February 26, 2023 - 1st Sunday in Lent

For the week of February 26 to March 4 – 1st Sunday in Lent

Morning prayer: God of wilderness and water, Your Son was baptized and tempted as we are. Guide us through this season, that we may not avoid struggle, but open ourselves to blessing, through the cleansing depths of repentance and the heaven-rending words of the Spirit. Amen. (Lectionary Prayers)

Hymn: #480 O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go

  1. O Love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee;
    I give Thee back the life I owe, that in Thine ocean depths
    its flow may richer, fuller be.
  2. O Light that followest all my way, I yield my flickering torch to Thee;
    my heart restores its borrowed ray, that in Thy sunshine's blaze
    its day may brighter, fairer be.
  3. O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to Thee;
    I trace the rainbow thru the rain, and feel the promise is not vain,
    that morn shall tearless be.
  4. O Cross that liftest up my head, I dare not ask to fly from thee;
    I lay in dust life's glory dead, and from the ground there blossoms
    red life that shall endless be.

Genesis 2:8-9, 15

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there He put the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. … The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.

Children’s message Psalm 51:1-2, 6-9 Hyssop

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to Your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that You have crushed rejoice.

Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Children’s Message 

For this Lenten season, I thought since you share so much of yourselves with me, I thought I’d also share one of my favorite hobbies with you and use it to help us connect with God and Holy Scripture in a real tangible way. This season we are going to use our senses to make scripture come alive for us in our day to day living. My hobby is gardening and we are going to take a look, a taste, and smell of some of the plant life found in the scriptures and tie them back into our lives.

This week’s plant is an herb, it is hyssop. We find hyssop mentioned 6 times in scripture:

Psalm 51:7 – purge me with hyssop and I will be clean

Exodus 12:22 – the Hebrews were instructed to use the branches of hyssop like a paintbrush to mark their doorposts for the passing over of the Spirit in Egypt

Leviticus 14:4 and Numbers 19:6 – the people were to bring hyssop with their sacrifices to be made clean of their leprosy

John 19:29 – Jesus sipped sour wine off a branch of hyssop while He was on the cross

So, what is hyssop?

It is a wild herb that covers the country sides of the Middle East. It was used because it had cleansing properties. It is an antiseptic, which is a substance that prevents the growth of disease causing microorganisms, think of it like a disinfectant, like Lysol.

Hyssop is a member of the mint family, but not the tea branch of the family but the marjoram branch. So in short, hyssop is a kind of oregano, Syrian oregano to be precise. I haven’t been able to acquire a specimen yet, but I will before Easter. So until then, we will have to work with Greek oregano.

Can you think of some foods that rely on oregano for their flavoring? How about spaghetti, lasagna, or pizza?

So when you are fully cleaned, God wants us to smell like a pizza. That is the cleansed smell that is pleasing unto God. Now we may not want to walk around smelling like pizza, but it does make us think or relate more to a smell that has lasted through the ages.

Prayers of Intercession:  Thank You, Lord, for hearing our prayers for those dear to our hearts.  We now pray as You have taught us: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us, not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen. 

Offering spotlightA portion of Missions funding is set aside for emergent needs in our community.  Anytime there is a fire, death in a young family, or significant tragedy Lightstreet UMC stands ready to be the love and comfort of Jesus to hurting neighbors. 

Offering prayer: Generous God, as we remember Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, we acknowledge the temptation that pursues so many of us: to measure our worth, our power and our security by what we have. As we offer these gifts to You this morning, we pray that You might deliver us from the temptation of building our lives around what belongs to us. Continually lead us to the conviction that what matters is that we belong to You. We pray in the name of our Savior and Redeemer. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn #377 It Is Well With My Soul

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll;
    whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.

Refrain: It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.

  1. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    let this blest assurance control,
    that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  2. My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole,
    is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  3. And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
    the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, even so, it is well with my soul.

Scripture Matthew 4:1-11

Then 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.

Message Being Sent to the Desert                  Pastor Becky Cuddeback

Deserts can be described and characterized many different ways. They can be classified according to their terrain or their climate, and most times, we think of them in regards to their rainfall. A semi- arid desert gets an average of less than 10 inches of rain a year; arid deserts between 3.9 and 10 inches; and hyper-arid deserts receives less than 3.9 inches of rain annually.

We can't fathom these conditions. Our driest year here in Pennsylvania received 28.9 inches in 1930 and our wettest at 64 inches of rain in 2018. We may understand the need for an ark far better than how we could survive in a desert. Yet, what we can understand is being in a place that isn’t compatible with the life we are ordained and anointed to live. The harsh barrenness of the desert serves as a metaphor for the need for divine protection and sustenance.

The desert isn’t where anybody really wants to go, not even Jesus. Matthew says the Spirit led Jesus to the desert, which is a gentler phrasing than Mark and Luke use. They describe the Spirit as driving Jesus to the desert, like a great big shove. Jesus is coming off a mountaintop experience, straight to nothingness. He has been in the Jordan river and pronounced Son of God and then thrust to the barren desert. He has no food, no companionship, and nothing in the way of navigating where or what is happening. He is unmoored from His previous existence to this place of desolation and isolation.

Now He is faced with the tempter. Jesus denies what isn’t life giving: fast food, shallow scriptural interpretation, and a power grab. In the denials, Jesu affirms who He is, the Son of God and who God is. Jesus doesn’t give in to food, simplistic thinking and self importance.

This isn’t unlike what we go through when we come off a mountaintop experience or a life changing event. Think back over your life, did not your biggest temptations come after you: accepted Christ, committed to sobriety or fidelity, landed that dream job, or started a new relationship? Shortly after a mountaintop experience, we end up in the desert places; where everything we thought we knew or understood gets turned upside down. We find ourselves relying heavily on the Spirit to help us overcome the temptations that come our way.

Because, we must never forget that the Spirit goes with us. We aren’t left to fend for ourselves. We are held in God’s hand and we are never outside the realm of God’s care.

And neither was Jesus. His reward is that God sends angels and they wait on Him. They care for Him, God sees what Jesus needs and God sends it. God uses the desert places to give us clarity of purpose and mission. It is in the desert places we grow spiritually and develop an empathy for God’s creation so that we become the angels that wait on the children of God.

Closing Hymn: #534 Be Still My Soul

  1. Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
    leave to your God to order and provide; in every change God faithful will remain.
    Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend
    through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
  2. Be still, my soul: your God will undertake to guide the future, as in ages past.
    Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake; all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
    Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
    the Christ who ruled them while he dwelt below.
  3. Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on when we shall be forever with the Lord,
    when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
    Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,

all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Go into your week with the blessings of The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit.