Friday, February 28, 2020

Gospel Text for The First Sunday in Lent 1 March 2020

Matthew 4:1-11        Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted 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 splendor; 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.

Reflection      It is important to remember what was going on with Jesus just before he “was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan river to be baptized by John. “And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ “ (Matt 3.16-17)

One moment the Spirit of God descends on Jesus like a dove and the next thing we know the Spirit leads him into the wilderness. A voice from heaven declares Jesus is beloved and the next voice he hears is that of temptation. Is this not precisely the way it works in our lives? One moment we delight in the glory of God and the next we are tempted to appropriate God’s glory as our own. We witness an extravagant sunrise, take a picture and assure ourselves we are great photographers.  We enjoy a sumptuous meal then assume our culinary artistry. We move across the country, switch careers, decide to marry, divorce or buy a house then give ourselves badges for our bravery. We take stock of our treasure and measure our stock then award ourselves a ribbon for wisdom, wit and hard work. 

The question before us is, to which voice will we listen? Will we listen to the voice of the hungry and homeless and take our place among the angels as messengers from God offering food and shelter? Or will we succumb to the voice of power and privilege seducing us with insurance for safety and security?  Will we listen to the cries of the meek and modest and take our place among the angels to wipe away their tears? Or will we place our pride with the self-possessed, assured of our superiority? Will we listen to the voice of God and put our faith in the One who promises to be with us every step of the way? Or will we be preoccupied with the matter of objects and comforts, assigning our faith to that which we can accumulate? 

Lent invites us to act decisively in response to the promise of God’s presence with us and decide to which voice we will listen.  I can think of no better way to respond  than to open our minds and hearts, our whole beings to God, to act deliberately to make room for God’s presence to grow and to glow through us so that we may act effectively as messengers from God. Please consider these questions. 
Do you think your time is precious? 
Are you careful how you spend it?
Do you think it is worth three minutes of your time each day to make room for God with you?
Are you willing to take your place in the company of angels?

If you said, “Yes, yes, yes, yes” then I invite you to join me making room for God in our minds and hearts and whole beings by praying together for one minute three times every day using three brief prayers for morning, midday and evening from John McQuiston II’s book “Always We Being Again.”

A Morning Prayer 

Grace to us and peace. We are given this day, and awareness of its colors and sounds; these and other gifts, too numerous to name and infinitely rare, are received. For these gifts we are thankful. 

We do not know what this day wiII bring - life is the great enigma; life is the great good; we expect good from this day. At all times and at this time we participate in the great Mystery. We acknowledge our contingent nature. We humble ourselves before that which we do not understand. When we consider the vast reaches of the cosmos, the incomprehensible forces at work in each moment, the numberless stories of each life, the millions of forgotten ancestors who preceded us, the untold acts of kindness which occur each day, we humble ourselves. We keep silence. 

Help us to save ourselves by forgetting ourselves. In every experience and thought bring us into the certain knowledge that we are children of the infinite. Assist us to envision life as an opportunity to share in the creation of a caring environment open our mind's eye to the knowledge that if we give love, nothing in life nor in death, nor things to come, nor things past can separate us from the state of grace. Help us this day both to receive grace and to give it. 

We believe that we are children of the unlimited and that we are enveloped in an unbounded network of friendships, affiliations, and relationships which are in time and beyond time. We believe in the ancient message that adopting an attitude of faith and hope toward this life and all that it brings will profoundly alter our lives and our universe. 

In our activities this day we ask for the power to be continuously thankful, not only in our words, but in our hearts; to give up concern for ourselves and thus to walk in perfect freedom. May the vast mystery beyond comprehension fill us with the joy and peace and hope this day and always. We lift up our hearts. 

In Christ we pray. Amen 

A Mid Day Prayer
We give thanks for our existence; we recognize that we rely on forces beyond our understanding. We trust what this life brings: we trust ourselves, we trust our friends, we trust our families, we trust life, and we trust the universe. 
We release our past to the past, we release our future to the future, and we accept our present. We give up our cares and fears. 

We abandon our illusions of control. We acknowledge our complete dependence on providence. We relinquish our apprehension. We rely on that which we do not understand. We have faith. We have courage. 

Keep us from fear today. Open our hearts to the gifts of this moment and bind us to the great unknown through complete trust. Assist us in forming a loving image of the ultimate mystery, to have faith, and the courage to give ourselves hope. 

In Christ we pray. Amen

An Evening Prayer 
Incomprehensible, unrevealed spirit of all that exists, the means of all relationships we confess that we have closed ourselves off from the full joy of existence. We confess that we have failed to open ourselves to a relationship of radical and complete trust with every person and experience of this life. We confess that we have failed to love our experience of the Infinite in this life by loving our neighbors as ourselves, and thus, in thought, word and deed we have lost the way to the only true security and peace. 
Therefore we renew our effort to have a sympathetic relationship with every person, to live in faith that an unfathomable, magnificent nature expresses itself in every moment and in every experience of our fleeting passage here. 
We Confess that we have been afraid we have been restless, we have been unhappy, we have been wanderers, lost in a garden we could not see. We regret our weaknesses, and we seek a new beginning, so that we may truly live this life in the full promise of our time. 

We know that there is an enormous power inherent in each of us, at every moment in time, to experience the unbounded love and deep joy which is potentially our inheritance. We remind ourselves that our experience of the infinite, the hidden and hallowed power, is through our experience of this creation, and in our relationship with our fellow beings, and that we have been granted the faculty to change our universe by changing our relationship with it. 
This is the great gift we have been granted· the potential to experience all that comes to us in this life in complete confidence, love and joy; to have the courage and strength to put aside fear and despair, and to live each day in unquestioning trust in the divine providence which has brought us into being. 

We humbly acknowledge that despite the magnitude of our fault, and the number of our failings, the inexplicable drive of creation, the sacred spirit manifest in all that is, continuously sustains us, and allows us to begin again at any time, infused with the might from which we can never be separated. 

In Christ we pray. Amen 

Blessings for a Holy Lent.

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