’ time, Rome, ruled through military oppression, slavery, and through idolatry that justified its control. It also used vassals, such as King Herod, to reinforce its rule. Jesus rejects this worldly model in favour of God’s Kingdom of liberative love and life giving freedom in the power of the Spirit. In so doing he observes God’s sovereignty and good purposes for the world.
Jesus experience in wilderness in some ways mirrors the experience of the ancient Jewish people when they left the land of Egypt, and wandered in the desert wilderness, before reaching the Promised Land. During this time the Jewish people are tested while they receive and follow their laws and ordinances from God and develop their identity as God’s people. By passing his tests in the wilderness Jesus demonstrates his identity as the beloved and only Son of God, who has come to liberate humanity from sin, and as the one who is dedicated not to and self-sufficiency and self-centredness but rather loving self-giving and self-sacrifice.
As we enter this season of Lent it may feel like we are wandering in a place of wilderness, particularly when it comes to our faith lives and our life together as a church. We may see a landscape that is dry and challenging and with many risks to our faith.
This is why we, like Jesus, must also hold to the promises of God and continue to live faithfully and in obedience to his commandments, particularly his command to love and to avoid selfish ways of being.
When times are difficult it is tempting for us to pursue goals that are self-serving in which we seek to dominate and control others. Yet the wilderness experience of Jesus reminds us that we are to wait on God, who is the source of all our provision and offers us the good governance that comes through the rule of love. The wilderness is a time for us to re-discover who we are in relation to God, to avoid temptation, to repent from evil, and to affirm our identity in Christ as we walk with him in the way of liberative and transforming love that takes us to the cross and the resurrection.
I hope and pray that during this season of Lent that we might be guided by God’s Spirit, committing ourselves to God’s Kingdom and to following Jesus. And in doing this we might be finding our identity in Christ, our hope, our liberator, and the saviour of the world.
Prayer of Intercession
You are invited to pray silently for:
The needs of the world…
The Church and its calling…
Loved ones going through difficult times…
For peace, justice, and reconciliation…
In Jesus name.
The Lord's Prayer
Please use the version that you prefer
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.
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
As we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
And deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours
Now and for ever.
STF 351 – In Christ Alone
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone! – Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand:
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
Stuart Townend & Keith Getty
Copyright © 2001 Thankyou Music.
The Israelite prophet Micah said:
“What does the Lord require of you? Only to act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).
God of mercy and source of justice,
pour on your people such love and compassion that we cannot remain silent,
we cannot tolerate injustice and poverty. As your grace fills our hearts so may we be stirred into action to demonstrate your love for all the world and for all creatures that live and move on this earth. In Jesus name.
Adapted from ‘call to action’, prayers for Lent & Easter. ‘https://www.methodist.org.uk/our-faith/worship/lent-and-easter/prayers-for-lent-and-easter/