First Sunday in Lent [by Dr. Rachel Mash]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Deu 26:1-11
Deu 26:4-10
2nd Reading
Rom 10:8b-13
(both)
Gospel
Luke 4:1-13
(both)
by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, environmental Coordinator of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa

SUMMARY

Starting our Lenten Journey

Sometimes we think of Lent as a life-denying season – where we confirm that we are not good enough for God’s love and we must earn it, we are worthless in God’s sight.

But if our starting point is a knowledge that we are beloved children of God, the Lent becomes a time to seek for a renewed and restored relationship with God, with one another and with Creation.

Traditionally Lent was a time to abstain from certain foodstuffs such as alcohol or chocolate.

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 challenges us to celebrate local food from the soil and to give thanks. Why not take up the challenge during Lent of abstaining from junk food, or packaged food. Buy local organic  food, set yourself the ‘food miles challenge’ of eating local food, nothing that is flown into your country from overseas. Use the time of Lent to celebrate our relationship with the land, by starting a veggie garden, or planting trees or a herb garden in your windowsill.

Luke 4:1-13: In this traditional story of the temptations of Christ in the wilderness, we are challenged to look at our values during the 40 days of Lent. Do we want to turn ‘stones into bread’, going for instant gratification of all our needs? It is the instant society – cheap clothes, instant upgrades, fast food – with all its consumer values, that it choking and killing our planet. As Jesus stayed hungry in the desert, we are challenged to a more simple life-style so that others my simply life.

The second temptation – to bow down to power – is one that faces all religious institutions. How can we as the church of God listen to the marginalised? Politicians and businesses are not changing fast enough to save the planet. It is the voices of the marginalised that are now calling for a different way – teenagers leading the strike for the planet, indigenous voices calling out that people are more important than profits and that you cannot commodify water.

In the third temptation – to become like God, we are reminded that terrifyingly , the human race now has the powers that past generations would never have believed possible – we have the power to destroy or save life on this planet.

What steps can you make during Lent to join the voices calling for change? These might involve personal changes such as a Plastic Fast for Lent http://www.greenanglicans.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Final-Calender.pdf

Or taking up a plant based diet https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/vegetarian-vegan-giving-up-meat-lent-why-and-how-to-do-it-a7606031.html

Or perhaps you can inspire your church to divest from fossil fuels? http://brightnow.org.uk/resource/transition-report

DETAILED NOTES

Old Testament reading

Deuteronomy 26:1-11: Firstfruits and tithes

In our modern life we have become separated from the web of life in our food production. Packaged, processed fast foods have become the norm. We are challenged to choose foods that are as close to nature as possible. Unprocessed, additive free foods are closer to nature , better for our health and our planet. We are also challenged to choose foods as far as possible that come from the local area – reducing our food miles, eating seasonal fruit and vegetables.

This passage reminds us that food comes from the soil, which we inherited from our ancestors. How can we preserve the soil  for the generations to come?. Our current practices are damaging the soil. We need to stop using pesticides and chemicals that kill the soil. We can buy organic fruits and vegetables and encourage local farmers.  How can we restore our relationship with the earth – using our church lands for growing of vegetables or ‘bee-friendly’ gardens.

We are also reminded that all good gifts come from God, and that we should have an attitude of thankfulness. “Saying grace” should not be a meaningless daily gesture but a genuine thanksgiving for the food, for the soil from which it came, for the rain that watered it and the people who toiled on the soil.

Gospel

Luke 4:1-13: Temptations in the wilderness

Jesus went into the wilderness and was faced with three temptations  that we also face– sins that would block our  relationship with God, with our neighbour and with Creation .

Temptation One: Wants, not needs

“tell this stone to become bread”

Turning stones into bread  seems like a great thing to do. Jesus is in the desert, he is hungry.  This was Jesus first temptation, to get what he wanted (bread) not what he needed. He was in the desert to build his relationship with God and to be prepared for ministry, not to learn ‘magic skills” There was probably something he needed to learn by fasting and praying

It is not by bread alone that we live.

This temptation tells us to distinguish between wants and needs. we need to  stop running after our wants. We are surrounded by advertisements, by things. we have to have that new ipad, tv, those clothes, that fancy holiday that expensive car. We work ourselves into a debt and frenzy to do it. Do you fill your life with things? or do you fill your life with relationships.

Perhaps your want is for that unhealthy food, junk food, or too much alcohol or cigarettes , but your need is for good health.

There was something that Jesus needed to learn through fasting and praying in the wilderness. When we meet all of our wants, we miss out on what God wants to teach us through a more simple life-style.

Take these forty days of Lent to examine your life and to decide what are your needs and what are merely  wants.

The second temptation: to bow down to power

I will give you all their authority and splendour; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

Control, importance, power. The devil tells Jesus to look at the big city. What do you see when look down from a high point at the CBD or heart of the city ?– the banks the businesses, the parliament. The temptation was to bow down before the power systems of this world. All these I will give you.

There is no doubt that the world is dominated by the structures of power, political and capital. According to an Oxfam report Eighty two percent of the wealth generated last year went to the richest one percent of the global [i] . Increasingly our political systems are dominated by big industries, the fossil fuels, big Pharma, commercial agriculture who have the power to lobby politicians and influence election results.

How do we become  like Jesus, side with the poor and the marginalised? What power or influence would we as the church need to give up in order to take a position for the poor? How do we use our funds – are we willing to divest from industries such as fossil fuel companies and re-invest in industries that do not damage the earth?

The third temptation : to become like  God.

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.

Satan takes Jesus up to the pinnacle of the Temple (the top of the religious world itself and tells him to play righteous games with God. Throw yourself off and he will send the angels to catch you. It is the only time in the Bible that the devil quotes Scripture.

This temptation – to become God, has become terrifyingly real.

For the first time in history we have become like gods. We are changing the climate of the whole planet. We are raising the levels of the oceans. We have wiped out 60% of wild animals in one generation [ii].

We have poisoned the seas and filled them with plastic.

We can modify the DNA of plants and creating GMOS.

As a church we have turned inward and focussed on personal salvation. The scientific community developed a parallel salvation story – the power of science and technology to save the world. Some of those dreams have turned into nightmares.

We need to re-discover our interconnectedness with nature. Jesus came to save the whole world (cosmos) and we are called to be part of that ministry. We need to re-discover the sacredness of God’s creation . We need to rediscover the links between Science and faith and lift up the voices of Christian Scientists.

STORIES, ILLUSTRATIONS, VIDEOS

One of the foremost Christian Climate Scientists in Kathryn Hayhoe.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpjL_otLq6Y

How to create a  pollinator friendly garden:

https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/create-pollinator-friendly-garden-birds-bees-butterflies


GATHERING

Confession

Creator God, how deep are your designs!
You made a living earth, cloud, rain and wind,
and charged us with their care.
We confess that the way we live today
is changing the climate, the seas and the balance of life,
dispossessing the poor and future generations.
Build our lives into an Ark for all creation,
and, as you promised Noah never to repeat the flood,
so make us heralds of a new rainbow covenant:
Choosing life for all that is at risk –
for creation, neighbours near and far,
our children and ourselves. Amen.[iii]

SERVICE OF THE WORD

Collect

Lord God,
You share with us the care of creation.
Give us the humility to be right stewards of the land and to protect and celebrate its resources with equity and justice;
through Jesus Christ our Lord

Amen[iv]

RESPONSE

Prayers of the People

Come light, light of God, give light to creation, enlighten our hearts and remain with your world.

O God, Creator of the universe and of all that lives and breathes,
from your dwelling place you refresh the mountains and forests.
The earth is filled with the fruits of your work.
You make grass grow for the herds, plants and fruit trees for people to farm, drawing their bread from the earth.
You entrusted your creation to us. We beseech you:
Save us from the temptation of power and domination.

 

May your Spirit of wisdom teach us how best to care for and safeguard what you entrust to us.
Blow your Spirit of life on your creation and all humanity.
Come light, light of God, give light to creation, enlighten our hearts and remain with your world.

We beseech you, bless every effort and every search,
Every struggle and every pain that seek to restore the harmony and beauty of your Creation.
Renew the face of the earth, so that everyhuman being may live in peace and justice, fruits of your Spirit of love.
Blow your Spirit of life on your creation and all humanity.
Come light, light of God, give light to creation, enlighten our hearts and remain with your world.

We beseech you, Lord,
bless the fruits of the earth and the work of our hands and teach us to share the abundance of your goods.
Send rain to the dry soil, sun and fair weather where harvest is endangered by storms.
Blow your Spirit of life on your creation and all humanity.
Come light, light of God, give light to creation, enlighten our hearts and remain with your world.

From you, O Lord our God, come all gifts, and we give you thanks.
Hear the sigh raising from your creation, gather the suffering of all people,
Send us your blessing, so that we may live, in its fullness, the new life
Which you offer us through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. [v]

HOLY COMMUNION

Leader Blessed are you, Lord God of the universe,
you are the giver of this bread,
fruit of the earth and of human labour,
let it become the bread of Life.
All Blessed be God, now and forever!
Leader Blessed are you, Lord God of the universe,
you are the giver of this wine,
fruit of the vine and of human labour,
let it become the wine of the eternal Kingdom.
All Blessed be God, now and forever!

Leader As the grain once scattered in the fields
and the grapes once dispersed on the
hillside are now reunited on this table
in bread and wine,
so, Lord, may your whole Church
soon be gathered together
from the corners of the earth into your Kingdom
All Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus![vi]

SENDING OUT

May the Earth Continue to live
May the heavens above continue to live
May the rains continue to dampen the land
May the wet forests continue to grow
Then the flowers shall bloom
And we people shall live again

A Hawaiian prayer

—————————

HYMNS

We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land

Hymns by Normal Habel:

http://normanhabel.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Hymns-and-Songs-Habel-Hymns-1.pdf

CREATIVE IDEAS AND CHILDRENS IDEAS

Prepare a pile of plastic rubbish at the door of the church that people must walk past as they get into Church

Children can prepare posters about what to do with rubbish.

by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, Southern Africa

References:

[i] https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2018-01-22/richest-1-percent-bagged-82-percent-wealth-created-last-year

[ii] https://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/all_publications/living_planet_report_2018/

[iii] Operation Noah Prayer

[iv] Season of Creation 4 Anglican Church of Southern Africa

[v] Community of Grandchamp, Areuse/NE (Switzerland); translated by Elizabeth Stace. Reproduced by ECEN for Creation Time 2006.

[vi] World Council of Churches, “The Eucharistic Liturgy of Lima”, http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/

documents/wcc-programmes/unity-mission-evangelism-and-spirituality/spirituality-and-worship/theeucharistic-liturgy-of-lima