40 Days

First Sunday In Lent | March 1, 2020

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 • Psalm 32 • Romans 5:12-19 • Matthew 4:1-11

Matthew 4:1-11 New Living Translation (NLT)

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.

During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say,

‘People do not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,

‘He will order his angels to protect you.
And they will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”

Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”

10 “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say,

‘You must worship the Lord your God
    and serve only him.’”

11 Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.


On Wednesday evening, we kicked-off the season of Lent. It is a 40 day season of preparation – a season of prayer, fasting, and giving – a season of renewal. Now, if you count the days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, you will find that there are 46 days. But, we don’t count Sundays, because those are feast days during this season of fasting.

We had a moving Ash Wednesday Service. As the minister, it was I who placed the ashes on each person who attended. We had some from our church and some from another local church. It is a service that reminds us that we need to be faithful to the Good News about Jesus. This season reminds us that we can make a mid-course correction. Since it comes around yearly, it allows us to examine ourselves and make sure that we are the Christ-followers that Jesus has called us to be.

As I’ve said, Lent is a 40 day season of preparation. The number 40 is significant in the Bible. 40 days and 40 nights of the flood. 40 years of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. 40 days elapsed between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.

The number 40 signifies a period of waiting – a long period of waiting. We often hear of holding on a moment – or being placed on hold for a moment. These are short moments of waiting and if we are in a hurry they can be trying. But what about waiting 40 seconds, 40 minutes, 40 hours, 40 days, 40 weeks, 40 years…it is a significant period of waiting.

I find it very interesting that at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry – just after He has been baptized, Jesus enters a period of significant waiting and testing. After Jesus is baptized, He is led into the wilderness, by the very same Spirit who fell from heaven during his baptism. For forty days and nights, Jesus fasted and prayed. It was significant. Imagine if you had fasted all food for that amount of time?

It is when we are needy – that we often yield to temptation. At the end of 40 days, Jesus is needy – Jesus is hungry – remember Jesus was human as we are. He experienced the same testings – the same trials – the same aches and pains that we did while on this earth. I’m sure Jesus was famished. It is in these weak times that the devil often does his most diabolical work.

In the Old Testament reading, we have the account of Adam and Eve and their temptation in the Garden of Eden. They had everything they could have wanted. God gives them one command not to eat of one tree – in the abundance of the garden.

The devil – in the form of the serpent – knows the human’s weaknesses. He knows our weakness and he will prey on those weaknesses every time. He plays the “God doesn’t have your best interests at heart” card. He tells Adam and Eve that God is holding back on them – that they don’t have all the knowledge that they need.

The devil likes to tempt us. He tempted Jesus who was human in every way. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is our great high priest because he experienced humanness in all of its form and still remained sinless.

The devil tempts Jesus with the same thing that he tempts us with today. There are three things and I’m not usually much on alliteration, but they all begin with P:

  • Provision – Jesus was tempted with food as if God wasn’t taken proper care of Jesus. The devil tempts us the same way.
  • Protection – The devil tempted Jesus with the idea that God wouldn’t protect him.
  • Position – The American dream is looking out #1.

Jesus was able to refute the devil, because, as the Word of God come in the flesh – he knew what the Word of God was. Even when the devil twisted God’s holy writings, Jesus was able to defend himself from the fiery darts of the devil.

In some ways, these 40 days can seem like a wilderness experience – when we will be tested and tried. The devil will use every available tool, especially the desires lurking in our hearts.

James writes:

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

James 1:14-15

The devil will use these tricks – especially as we are fasting during this 40 days of preparation – to trip us up. Remember the key is to persevere – to remember that God does have your best interests at heart.

God desires that we love Him with our heart, mind, soul, and strength. In order to do that, we need to strip away all those things that can distract us from being a completely devoted, cross-bearing, Christ-following, child of God. My prayer is during this Lenten season – this 40 days of preparation – 40 days of a wilderness experience that you would prepare your heart, much like those who were being ready to be baptized into the church on Easter Sunday – to be reconciled to God – renewed in your heart – ready to serve Jesus with everything you have.

Ash Wednesday 2020

Prelude

Here is our service outline from tonight’s Ash Wednesday Service. We had 20 people from both McCrae Brook and Duke Center UMC. I appreciate our brothers and sisters coming and participating. It was a powerful service.

Welcome

Video | Lent In Three Minutes

Opening Prayer

Leader:      Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all

People:      And also with you.

Leader:      Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who repent. You are the source of all grace and mercy. Create in us new and contrite hearts, that we who come to you in penitence lamenting our failures and our sins, may receive from you forgiveness, reconciliation, and transformation through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Songs of Worship                                                           The Wonderful Cross

                                                                       How Deep the Father’s Love For Us

Scripture of the Day

Old Testament:    Isaiah 58:1-12

Epistle:                 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Leader:      Please stand for the reading of the Gospel.

Gospel:                  Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Leader:      This is the word of the Lord to you.

People:      Thanks be to God.

Homily

Invitation to the Observance of Lent

Today we begin a spiritual journey that will span forty days, from Ash Wednesday until Holy Saturday before Resurrection Sunday. In the early days of the Church, the season of Lent was a time of preparation for new converts as they readied their hearts to enter into Christian Baptism on Easter Sunday. Since these new members were to be received into a living community of Faith, the entire community was called to preparation. Also, this was the time when those who had been separated from the Church because of explicit sin would prepare to rejoin the community of Faith.

Today, the season of Lent is a time of prayer, fasting, self-examination, and penitence for all Christians as we prepare to celebrate Easter. Through this forty-day journey, we are reminded that we are totally unworthy before God, that we have nothing with which we can obtain salvation, and that our best efforts at being righteous fall far short. This season reminds us how much we need grace in our lives in order to live a transformed life that reflects God’s love. We are called to renew our commitments and our faith as we continually acknowledge our need of God’s transforming presence with us.

I invite you to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. To make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now invite God to examine our hearts as we wait silently before him.

Song                                                                                                                    Come Ye Sinners

Imposition of Ashes

[Note: the Confession and Litany of Penitence can be used before the Imposition of Ashes]

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

People of God, come now in the spirit of penitence, and receive on your head in ashes the sign of the cross, the symbol of our mortality, a symbol of the cost of sin, and yet the sign of our salvation and promise of eternal life.

Action: The minister places ashes on the forehead of worshippers in the shape of a cross; this can be done in silence or with the following words.  If two ministers are imposing ashes, they can alternate the following phrases, without speaking at the same time.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.

Action: After imposition of ashes, worshippers kneel at the front. If there is no prayer altar or kneeling rail, they may return to their seats for meditation.

Confession – Psalm 51

Litany of Penitence

All:             Most holy and merciful God: We confess to you and to one another, and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth, that we lack any righteousness of our own, that we kneel before you unworthy of your love. We have often failed to be your people, by our own fault, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

Leader:      We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.

People:      Have mercy on us, Lord.

Leader:      Too often, we have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit.

People:      Have mercy on us, Lord.

Leader:      We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: our pride, our hypocrisy, and the impatience of our lives,

People:      We confess to you, Lord.

Leader:      Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,

People:      We confess to you, Lord.

Leader:      Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,

People:      We confess to you, Lord.

Leader:      Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work,

People:      We confess to you, Lord.

Leader:      Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to bear witness to others the faith that is in us,

People:      We confess to you, Lord.

Leader:      Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,

People:      Accept our repentance, Lord.

Leader:      For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,

People:      Accept our repentance, Lord.

Leader:      For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us,

People:      Accept our repentance, Lord.

Leader:      Restore us, O Lord, and let your anger depart from us;

People:      Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Leader:      Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,

People:      That we may show forth your glory in the world.

Leader:      By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,

People:      Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

Leader:      The Lord is patient with us, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God so loved this world and this people that God sent Christ to reconcile the world to himself. The Good News for you this day is that God pardons those who truly repent and transforms those who trust in God for salvation with sincere hearts.  In the name of Jesus who is the Christ I proclaim the forgiveness of sins to all who have drawn near to God in sincere confession. Know that you are reconciled, accepted, and loved.

O God, we implore you to so fill us with your Holy Spirit, that those things we do on this day may please you, and that the rest of our life may be pure and holy, lived in the service of others, and that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Comfortable Words

Hear the Word of God to all who truly turn to him.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. – 1 Timothy 1:15

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. – 1 John 2:1-2

The Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried;

he descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again;

he ascended into heaven,

is seated at the right hand of the Father,

and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy universal church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting. Amen.

Song                                                                                                                      Lord, I Need You

Passing the Peace

Leader:      Since we are reconciled to God and accepted into His household, we have His peace as brothers and sisters in Christ. Offer the Peace of Christ to one another as brothers and sisters. May the peace of Christ be with you always.

People:       And also with you.

Eucharist

The Collect

Almighty God, to who all hearts are opened, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You, and worthily magnify Your holy name, through Christ our Lord. Amen

Invitation

You who are walking in fellowship with God, and are in love and harmony with your neighbors; and you who do truly and earnestly repent of your sin and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from this time in His holy ways, draw near with faith, and take this holy sacrament to your comfort; and meekly make your humble confession to Almighty God.

The Great Thanksgiving

Leader:      The Lord be with you.

People:      And also with you.

Leader:      Lift up your hearts.

People:      We lift them up to the Lord.

Leader:      Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

People:      It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Leader:      It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. We give you thanks because you have loved us and valued us even though we are but dust. You have forgiven our sins, transformed us into your people, and filled us with your Holy Spirit so that we may triumph over evil and grow in grace, enabling us to live faithfully as your redeemed and holy people. And so, with your people on earth and all the company of heaven we praise your name and join their unending hymn:

All:             Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Leader:      Holy are you, and blessed is your Son Jesus Christ. Your Spirit anointed him to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to announce that the time had come when you would save your people. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and ate with sinners.

By the baptism of his suffering, death, and resurrection you gave birth to your church, delivered us from slavery to sin and death, and made with us a new covenant by water and the spirit. When the Lord Jesus ascended, he promised to be with us always, in the power of your Word and Holy Spirit.

Action: Minister takes the bread and lifts it up, breaking it while saying:

On the night in which he gave himself up for us, he took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: “Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Action: Minister takes the cup of wine and hold it up while saying:

When the supper was over, he took the cup, gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples, and said: “Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us, as we proclaim the mystery of faith.

People:      Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

Leader:      Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine. Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood. By your Spirit makes us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet.

Through your Son Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in your holy church, all honor and glory is yours, almighty Father now and forever.

All:             Amen.

Closing Eucharistic Prayer:

All:             Lord Jesus Christ, you loved us while we were yet sinners, and have called us to love others, to bring hope to a broken world. Help us each day to be your people and to live lives of uncommon faith and love. You are the Lord forevermore. Amen.

Song                                                                                                  At the Cross (Love Ran Red)

Lord’s Prayer

Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Scattering to Minister/Benediction

Song

Leader:      Go in peace, remembering that you are but dust and ashes and unworthy of being called the people of God. But also remember that you who were no people God by His love and grace has made a people, children of his own household. Let us go forth in humility to be Christ to the world.

People:      Thanks be to God!

Prayer for Ash Wednesday

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission
and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Ash Wednesday

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12 • Psalm 51:1-17 • 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10 • Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Matthew 6:1-6 New Living Translation (NLT)

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Matthew 6:16-21 New Living Translation (NLT)

16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.


Today is Ash Wednesday. It marks the beginning of 40 days of prayer and fasting. Our gospel reading today reminds us of the importance of prayer and fasting. It’s a reading that reminds us of the humility that is needed in being a Christ-follower. It’s hard not to want to blow our own horn. Jesus reminds us in the first part of today’s reading that humility is needed when giving to others. We don’t need to broadcast it all over the place. Interestingly enough, in chapter 5 which is also part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world and in the same way that a lamp shines out its light, we are to let our good deeds shine out for all to see…Wait…that almost sounds like a contradiction of sorts. First, Jesus tells us let our good deeds shine…then he says, “Do your good deeds in private.” What’s going on here?

Part of our answer can be found in verse 21 of Matthew 6: “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” What should be the purpose of doing good deeds? So that everybody knows what a great Christian I am? Of course not! We do our good deeds to glorify our heavenly Father…We do our good deeds so that everyone will praise God. There are far too many Christ-followers who do good so they can put the attention on themselves. That is what Jesus is warning us against. We don’t need to get the glory. If we get the glory here on Earth…that will be the only reward we will receive. Again, it’s all about our humility…it’s all about our heart.

What is your heart’s attitude toward God today? Is it about making yourself known – or is it about making God known.

Paul said: For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.

1 Corinthians 2:2

The heart cry of Paul, should be the heart cry of all of us as we enter this season of Lent – a time when we remember the price that Jesus paid for us.

Katherine Johnson died yesterday and was crucial to the NASA’s Apollo missions – making crucial calculations and enduring racism and sexism in the process.