Call to Worship

Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord, give praise, O servants of the Lord,
who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God! Praise
the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant! For the Lord has
chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession. For I know that the Lord
is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does,
in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. Your name, O Lord, endures
forever, your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages. For the Lord will vindicate his
people and have compassion on his servants. O house of Levi, bless the Lord! You
who fear the Lord, bless the Lord! Blessed be the Lord from Zion, he who dwells in
Jerusalem! Praise the Lord!

Blessed be HE!

Confession

Lord, You come to us, but we do not recognize You; I want to recognize you You call, but we do not
follow; teach me to follow You command, but we do not obey, I choose you You bless us, but we do not thank
you. Grant me a grateful heart Please forgive and help us. Lord, You accept us, but we do not accept others;
Fill me with love for your people You forgive us, but we do not forgive those who wrong us; You love us, but we
do not love our neighbors. Please forgive and help us. Lord, You showed us how
to carry out Your mission, but we still insist on our own; tear down my dreams and build up your own
You identified with the poor and needy, but we seek our own wants and desires; remove my selfishness
You suffered and died for all, but we turn to our own comfort. In the midst of our lack of faith, You
are always faithful! Amen! Please forgive and help us, You are the faithful one! Amen.

Contemplation

GOSPEL READING

And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him
in his talk. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true
and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances,
but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should
we pay them, or should we not?” But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them,
“Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” And they
brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They
said to him, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are
Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.

DEVOTIONAL

The forty days of Lent parallels the forty days that Jesus went without food in the
wilderness, so one of the ways we identify with his suffering is by practicing self-
denial. Whether it’s food or TV or “me-time,” we deny ourselves particular comforts and
pleasures as a way of remembering what he endured. The point is not to manufacture
suffering, as if we could earn some kind of righteousness through self-denial. Our heart
in Lent is simply to de-clutter our self-absorbed lives. Making room to remember how
our Lord suffered for us.

It began in the wilderness: “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and
was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he
ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry” (Luke 4:1-2).

The striking thing in this story is that Jesus went into the desert under the direction
of the Holy Spirit. He chose this suffering. Indeed, his whole life was a choice to enter
into our suffering. Again, we are not to go looking for hardship. “Each day has enough
trouble of its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34, NIV).

God does not tell us to choose suffering, but that does not mean he will always keep it
from us. Jesus was in the wilderness because the Holy Spirit led him there. Further, the
Apostles were adamant that Jesus’ death at the hands of sinners was “according to the
definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). The testimony of Scripture is that
Christians need to embrace suffering as part of our calling and endure it as part of our
witness:

» “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you,
as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

» “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only
believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29).

» “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2
Timothy 3:12).

Our wilderness is not literal, but it is very real. We are tempted – perhaps even determined
– to sustain ourselves, to escape our vulnerability, and to chase our aspirations without
thought of others. unfortunately very true

But Jesus offers us another way, a humble way that waits patiently – despite the suffering
– for the Spirit of God to direct our steps. He reveals to us what it means to embrace our
humanity without short cuts.

“The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread’”
(Luke 4:3). Certainly Jesus could have done this, but the lack of bread revealed a deeper
hunger for God, and a deeper satisfaction of being sustained by God.

“And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment
of time, and said to him … worship me, it will all be yours’” (4:5-7). It would all be
his eventually, but to have it now would be to have it without suffering and death.
How often do we worship whatever promises to give us what we want now, without
inconvenience or discomfort? But Jesus worships God alone, not because it is easier, but
because it is truer and far better.

“And [the devil] took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and
said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you’” (4:9-10). Had Jesus done
this, he could have ended all this temptation and trial. How often do we call upon God
for miraculous solutions to our suffering, not because we trust him in our circumstance
but because we want out of it? But Jesus would not put God to the test.

We live into our in-Christ-humanity by surrendering to the Holy Spirit, wherever he
may lead us. This season is about waiting, maybe even suffering the loss of things that
have come to define us, because we know that our life is dust, and because we are
looking forward to resurrection life.

REFLECTION

1. How does your inclination to avoid hardship hinder your ability to follow Jesus? Jesus’ message has always been about selflessness and self-sacrificing…and anything against that is just that… against Him.

2. How does the Spirit’s presence in your suffering comfort and strengthen you? I remember that it’s not about me. It’s about Christ and when I get to the end of me… He’s there to keep His work going. I don’t have to be able to do it all. I just have to be willing.

3. Is the Spirit currently leading you somewhere you don’t want to go? Yes and no. No because it’s not something that people are like–oh that’s huge… it’s the little things. It’s always the little things. 😛 It’s getting up in the morning early enough to take care of the body that God’s given me to share with my husband–and keeping it healthy and active for my husband even when I’m tired and grumpy. It’s changing dirty diapers even when my husband is home and he could…it’s being selfless even though I’ve been doing it all day and I just don’t want to anymore. It’s getting off the computer and folding the laundry. It’s doing the uninteresting or tiring things when there’s something more fun or distracting begging for my all-too-eagerly-given attention. It’s sacrificing my time and energy for the good of others…

Closing Prayer

O Holy Spirit, as the sun is full of light, the ocean full of water, Heaven full
of glory, so may my heart be full of thee. Vain are all divine purposes of love
and the redemption wrought by Jesus except thou work within, regenerating
by thy power, giving me eyes to see Jesus, showing me the realities of the
unseen world. Give me thyself without measure, as an unimpaired fountain,
as inexhaustible riches.
Amen

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