February 26, 2023
First Sunday in Lent
10:00 am



Holy One, whom alone we worship and serve, your Word and Spirit sustain us in the wilderness. Keep us faithful in times of struggle and testing so that we may enter into your glorious realm with Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen. 

PRELUDE                   “Lamb of God Most Holy”               Larry Davis


For forty days and forty nights
our Savior fasted in the wilderness.
Tempted to turn from God, tempted to turn to power and privilege
our Savior resisted.
Let us follow Jesus through the wilderness this Lent, examining our temptations, resisting them and returning to God.
Let us worship God. 

*HYMN No.  166 “Lord, Who throughout These Forty Days”

1 Lord, who throughout these forty days 
for us did fast and pray,
teach us with you to mourn our sins
and close by you to stay.

2 As you with Satan did contend
and did the victory win,
O give us strength to persevere,
in you to conquer sin.

3 And through these days of penitence,
and through this Passiontide,
yes, evermore, in life and death,
O Lord, with us abide.

4 Abide with us, till when this life
of suffering shall be past,
an Easter of unending joy
we may attain at last. 


We pause here to examine our lives, our temptations, and the ways we have fallen short before our God. Let us confess our sins together.


Gracious God, as we wander through this wilderness with Jesus, examining all the worldly comforts we turn to during times of stress and struggle, we confess the neglect of our faith. We confess all that we place above you, making idols of money, earthly power, and even food. Empty us this Lent, Holy God. Guide us in our spiritual practices so we can leave this wilderness season more aware of your presence and the ways our faith can sustain us. Amen.  

Response No. 471 “O Lord, Hear My Prayer”

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.


Remember and receive these hopeful words from John 8:32, “If you continue in my word, you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Receive God’s truth. Receive God’s grace. Accept the freedom God provides. Amen.

*RESPONSE No. 288 “Spirit of the Living God”

Spirit of the living God,
fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the living God,
fall afresh on me.
Melt me; mold me;
fill me; use me.
Spirit of the living God,
fall afresh on me.


ANTHEM                   “Pie Jesu”                    Nina Lopes, soprano            John Rutter



God of grace, help us seek you and the message you intend for us to- day. Let us not be distracted by worldly pursuits or pleasures. Help us to focus our hearts and minds on you and your Word read and proclaimed today. Amen.  


4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But 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, 6 saying 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.’ ”
7 Jesus 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 glory, 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
    and serve only him.’ ”
11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.                                                           

RESPONSE No. 544 “Bless the Lord” x3

Bless the Lord, my soul,
and bless God’s holy name.
Bless the Lord, my soul,
who leads me into life.

SERMON “RESIST: Jesus’ Temptation”

When I read this passage, I want to say to Jesus. RESIST. You can do this. Just resist. The wilderness is a difficult place. A place that is isolating. A place that is dry. A place that is far beyond our cities and towns. It’s a place we avoid. But we cannot avoid it can we? We all have entered the wilderness—in health problems, the loss of a loved one, divorce, lost jobs. In the wilderness we feel doubt and fear. The Bible is full of these wilderness places. The Israelites wander in the wilderness 40 years before they reach the promised land. Noah, his family, and the animals surf the wilderness of the flood for forty days. Jonah sits in the belly of the whale, a quite uncomfortable smelly wilderness spot for forty days before being spit back up. Most of us, would do anything to avoid the wilderness. But when we cannot avoid it, and when we are in it, we are often tempted. Tempted to find easy answers; tempted to find a way out. And so, we must try to resist.

After 40 days of fasting, Jesus is famished. He is weak. And so, the tester comes—This tempter isn’t dressed up in a devil costume. He is not wearing all black. This tempter instead “personifies all that obstructs and resists what God intends” (Long). We know this about our world: there are forces that are beyond our control, that distort our actions, that are much larger than our personal choices, that are lodged in our economic, political, and social systems. We have no choice but to try to resist such evil. Yet this force clouds our vision. Jesus encounters these forces, this tempter. Jesus does something that we usually cannot—he resists. We know that Jesus is the Son of God. We know the end of the story before it even begins. But if we are to understand this story for what it is, we are going to have to go back, to another wilderness time, that lasted not just forty days but forty years. A story where over and over, people gave into fear.

Jesus’ three temptations follow Israel’s temptations in the wilderness—they are even in the same order. Where Israel fails, where we fail, Jesus RESISTS. First, Jesus is tempted by hunger. The devil says, “turn these stones into bread!” Turning stones into bread doesn’t seem that bad does it? Jesus has all this power, why not feed himself when he is hungry? Materialism is often an answer we turn to.

The Israelites are also tempted by bread—by the lack of it in the wilderness. They get scared. They doubt that God is going to provide for them. The Israelites begin to say, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt…; for you have brought us out into the wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Exodus 16:3). The Israelites looked around them and didn’t see food. It is tempting while we are in the wilderness to think God has put us there to kill us, to harm us. It’s tempting to want to go back into bondage rather than trust in God. It’s hard to trust, to resist doubt. The Israelites let their temptation win—they are ready ditch God, to go back to Egypt. God is faithful despite their unfaithfulness. God provides bread. Manna. You could only collect enough manna for each day. If you collected too much, it went bad. It’s daily bread. God turns their demands into a way for the Israelites to learn how to trust.

But Jesus, Jesus knows that his purpose is not just to make stones into bread to feed himself. His purpose isn’t that small, isn’t that limited. God’s plan for our lives isn’t just to take care of numero uno—ourselves. Jesus is called to trust God and to love his neighbor. Jesus knows that he could make stones turn into bread—and so could God. God makes bread reign down from heaven! Jesus’ purpose isn’t just to meet the most urgent need now—his own hunger. His purpose is to give his life up for the sake of many, to heal, to love, to be God with us. His purpose isn’t just to perform a magic trick—turn stones into bread. Sometimes, I wonder why he didn’t give in—this would be a great magic trick! There are hungry people all around—he could have fed all of them. Jesus comes down to teach us to share our bread, not to make stones into bread, so we can hoard more. The point of life isn’t bread alone but loving and following God. So, Jesus RESISTS.

Next, the devil takes Jesus to Jerusalem, to the seat of power, where Herod rules, and Jesus will be crucified. He places Jesus on the top of the temple and tempts him to throw himself down because God will bear him up. Jesus could have safety, security, and prestige if he just let go. Jesus resists. Jesus quotes, Moses from Exodus 17, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” The Israelites test God just a chapter after manna comes down in the wilderness. They want water. They want security. Moses asks, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But they still complain, they accuse Moses and God of taking them out into the wilderness to die. They test God, and still God is faithful. Moses strikes a rock and water comes rolling out.

In both situations, Jesus and the Israelites are vulnerable. Of course, they both want security and safety. Jesus is on the top of temple. The Israelites are scared they are going to die of dehydration. Both fears are real. How we deal with our fears matters. The Israelites try to take control through complaining and coercion. Often, we try to put ourselves in God’s position. We think we know God’s promises and how, when, and where God will fulfill them. Jesus’ temptation is use Scripture to ensure safety and security—the devil quotes Scripture to Jesus—God will take care of you the devil says. Just jump down from here.

Finally, the devil takes Jesus to a high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world—even our rulers and empires can be used as the tester’s tools. Jesus can have them the devil says, if he falls downs and worships him. Jesus can have control. He can have wealth, power, influence. His journey could be over—and he wouldn’t have to go through death on a cross. He only has to worship the devil instead of God. The Israelites also are tempted to worship a false idol. Moses leaves them alone for 40 days and 40 nights. He goes up Mount Sinai to be with God. But he is gone, and they do not know when he will come back. They want control. They want order. They don’t want to wait. There are so many distractions. So, while Moses is on top of a mountain, they build themselves a golden cow to worship. They have a festival. They eat, drink, and revel. The Israelites cave, but Jesus resists.

The Israelites temptations, Jesus’ temptations are our temptations. Jesus resists these temptations, but we rarely do. We are often tempted by myths of scarcity that there is not enough, and so we store, store, store. We do not trust that God will provide, and so we take matters into our own hands. We are tempted to turn stones into bread for ourselves or to have Midas’s touch where everything turns to gold. We are tempted by spectacles, by security and safety. We will do almost anything not to feel vulnerable. We test God. We are tempted to take power by any means necessary, even when it means we worship false gods and lose ourselves and our faith in the process. Our temptation is not just to do the wrong things but to be someone we aren’t called to be. We are tempted to deny and reject who we are. For we are God’s children.

This story is not bad news. It is good news, for our Messiah, our King resists. Jesus knows who he is and what he is called to do. Jesus shows the path of resistance, a path that is rarely taken. Jesus shows us there is enough daily bread for all if we just share. He shows us that the purpose of life isn’t to turn stones into bread but to follow God. Jesus shows us a path of reliance and trust of God, a path that does not offer celebrity or prestige, worldly power or security. It is the path to the cross. A path that leads to suffering, death, and resurrection. Already, on this journey into the wilderness we are being pointed to the cross, and we are being called to shed all that prevents us from going there. Christ reminds us to RESIST. We are God’s children. Trust in that good news, that calling.

Liturgy and Commentary provided by Helmut Thielicke, Teri McDowell Ott, the Presbyterian Church Book of Confessions, Anna Fulmer, Scott Hoezee and Leonard VanderZee.

*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH from “A Statement of Faith: Jesus Died For Sinners”

We believe that in the death of Jesus on the cross God achieved and demonstrated once for all the costly forgiveness of our sins. Jesus Christ is the Reconciler between God and the world. He acted on behalf of sinners as one of us, fulfilling the obedience God demands of us, accepting God’s condemnation of our sinfulness. In his lonely agony on the cross Jesus felt forsaken by God and thus experienced hell itself for us. Yet the Son was never more in accord with the Father’s will. He was acting on behalf of God, manifesting the Father’s love that takes on itself the loneliness, pain, and death that result from our waywardness. In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not holding our sins against us. Each of us beholds on the cross the Savior who died in our place, so that we may no longer live for ourselves, but for him. In him is our only hope of salvation.  

*HYMN No. 175 “See Ye First”

1 Seek ye first the kingdom of God
and its righteousness,
and all these things shall be added unto you.
Allelu, alleluia!

2 Ask, and it shall be given unto you;
seek, and you shall find;
knock, and the door shall be opened unto you.
Allelu, alleluia!

3 You shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word
that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Allelu, alleluia!  


Every day is a day to be renewed…to become the people God created us to be.
May we learn to recognize our true selves as we reflect on God’s hope and intention for creation.
God calls us to proclaim the gospel for the salvation of all humanity.
May we seek to be the presence of Christ in the world without creating clubs that push people away.
God calls us to shelter, nurture, and cultivate spiritual communion among all God’s children.
May we be a safe place for everyone to question, to know, to struggle, and to grow
God calls us to worship in spirit and in truth.
May we abandon entertainment for profound awareness; may we share our gifts and creativity in our expression; and may the table at which we gather always have room.
God calls us to uphold the truth.
May we faithfully struggle to understand truth, so that instead of being chained and imprisoned to it, we may be joyfully and completely set free by it.
God calls us to be advocates for social justice.
May everything that seeks to undermine God’s love make us uncomfortable and passionately counteractive.
God calls us to be a visible manifestation of God’s vision of, and hope for, all creation.
May we live as if we truly believe that; shining light in darkness…sprinkling salt on blandness… and celebrating the joy of life that we all share together. Let it be so! AMEN.



God calls us to lives of grateful generosity. Let us praise the Giver of all good gifts through our offering today.


*RESPONSE N0. 605 “Praise to God the Father”

Praise to God the Father;
praise to God the Son;
praise to God the Spirit:
praise to the Three-in-One.
Sing praise, sing praise to the Lord on high.
Praise to God Almighty;
praise to the Holy One.

Da n’ase! Da n’ase! Da Onyame ase!
Da n’ase! Da n’ase! Da Onyame ase!
Efiase oye n’a n’adoe doe so.
Da n’ase! Da n’ase! Da Onyame ase! 


God of grace, you provide for us in amazing ways. Accept these offerings as signs of our gratitude and bless them to further Christ’s ministry and mission among the poor, the despairing and the destitute. Amen.  

*HYMN No. 163 “Wild and Lone the Prophet’s Voice”

1 Wild and lone the prophet’s voice
echoes through the desert still,
calling us to make a choice,
bidding us to do God’s will:
“Turn from sin and be baptized;
cleanse your heart and mind and soul.
Quitting all the sins you prized,
yield your life to God’s control.

2 “Bear the fruit repentance sows:
lives of justice, truth and love.
Trust no other claim than those;
set your heart on things above.
Soon the Lord will come in power,
burning clean the threshing floor:
then will flames the chaff devour;
wheat alone shall fill God’s store.”

3 With such preaching, stark and bold,
John proclaimed salvation near,
and his timeless warnings hold
words of hope to all who hear.
So we dare to journey on,
led by faith through ways untrod,
till we come at last like John
to behold the Lamb of God. 


Beloved people of God;
I invite you, 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 meditating on Gods’ word.

May the grace, hope, peace and love of God our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer be with us all, now and forever. Amen.