Lent 1C (06-03-2022)

This service was streamed live from the Ocean Grove church via Zoom on March 6th at 10:30am

Below is the entire text for a service of worship for home use for those who are not ready to return to public gatherings.   Even though the service is streamed live, those who are unable to participate online may use this material at any time for their private devotions.  If ‘two or three’ are gathered with you, you may choose a ‘leader’ in order to use the responsive prayers and readings as you would in church. 

There  are also links to YouTube files for music and, should you rather listen than read, sound files for some of the text, including the sermon .  [I’m sorry about the commercials that sometimes come with YouTube clips. Be sure to click on the “Skip Ad” box if and when it appears in the lower right of the YouTube clip]   When a YouTube clip has finished, simply click on the ‘back’ button of  your browser to return to this page. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.


The wayfarer,
Perceiving the pathway to truth,
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.

L:  Welcome, travellers, to the journey of faith.

R: The faith journey is the best route through the land called life.

L: The come and continue the quest, acting out your faith by living life to the fullest.

R: We will let our spirits soar like eagles;

L: taking a deep breath we will stretch ourselves to the limit like fully inflated balloons, colourful, hopeful, ready to sail and to soar,

R: and to drink in the world’s colour, absorbing its light and texture, inhaling its fragrance, dancing to its music.

L:  This is the way we worship God.


L:  In hope, in longing,

R: We’re glad to come together.

L:  In trust, in community

R: We’re glad to come together.

L:  In many moods, in many shapes and sizes

R: We’re glad to come together in this Lenten season. 


Lord our God, listen to the voice of your church, calling to you from the wilderness of this world.  Nourish us with the bread of your word, that we may meet with courage and strength the trials and temptations on the pathway to Truth.

HYMN 745 – “Seek Ye First” (click here to listen) 


Let us take a moment to settle into the silence.  In these brief moments of silence and meditation may we find strength.  May our lives be rich in affection, deep in understanding and sympathy for each other.  May the blessings of life be known to all.          (Maintain  silence  for at least 30 seconds)


Eternal God, creator of the universe, the temptation to win back the world by sending a mighty miracle-working Messiah must present a perennial problem, even for you.  We confess that our endless quest for security so often outweighs our hunger and thirst for justice that we are frequently tempted to forfeit our future so that we might feast at the table of technology.

Lord Christ, redeemer of humanity, the temptation to win back the world by a magnificent display of daring must present a perennial problem, even for you.  We confess that our craving fOR acclaim so often outweighs our commitment to your way that we are frequently tempted to sacrifice our souls so that we might savour the sweet taste of success.

Holy Spirit, strength of your people, the temptation to win back the world by the exercise of coercive political power must present a perennial problem, even for you.  We confess our desire to dominate so often outweighs our will to participate in your mission that we are frequently tempted to turn from the paths of peace so that we might enjoy the transitory spoils of war.


L: The Scripture says: “No one who believes in God shall be put to shame. For every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” By the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, I assure all who repent of their sins, that your guilt is annulled and your freedom is granted; and so I declare to you, the door to life has been opened to us.

R: Thanks be to God! 

FROM THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES – Deuteronomy 26:1-11

26 “And it shall be, when you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground, which you shall bring from your land that the Lord your God is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. And you shall go to the one who is priest in those days, and say to him, ‘I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to the country which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us.’

“Then the priest shall take the basket out of your hand and set it down before the altar of the Lord your God. And you shall answer and say before the Lord your God: ‘My father was a Syrian, about to perish, and he went down to Egypt and dwelt there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. But the Egyptians mistreated us, afflicted us, and laid hard bondage on us. Then we cried out to the Lord God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and looked on our affliction and our labor and our oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, “a land flowing with milk and honey”; 10 and now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O Lord, have given me.’

“Then you shall set it before the Lord your God, and worship before the Lord your God. 11 So you shall rejoice in every good thing which the Lord your God has given to you and your house, you and the Levite and the stranger who is among you.

12 “When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year—the year of tithing—and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, 13 then you shall say before the Lord your God: ‘I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them.

FROM THE GOSPELS:  Luke 4:1-13

Jesus has just gone through a mind-blowing, life-changing experience at his baptism. God has revealed Godself in a new way to Jesus, and Jesus has seen his relationship to God in a new light. What does it all mean?  In the passage for today, Jesus begins his search for the answer.  In one way or another, we all face the same sort of question? Who am I? What is my place in creation?  What meaning is there for me to find in life?  In what direction do I turn next? In this story we catch a glimpse of the process by which we may find direction.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, 

“It is written,‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, ’He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’

11 and ’On their hands they will bear you up,
            so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.


The Tempter
  from the Dreamtime
   is prince of lies;
he never tires
  of spinning tales
   “just for our gain;”
sadly his wiles
are not in vain.


“We dare to imagine a world where…”  by Linda Jones. 

We dare to imagine a world
Where hunger has no chance to show its face
We dare to dream of a world where war and terror
are afraid to leave their mark
We long to believe in a world of hope unchained
  and lives unfettered
We dare to share in the creation of a world
  where people break free.
Dare we open our own minds to difference?
Dare we open our own lives to change?
Your realm come, O Holy One
Your will be done.

HYMN  591 – “Forty Days and Forty Nights” (click here to listen)


     Part 1

A shopkeeper, seeing a boy hanging about outside where there was a tempting display of various fruits, went out to him and said, “What are you trying to do, young man; steal my apples?”

“No, sir,” said the boy, “I’m trying not  to!”

This is the first Sunday of Lent, and this year, Lent begins with a focus on Jesus’ trials and temptations in the wilderness and also ends  in the midst of trials and temptations in the garden of Gethsemane.

The temptations are written about in each of the three synoptic gospels, i.e. Matthew, Mark and Luke, and in each they immediately follow Jesus’ baptism, which was perhaps the key event in his life.  Luke writes, “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from  the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for 40 days in the Wilderness, and was tempted by the devil…and he was hungry.”  Full of the Spirit, Jesus was yet tempted and hungry.

This passage, perhaps more than any other, tells us of Jesus’ humanity: he hungered and questioned and wrestled with evil.  It also reminds us that to follow the path of Jesus is no safe and easy vocation.  It is not a haven from the struggles of life; it is not a protection from disease, unemployment, family breakdown or any other kind of tragedy.  It doesn’t make decisions any easier or give us a special power to bear things easily.  Of course, we may be given a special power to help us bear our problems, but not to bear them easily.

Indeed, to be a Christian, to be baptised, means to be thrown into the midst of the worst battles our world has to offer, where we must stand up for what we believe in.  Sometimes that means to stand alone before evil, in all of its many forms.  To be sure, we don’t stand without the power of God in the Spirit, but may well feel that way.  In Matthew and Mark, there were angels to minister to Jesus, but in Luke, there are no angels, no comfort; only battle.

What was this battle about?   For Jesus and for us, it is one of identity and mission.  Identity and mission.  The shopkeeper, in the story with which I began, asked the tempted young boy, “What are you trying to do, young man?”  This is also Jesus question.  He has just been baptised and, therefore, commissioned by God.  What does this commission mean and involve?   What is Jesus to accomplish?

Jesus was reminded that before he could define his mission, he needed to define who he was.  We talk a lot about identity crises today.  Can you imagine the identity crisis you might have if you had just been spoken to out of the heavens, “You are my beloved son  (or daughter)..”

This haunts Jesus…”If I am the son of God, what does it mean for my life?”

One 82 year-old Father Christmas had an identity crisis back in 1978.  Paid to sit in his red coat and white beard in a Nottingham department store and speak kindly to shy children, he got fully into the spirit when they would whisper their wishes in his ear.  “I couldn’t bear to see them go away disappointed,” he said later, “and there were a lot of toys on the shelves nearby that no one seemed to be buying.”  So he started giving them to some of the children as an extra present.  While store officials sympathised with the sentiment, the kind gentleman was politely sacked.

Jesus, too, was tempted to be the Father Christmas – or messiah – that people wanted and expected.    One option presented to him was to feed the people and give them material prosperity, perhaps through creating some sort of community living or welfare system.  Another was to become a political ruler or join the Zealots and drive out the Roman occupation forces.  Or he could have joined the Sadducees (the high priests) or the Pharisees (the lawmakers) and been a great religious leader.

In the end, Jesus rejected each of these alternatives, yet he also used each option.  He did feed the hungry, both physically and spiritually.  He did not foster religion, but he did use the religious community to study, preach and heal.  And though he rejected a political role for himself, he never shied away from speaking out against injustice.

     Part 2

I’m not sure, in the end, if Jesus rejected these options or if they rejected him.  He became so threatening to the church, the state and to individuals that they were forced into a position of changing their own thinking or rejecting their own messiah.  Like that Nottingham department store that simply couldn’t come to terms with the real meaning of Christmas.  A nice friendly Fr.Christmas who brought buyers into the store and promoted a good image was acceptable, but someone who lived out the real meaning of Christmas, and wasn’t concerned about image and profit, was not.

These were real temptations Jesus wrestled with: to take up a conventional mission and be popular and successful, or to be faithful to his identity as defined by God.  What are we to do with our lives, and particularly our collective lives as the body of Christ?  What is our mission?  What does it mean to be sons and daughters of God in this community, nation and world?

When Alex Kilgour was moderator, I remember him saying that, after listening to a South American priest speak about what it means to be a Christian, he realised that we, in Australia, have a Mickey Mouse faith and understanding of our own religion.  By “Mickey Mouse”, I take it that he meant a childish, trivial and superficial understanding.  

Perhaps Mr. Kilgour was suggesting that, unlike Jesus, we tend to take the easy way out by avoiding the question of what our mission really is, and content ourselves with thinking that we are fulfilling our obligations by going to church on Sunday and occasionally giving a tiny fraction of our substantial wealth and thinking we have accomplished something.

Yes, our mission certainly includes our giving, and it is appropriate to celebrate it, as we are doing today.   Yes, our mission is to renovate and care for our own buildings to make church a comfortable, warm and appealing place to be.  And yes, our mission includes worshipping here for an hour on Sunday.  But is this all we are called to?   Of course, we do a number of worthy things as a church and as individuals, but there are still millions of people outside our own community who have no one to help them or stand up for them.  There are still many in the church here who are not at all interested in study and growth in their faith, and just come to feel good.  There are yet many who maintain a strict separation of their faith and politics.  If we are not constantly wrestling in the wilderness with who we are as sons and daughters of God, then we are lost without either identity or mission.

Today is not a day for feeling smug or satisfied that we have accomplished the mission God has given us.  Our giving must be seen in the context of a mere symbol of our identity, an identity which we have inherited from God’s chosen people, which we were reminded of in the Old Testament reading this morning.  We have been delivered to this land of milk and honey to be God’s people, to worship God, to live out God’s purpose, to proclaim God’s kingdom.

As the church, we are on a discovery tour to find out how to do this.  It is the role of each member to struggle with what it means to be God’s, to help and encourage fellow Christians to engage in the same struggle, and to be strong in the face of temptations  to take the easy or the conventional way.  Frankly, I do not know how church members can fulfil this responsibility unless they engage one other and challenge one another. Discussion groups that often form during Lent in many churches is one way in which we are facilitating this sort of interaction and growth.   It is easy to avoid being part of such a group, but then it has always been easy to avoid God’s path.  I’m not suggesting that such groups are the only way to get help in finding your identity and mission, but I do suggest that it is not something that can be easily done on your own.  

Let us make this time of Lent work for us and for God, by journeying into the wilderness of our souls to discover who we are  as a church and as Christians, and open ourselves to God that we might be shown the way. I encourage you to join a discussion group as way of beginning to foster your own growth and the growth of others to the glory of God. 

HYMN 684 – “Love Will Be Our Lenten Calling” (click here to listen)  


L: In response to the word reflected on let us share together a litany celebrating Lent.  O Sustainer and giver of life, free your people from the temptations of power, from the urge to control rather than enable.

R: Come, Spirit, liberate us from the forces of domination.

L: O Loving Empowerer, help us to challenge abuse of authority wherever it is to be found, including in ourselves.

R: Come, Spirit, give us strength not to walk by on the other side.

L: O Still Small Voice, help the People of God to learn to listen to each other, and those in authority to understand the strength that comes from true consultation.

R: Come, Spirit of Understanding, deepen our insights.

L: O Loving Creator, help us to affirm ourselves and others, understanding that we are all uniquely created and have a voice that needs to be heard.

R: Come, Creator of Diversity, and help us see the value of difference.

L: O God who made both women and men in your image, help your church not to deface its image by treating women as inferior beings. Help us to recognise and challenge discrimination based on gender, race, sexual orientation, clericalism and other excuses for exclusion.

R: Come, Spirit of Equality, and imbue us with the values of interconnectedness with all created nature, human and non-human. 


Most Holy Friend, your goodness always tests our readiness to receive it, please increase our eagerness for you and enlarge our ability to share your love around.Steer us through times of temptation, and deliver us from evil.

On this first Sunday in Lent we think of those who are being acutely tempted;

      • tempted to look the other way when wrong is happening in their workplace:
      • tempted to misuse their gifts for a sordid purpose;
      • tempted to allow untamed emotions to hold sway;
      • tempted by the corrupting power of money;
      • and those tempted to stay in a rut rather than strike out on new paths for Christ Jesus.

We pray also for the many who feel pushed and tested beyond their endurance;

      • those in positions of heavy responsibility who feel overloaded to the point of collapse;
      • or those pressured from all sides by factions in workplace or community;
      • suffering people–and all who must watch a loved one suffer– who feel they can bear no more;
      • kindly folk whose patience with a difficult friend is now at breaking point;
      • persecuted Christians whose faith seems stretched beyond their limit;
      • and the depressed whose inner being endures a misery which no human word can alleviate.

We also pray for those who seem to be in a position of advantage:

      • the happy, that their happiness may always be used for goodwill and compassion;
      • the strong, that their energies may be used wisely and gently;
      • the clever, that they may employ their mental facility for good not evil;
      • for the rich, that their wealth may be shared for the uplifting of the poor;
      • for the powerful, that they may use their position as a blessing to humanity;
      • and those of strong faith, that they may walk humbly and affirm the weaker souls.

And now, most gracious Friend we pray for each other in this church. None of us know the extent of the pressures that some may be under this very day. Look upon us all, read our thoughts and weigh our feelings, and by your utter resourcefulness, “save us in the time of trial and deliver us from all evil.” Through Christ Jesus who taught us to pray, “Our Father…”


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 and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  Save us in the time of trial and deliver us from evil.  For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.

HYMN 552 – “Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life” (click here to listen)


L: may our wisdom show itself in deeds of compassion and in acts of understanding. 

R: May the fruits of the spirit be apparent in our lives. 


May the love that gives to life its beauty, the reverence that gives to life its sacredness, and the purposes that give to life its deep significance be strong within each of us and lead us into ever deepening relationships with all of life. 



I fled Him down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter,
from  The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson

An open, virtual door to the world