Welcome (Psalm 32: 1,2)
Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Bind us together
Call to Worship
Christ came. He came to bring God’s love for us. His way of redemption for us led him through pain and suffering beyond imagining. As we follow him by remembering his ministry, passion, death and resurrection, we humbly come before our God in praise. Let us worship God for sending us the Son. Let us raise our voices and give praise for our God who strengthens us to follow the Son by denying ourselves, taking up our crosses.
Come thou almighty king
You are our God in life, in death, and in life beyond death. We come this day as we show and express our love for you through praise and presence. We bow before you as our creator, redeemer and Lord.
We were not a people until you called us as your people in Christ Jesus your Son our Lord. Only through your Son we find our purpose and being. Receive this worship as we offer all that we are. Be gracious in your mercy. Be glorified through all that we do in this worship.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 4:1-11
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written,
“One does 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 and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 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.” ’
Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.” ’
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Sermon: Being tempted while living in the world
About a month ago the Toronto Star reported that some Canadians do not feel bad for stealing food from supermarkets. In an interview, a man in his thirties said that he feels no guilt or remorse for taking food without paying from supermarkets because he works two jobs and cannot pay for food after paying rent and other expenses while supermarkets’ profits are soaring. According to him, he knows what will happen to him if he gets caught, but he has no choice. He represents the difficulty of many people who do not make enough to make ends meet in our world.
Hunger, especially prolonged hunger, and the threat of hunger change not only our bodies, but also our minds and behaviours. When we have not eaten for days our bodies and minds do strange things. We cannot focus on various tasks we normally do. Our whole being is focused on survival. In this severe situation, often what we take for granted disappears. Generosity and graciousness are first to disappear, followed by kindness and gentleness. Humanity disappears as we become more like hungry wolves or bears in search of food. We treat one another with suspicion and see them as rivals for the last crumb.
Those who survived concentration camps of WWII described in many literature how severe hunger set prisoners of war against each other as each one tried to survive. The fight to live meant to fight over a last piece of mould-full bread one was clutching onto with dear life. These scenes are gruesome and unimaginable for most of us. Those of us who have never experienced such scarcity of food cannot understand what it is like to fight over a tiny piece of mould covered bread. Hunger changes people. Hunger drives people to do things that are not human. Hunger makes us inhuman and turns us to do things that were once impossible.
Imagine, then, how Jesus the very human being just like everyone of us felt like and was like after forty days and forty nights without food. The body craves food. The mind is overdriven with thoughts of survival–finding food to continue life. Driven with this kind of extreme hunger people’s first and last thoughts are food and ways of obtaining food. The one who was testing Jesus knew this. For all living things including human beings, this instinct to preserve life is what causes the survival of its species. This primaeval urge forces human beings, too, to look after one’s physical needs before all others.
The tempter, therefore, went for the jugular. Jesus’ first and foremost physical need after fasting forty days and forty nights was to find something to eat. This temptation is all about focusing on the most essential need of a human being. From psychological and sociological studies we know how brain functions and people’s behaviours change when they have been without food for a long period of time. The tempter was counting on Jesus to focus on his physical and emotional needs of self-preservation. “Turn these stones into loaves bread” is more than a statement to meet the needs of the body. It is a coercion to ignore the fact that what makes human beings human is the realisation that our lives belong to God rather than to us.
Let me explain this last thought: what makes human beings human is the realisation that our lives belong to God rather than to us. As Christians, we confess that God is our creator. It means our lives belong to God. It is God who sustains us. In God we flourish as God intended or purposed us to be. Life in our understanding, therefore, is God’s to give and take away. Apart from God, our lives lose all its meaning and purpose. Our lives belong to God. In this sense, simply satisfying the physical needs of our bodies above all in order to preserve life is to forget that God is the very source of life. In that life God gives life requires not only food, but also God’s word.
Yes, by the way tempter spoke to Jesus, it was clear that Jesus was being asked to put his personal physical and emotional needs before everything else. By appealing to Jesus’ most basic essential needs, the tempter is putting Jesus’ whole attention on himself away from God. It is even more sinister when we realise that this coaxing comes right after Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights. Any human being who accomplishes the goal of fasting for such a length of time would feel proud for having fulfilled something for God. Breaking fast in this case would have been a normal activity. However, becoming god-like by turning stones into loaves of bread is to encourage Jesus to become more like God.
Here we pause to remember the very first temptation in the Bible. Eve was encouraged to become more like God. Here Jesus is seduced in a similar way. Jesus could become self-sufficient in everything. He would be independent, requiring little or no God in all that he would face. Jesus saw through the intention of this temptation. With what he was capable of doing, certainly, he would live sufficiently. With the god-like power to turn things into whatever he would desire, there would be no need for God. This is why Jesus responded the way he did. There is no mystery. The answer was simple and to the point.
The challenge was a subtle persuasion to lean toward an either/or life where life would be lived according to either God’s will or individual’s will. The evil genius of this way of thinking about life is that we can honour God sometimes and honour ourselves other times. Relying on God would be partial and as needed, but when we could do things for ourselves, we do not need to rely on God. Each situation would provide us a choice and test the limits of our own abilities as human beings. In this way, human beings could become more self-reliant and less dependent on God just like God was self-reliant and was not dependent on anyone.
“(A person) does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus’ answer rejects this either/or proposition–God/human being. Jesus responded by insisting on keeping God’s and human wills together. Life is fully realised in the both/and context. It is not about living with God some of the time and without God some other of the time. Life for Jesus as fully human is not relying on God when human abilities fail, but always in all circumstances. Bread alone is not the answer, nor God’s word alone. Both bread and God’s word are essential for the flourishing of human life. Being God’s Son in the world as part of Jewish family is who Jesus was. In that life Jesus lived as a human being relying both on his own abilities as well as on God all the time.
For Jesus, God’s will is being lived out through human life. Bread is crucial for life, but so is God’s word. Both of them together constitute life for him. One without the other or having one at a time distorts what life called by God should be. The moment either bread or God’s word is neglected, our lives are less than full. This less than full life was what the tempter was trying to lure Jesus into. Fullness of life, found only when both bread and God’s word are present, can only be destroyed when a person chooses to meet personal needs instead of God’s word. Both bread and God’s word co-existed for Jesus who walked with God.
In the same way Jesus was tempted, our world tempts us to put our needs before God’s word. We are shown, taught, explained and made to understand why it is necessary for us to turn stones into loaves of bread. By commoditizing stones by drawing out all kinds of chemical compounds, today’s industry can turn stones into bread by making things that are used by people, metaphorically speaking. Without the word God, however, all these industries enrich some people while leaving behind many people without bread. In choosing to turn stones into bread, our world has turned away from God’s word.
Our world now enjoys the advances in science and technology. Though we are able to send people into space and bring them back safely, though we can extend lives of people to ages unheard of before, and though we can travel all over the world in days, without God’s word our abilities to turn stones into bread have created the world that is not for all, but for a few. Wherever people choose to turn stones into bread and turn away from every word that proceeds from the mouth of God the world no longer knows what they are missing. The temptation has corrupted the world.
For those of us who follow Christ, we live our lives embodying the very way Jesus lived with bread and God’s word as best as we can. Our lives are full. Love, hope and faith overflow without riches. We may falter at times, but the life that we live, we live to glorify and enjoy God. This way of living, where both bread and God’s word are essential, confronts the way of the world where turning stones into bread has discarded God’s word. We as followers of Christ, refuse to be tempted, repeating along with Jesus, a person does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
O God, who are we that your steadfast love accompanies us in this world? What have we done that you bestow upon us grace that leads to new life? How faithful have been that you honour us by the Holy Spirit continually guiding us in this world? Without you, we are lost. Without you our lives are lived in sin. Without you, we are people of no stature.
We thank you for your forgiveness, welcome and redemption. We thank you for leading us in times of darkness. We thank you for sending us your Son to follow and love through his death and resurrection. We thank you for revealing the path to the way, the truth and the life.
We pray for your people in Ukraine, Yemen and Palestine. We also pray for those who have left these countries to find peace. As they struggle to find a life of peace, guard and protect them. May your saving hand be upon them.
We pray for those who were devastated by earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Over 50,000 died. Tens of thousands are homeless. Many are still waiting to recover the bodies of their loved ones. After nearly three weeks, the world’s attention has turned away, leaving thousands upon thousands to cry alone. We ask you to open the eyes of the world to see these innocent people suffering. We ask you to open our hearts to feel the grief that has gripped the survivors. Help us to be compassionate. Put the prayers of those who lost their loved ones on our lips so that you may hear their prayers. Give us courage to find a way to extend your love to them.
We pray for those among us who lost their loved ones or ones in trouble. We often become blind to the needs of those among us because their hurts and pains are hidden from our eyes. We pray for Ollie. she grieves the passing of her husband Steve. Give us your compassion and open our eyes to see ways to love all who are grieving.
We pray for those who suffer illnesses. Some are afflicted with diseases of their bodies. Some are suffering as their bodies become frail due to ageing. Some are continuing to live with the effects of diseases. We lift up the names of your people in this congregation: Alice Ainslie, Donna Ainslie, Lily Bain, Margaret Calder, Ruth Carnevale, Sandy Detenbeck, Sylvia Fenton, Betty Jolley, Genevieve King, Peggy McCarthy, Brian McKeown, Judy Sibley. Be with them all. Guard and protect them. Give them your presence as they continue their lives with you and in you. We also pray for Adeline. Be with her. Be her strength as she recovers.
All these and more we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
O dear God
We bring our offerings of thanksgiving. With joy and blessings, we gladly lift up these offerings. Receive them. Through these offerings we commit our future in your hand. Be glorified by all that we will do in the coming days. Set our hearts to serve you and your people. We pray in your Son’s name. Amen.
Next Sunday is our 221st Anniversary Sunday. We will be giving God thanks and celebrating God’s grace and blessings that guided us thus far. Please come and join us. We have a special service prepared for you. Rob Whitelock and friends will be helping us to praise God in songs.
March Birthday Sunday
On the first Sunday of each month we throw a birthday party for everyone who has a birthday in that month. Jon and Pat will be with us to help celebrate after the service.
Every Wednesday morning at 10:30 am until Easter, we will be gathering for Lent devotions. Please come and join us.
He leadeth me