Lent 1

February 18, 2024

Lectionary Texts

Genesis 9. 8-17. The covenant of the rainbow after the flood.

Psalm 25. 1-10. Make me to know your ways; teach me your paths….Be mindful of your mercy…

1 Peter 3. 18-22. Christ suffered to bring you to God. Baptism saves you as an appeal to God through the resurrection.

Mark 1. 9-15. Jesus is baptized and is driven by the Spirit into the wilderness where he is tempted. He then begins his ministry.

Preaching Thoughts

Today’s texts invite us into the Lenten journey with Jesus. Rooted in God’s Covenant, seen in the rainbow and in baptism, we confront our temptations so that we can more faithfully walk in God’s ways.

       The covenant of the rainbow promises that God will not respond to our sin by destroying us. Note that it’s a covenant with all Creation, not just humans. And it’s manifested to us in Creation, in a rainbow. God tells us to repent but we won’t change. In response, God changes: God says, “I’ve changed my mind. I will no longer do that flood thing.” It”s an inherent admission that we’ll always be sinful, and that we need something other than final punishment to deal with that.

This is the prayer of Lent: we pray for the gift of God’s grace, for trust in that grace, and for discernment of God’s leading in our lives: “show me your ways.”

1 Peter
       We can stand before God without shame—not because of our own faithfulness, but God’s. This good news is for everyone, even people who don’t know Christ. The water of baptism reminds us that we‘ve been saved like Noah and his family. Lent is a baptismal journey of dying (drowning) and rising with Christ.

       Mark is always in a hurry, like a 30-minute TV episode. The resurrection takes three days; everything else happens “immediately.” So it may be just Mark’s breathless style—but there’s little that accidental in Mark, so maybe it’s significant that Jesus’ baptism is tied to his wilderness sojourn, as if they’re part of one story. Baptism is a journey of death and resurrection. We let our little isolated self-contained “self” die, and allow God to give us a new life—life in God, as part of God, a member of the Body of Christ. As a baby leaves the water of the womb, passes through the birth canal and enters into life, Israel left Egypt, passed through the Red Sea to freedom and entered into the wilderness wanderings for 40 years. Echoing that, Jesus rises from the baptismal waters greeted as if newborn by God as “my son, the Beloved,” and enters into the wilderness for 40 days. Entering the waters and rising from them changed is a movement that is echoed in our entering into bondage and becoming free, Jesus’ journey into the desert and his return, and the journey (both his and ours) toward the cross and through it to the resurrection. Baptism invites us into the Lenten journey of death-and-resurrection, the journey from the waters (still waters, green pastures?) to the waterless places (the valley of the shadow of death?) and back to a place of life (a table set in the house of God?). We let our old self die and we emerge re-born as new people. Lent is not just the journey toward the cross: that’s the way-station. The journey is actually toward Easter.
       The Holy Spirit may manifest as a gentle nudge; it may also be a mighty force: Mark says the Spirit “drove” Jesus into the wilderness. Jesus doesn’t go off to seminary to study books in preparation for his ministry; instead he goes of to study himself. He examines his own temptations—his desires, his habits, his human nature that automatically considers himself to be separate from God. Mark doesn’t enumerate the temptations like Matthew and Luke do, but my guess is that in real life Jesus had more than three.
      Jesus’ sojourn in the wilderness is a journey of clarifying his purpose and strengthening his will. It’s also a journey of self-awareness. What Jesus is doing is confronting his shadow side. Our shadow is the unlived portion of our psyche, the stuff we ignore or even repress. Unchecked, those unconscious energies have a lot of power. Our inner demons can get control of us, and we do hurtful things. We can get the upper hand only when we face them. Our spiritual life is rooted in our unconscious, beneath our rational awareness and beyond our conscious control. Aspects of our shadow are neither harmful nor healthy, but it’s always unhealthy (unwhole) to repress them instead of engaging them, bringing them into consciousness. Then we can give the healthy ones energy and divert the energy of the destructive ones. I can imagine Jesus’ shadow might include stuff like anger, an urge toward violence and control, and greed. Matthew and Luke’s story suggest Jesus has issues around control (turn stones to bread), security (leap from on high unharmed) possessiveness, and popularity (all the realms of the world!). Jesus doesn’t deny these energies; he diverts them into desire for God alone. This is the heart of repentance: not just to feel bad about our sin but the transformation of our desires, to redirect our hunger toward God. Our shadow side may also include some really good stuff. It may be a talent, energy, or spiritual gift that we’re afraid of, or that others have criticized in us. So men deny their femininity so not to be ridiculed; girls and women learn not to appear too smart or powerful so not to threaten men. Facing our shadow sometimes means claiming something wonderful in us we’ve repressed or maybe even never imagined. A bit that Mark doesn’t tell about but Matthew and Luke do is the suggestion that Jesus works out that it’s OK to be the Son of God.
       So: facing our temptations can be empowering! For some folks the kind of work we do when we fast or “give something up for Lent” has an air of unpleasantness about it. But it’s not like doomscrolling. It’s actually the doorway to delight. We’re getting the junk out of the way so we can really, deeply be who we are created to be, and receive and revel in God’s grace. Confession and repentance isn’t a downer; it’s a gift!
       Temptations are not the work of some “devil” who sneaks around trying to get us to do bad stuff. Nobody needs to do that; we do fine on our own. Our temptations are our desire for life, misdirected. As hunger for life, they’re actually good. But they’re harmful in their misdirection. We seek what we think of as love or life in all the wrong places. It’s not because we’re bad, but because we’re human. We’re self-conscious, which naturally leads us to assume our “self” is separate from God—when in fact we’re part of God, “in Christ,” “in the Spirit,” members of the Body of Christ. Temptations are our natural desire to protect and serve ourselves instead of trusting we belong to God, and seeking love and life in all sorts of places (“false gods”) instead of God. We are created to be in harmony with God. Because of our sin, our self-centeredness and self-preoccupation, we’re out of tune. Temptation is the desire to “do it my way,” to sing our own note regardless of what God is singing. Repentance is the work of tuning up. And any good singer will tell you, you always have to tune up. You have to listen to God, and sing with God, not sing your own note. In the wilderness Jesus is tuning up, listening to God and putting his life and his heart in harmony with God. It’s not because Jesus is pure and sinless, but because he faces his human nature honestly, that he is so close to God.
      Mark has this wonderful detail: “the wild beasts were with him.” The image has multiple dimensions. There’s something scary about it: when we’re in the grip of our temptations, our natural self-centeredness, we can be wild beasts. We can be self-serving and hurtful. I can remember times when my wild beasts were particularly with me. But there’s also something comforting about it: Jesus is in tune with all the Creator and with all Creation; he’s even at peace with the wild animals, who like to hang around him. And it suggests Jesus is with us in our own wildernesses, our wild places, the places in our lives that are untamed, scary, unknown, “uncharted territory.” And there’s something poignant about it. Among the “wild beasts” Jesus is on the outskirts of human culture. He will be an outcast, considered a wild beast by the powers that be—and indeed he will not be tamed by the System. For that independence, despite crowds that want to follow him at times, he will be on the outside of society for much of his ministry. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Mt. 8.20).
       And there’s this little glorious tidbit: “angels waited upon him.” Even in our deepest plunge into our own darkest sinner secrets we are not on our own. We need not rely on our own strength or wisdom. God attends. When I was little we had some family friends with a swimming pool. To clean the pool Don wold put on an old bronze diving helmet—a big old round thing with windows that sat on this shoulders, just like in the cartoons. It was connected by a garden hose to an air pump operated by a broom handle. Caroline, his wife, would sit in a deck chair reading a book, pumping the broom handle back and forth, and Don would descend down into the depths. Even if the water got all murky as he scrubbed, even if he disappeared in the green and was down there for a long time, he was fine down there, even in the deepest part, as long as she pumped. Sometimes we need someone to pump air for us so we can go down into the murky depths, someone to hold us in their heart as we do the hard inner work. Sometimes we’re called to do that for each other. But even when it seems no one is around, no one pumping air for us, angels wait on us.

Call to Worship

Leader: God of our solitude, we worship you.
All: God of our temptations, we cry out to you.
Christ, our companion we look to you.
Holy Spirit, our hope, help us worship.
Help us love. Help us live.

Leader: Creator God, you made us from the dust of the earth.
All: You breathe your Spirit into us, and it gives us life.
Loving Christ, you walk with us on the dusty roads of our human frailty.
You give us courage to face our shadows, and it gives us hope.
Holy Spirit, you drove Jesus into the wilderness.
You draw us into our lives, and it gives us gratitude.
We worship you. We trust you. We follow you into the desert.
Bless us, that we may repent and believe the good news. Amen.

Leader: We gather to worship, God, because we love you.
We worship you because we need you.
Come with us into our wildernesses.
Accompany us into the shadowed places,
the unseen, the deserted places.
Walk with us, as we learn to walk with Jesus.
Help us to find the green, growing places.
Lead us to the springs of life. Amen.

Leader: God of the desert, come with us.
Good shepherd, lead us from the still waters
through the valley of the shadow of death.
God of life, give us new birth in the waters of your grace.
Guide us through the birth canal and all its challenges
to new life, life in you.
Jesus, walk with us through the desert.
Accompany us to the cross,
and to resurrection as new people, in your Spirit. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

Gentle God, Jesus went into the wilderness to face his shadow side. Accompany us into the darkness of our own souls; come and heal us, shed some light, and lead us to wholeness of life. Amen.

God of grace, your Spirit led Jesus out into the desert to pray, to face his temptations, and to be made new. Lead us by your Spirit, speak to us your Word, and help us to see ourselves honestly, that we may repent and be made new by your grace. Amen.

Loving God, you establish your Covenant with us, and you are gracious and merciful, abounding in steadfast love. But we struggle to be faithful. Lead us with Jesus into the wilderness to confront our demons, to look into our shadows, and to find blessing. In your Word, by your Spirit, in the company of Christ, lead us to life. Amen.

Gentle God, your Spirit led Jesus in the wilderness for forty days, where he wrestled with his temptations and found a deeper way to you. Bless us that we may enter that wilderness where we are alone with you. Grant us the grace to face our temptations, to repent of our sin, and to undergo the transformation of our desires, by the leading of your Spirit. e pray in the name and in the presence of Christ. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

In the wilderness of silence,
fasting from our busy thoughts,
hungry for your grace,
we listen for your Word,
soft as a desert wind,
the breath of life.

Prayer of Confession

Pastor: The grace of God be with you.
All: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
Most merciful God, we confess that our love is wounded.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
But your love is perfect.
And so we open ourselves to your love:
to receive your forgiveness,
and to be transformed by your grace,
so that our repentance may be love overflowing
to you, to all people, and to the ends of Creation. Amen.
Silent prayer… The word of grace

Pastor: The grace of God is with you.
All: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
Gracious God, Fountain of Life,
we confess to you the deserts of our lives,
the dry places… barren places… rough places.
Go with us into our wilderness.
Show us the way.
Lead us to living waters.
Silent prayer…
Dearly Beloved, God turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.
The paths of righteousness
lead through the valley of the shadow of death
to the table of God.
Take heart, for in the grace we see in Christ
God forgives all your sin,
heals your fears, and sets you free
to live by the guidance of the Holy Spirit,
now and forever.

The grace of God be with you.
And also with you.
As Jesus went into the wilderness to confront his sin and to be transformed by God, so let us confess our sin and open our hearts to the grace of God.
Merciful God, we confess that we have not lived according to your will, but by our own fears and desires. We have not loved you with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, nor have we loved our neighbors as ourselves. By your grace, forgive our sins, heal our fears, and transform our desires. Make us new Creations, in the spirit of Christ. Amen.

God of love, help us to see ourselves with the eyes of love,to see all that is in us that is loving, and all that is not loving.By the grace that we know in Christ, receive us, forgive us, heal us, and perfect your love in us.


Psalm 25, a paraphrase.  
       (Ps. 25.1-7, 16-18, 22)

To you, O Holy One, I give myself;
          I pour my soul into yours.
I am as safe as a star
          shining in your sky;

the destroyers of my life
          can never reach me.
Sitting with you in stillness I fill with glory.
          Those who would assault me leap
          and fall into an abyss.

Beloved, you are my truth; lead me.
          You are my path; take me.
Be my mind, my heart, my will;
          for you alone are my life.

You are all I wait for;
          every moment is an opening to you.

Heavenly Lover, your whole heart is mercy;
          your will is steadfast love:
source of the world, it has never failed
          in all of time or before it.

You see me not through my sins,
          but through your steady love.
You are free from my past,
          steadfastly faithful to your goodness.

I am alone in the room of my affliction,
          yet you are present within me;
your grace breathes beneath my troubles
          and bears me out of this narrow place.

You know the corpse in me.
          Bring it to life.

You save us, O God,
          in all our troubles.

Eucharistic Prayer

See Eucharistic Responses for eleven musical versions: the Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation and Amen set to familiar hymn tunes.

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.
We thank you, God, for you create us as the image of your love.
When we obscure that image, you restore us with love.
You make covenant to be our God.
When we break the covenant, you restore us with grace.
You set us free to live by the guiding and power of your Spirit.
When we are enslaved, you set us free again.
So with all Creation we praise you, singing with one voice.

            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate]

Blessed are all who come in your name, and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He healed and taught with love. He confronted the powers of injustice.
In the desert he faced his temptations. In his ministry he acknowledged his shadow.
In his love he gave of his life, and you raised him from the dead.
[The Blessing and Covenant…]

Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
As often as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection until he comes again.
Remembering these, your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a living and holy sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]
         Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.
Set us free from all that binds us and that distorts our love,
so that with Jesus we might bring good news to this world,
in his name, and in the Spirit of your love.

                [Spoken or sung:]

* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) We have feasted on your love. Transform our hungers, redirect our desires and purify our love for you and for others, for te sake of the healing of the world, in the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) Lead us by your Spirit in this Lenten season to repent in hope, to serve you in faith, and to die and rise with Christ. Amen.

Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) Even in our brokenness, you sustain us, and angels wait upon us. Send us into the world, strengthened by your Word and trusting in your love, to do your will, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) Bless us that strengthened by this grace we may turn toward life, and serve you always. Send us into the world now, to share the bread of life with those who hunger, in the name of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

                                 Brief (repeatable) prayer songs

Kyrie, Six Versions     (All original tunes. Some are part of Eucharistic settings)
     Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison.
          (Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.)

The Jesus Prayer         (Original song)
        Jesus, Beloved of God, have mercy on me, for I need you.

God, Be Merciful to Me         (Original song)
        God, be merciful to me.
        With empty hands and open
        I turn to you for mercy.

Eucharistic Responses (Eleven sets of Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation and Amen set to the tunes of familiar hymns appropriate for Lent.
Two of them also include “table songs” of invitation/preparation for communion.)

Table Song: Feed Us Your Grace (Tune: Finlandia)

You call us, Christ, to take our cross and follow,
but first you bring us here to feast with you.
Our gifts we bring, to celebrate your loving.
Our lives we give, to die and rise anew.
Feed us your grace, your spirit of compassion;
make us your body now, your will to do.

                                  Regular Songs

Becoming Whole     (Original song)
We are a broken people becoming whole again.
We are a wounded people being healed again.
We are a hungry people being fed again.
We are a wandering people coming home again.
We are a captive people walking free again.
We are dead and buried, being raised again.
We are a grateful people giving thanks again.

God, I Surrender      (Original song)

God, I surrender myself to you,
all that I have and all I do.
All my desires I give to you.
Take them from me and make me new.

God, I surrender myself to you,
all that I have and all I do.
Trusting you wholly I follow you
Take my life and make me new.

God of Mercy (Original Song)

Refrain: God of mercy, you forgive me,
may I myself forgive.
Now confessing, I ask your blessing.
By your grace I shall live.

God, heal my sin, brokenness deep within.
Too often I bear pain I make others share.
Set me free from what I have been. Refrain

You are gentle with me; gentle I learn to be.
You touch me and heal; deep in my soul I feel
burdens gone, and I am free. Refrain

Note: The last line of the refrain, “By your grace I shall live,” may be repeated ad lib. As a repeated chant it may also be used separately as a Response to confession, prayer, Eucharist, or other moments.

God, we are broken      (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God, we are broken, for all flesh is weak.
Grant us the healing and peace that we seek.
For all that pains us, beyond our control,
grant us your healing, our bodies made whole.

God, we are broken; our hearts are not one.
Sometimes it seems that our souls come undone.
Bring us renewal and calm in our soul.
Grant us your healing and make our hearts whole.

God, we are broken: for families and friends
suffer when love fails and faithfulness ends.
May your forgiveness and grace play its role.
Grant us your healing; make covenants whole.

God, we are broken, for many are poor,
and we ignore those who lie by our door.
God, may your justice like great rivers roll.
Grant us your healing; make all people whole.

God, we are broken for hate and all war
wound us so we are not free anymore.
Make us one people from pole to pole.
Grant us your healing, and make the world whole.

God, you have searched me (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)
            [ Psalm 139, Psalm 51]

God, you have searched me; you know from within
all of my beauty, my wounds and my sin.
Deep in my heart—I’ve not spoken a word—
you know my soul, and my thoughts you have heard.

You who have made me and always are near,
help me to shed my illusion and fear.
Help me be truthful, and truthfully see,
humbly transparent to your grace in me.

Your loving presence within me each day
go with me, guide me, and show me your way.
Give me the eyes of your mercy and grace,
to walk in love in each moment, each place.

Grant Me Your Vision    (Tune: Be Thou My Vision )

Grant me your vision, O God of pure light.
May your deep wisdom and love give me sight.
Help me to see who I am as you see:
lovely and wounded and worth setting free.

Take my illusions, my fear and my lies;
shedding my veil, Lord, I open my eyes,
seeing my beauty, my wounds and my sin,
past all pretending, in truth deep within.

Give me the eyes of your mercy and grace;
help me to see you in each time and place.
God, you who know me, please guide me, I pray,
following Jesus in his loving way.

Into the Darkness(Original song)

Only the seed that has died and is buried lives to bear fruit, Jesus said.
Lead me then into the darkness and dying, so you can raise me up from the dead.
Jesus, help me die and rise.

All of my living, my loves and desires, all of the things that I cling to,
now I surrender to die and be buried. Raise me in following, serving you.
Jesus, help me die and rise.

Lead me to truth, and have mercy, and wash me dep in the dark of my being.
A spirit like bread that is taken and broken: this is the death that is freeing.
Jesus, help me die and rise.

Give me a clean heart, a heart poor in spirit, willing and steadfast and made new.
My life I lose; let your cross lift me up now. One joy restore to me: life in you.
Jesus, help me die and rise.

O God, Creator of Each Thing
(Tune: Tallis’ Canon, O Love, How Deep, or The Gift of Love/The Water Is Wide)

O God, Creator of each thing,
in thanks and praise to you we sing.
In hunger sore we come to you:
Creator God, make us anew.

Our wounds you heal, our sins forgive.
You serve this feast that we may live.
You set us free; you make us new.
In us shines love that comes from you.

How blessed is Christ, who loved and healed,
who by your grace, your love revealed.
For Christ has died. And Christ is risen.
And Christ will come in love again.

Out of the Deepest Depths (Original song. Includes version for 4-part choir.)
      [Psalm 130]

Out of the deepest depths I cry to you, O God.
O listen with your heart, and hear my pleading voice.
If you counted sins, then no one could stand with you;
but Love, you forgive.

I wait for you, my God, for in your word I hope.
I wait for you, Love, more than those who wait for dawn,
yes, more than those who watch for the morning light
I wait for you.

O Hope, O Israel, hope in the Holy One.
For with our God is love, God’s steadfast, faithful love,
and power to redeem; for God is the one
who will redeem us from sin.

Return, My Soul       (Tune: Finlandia)

Return, my soul, from all your hungry wandering,
your fearful search for comfort and control.
Let go my grasp of things apart from God,
for God alone can heal and hold my soul.
Return to God, for God alone will love me,
and give me life, and bless and make me whole.

Return, my soul, from all the things that dull me,
that soothe my sense, but leave my sin in place.
My broken heart, return from tricks and bargains;
turn to the One who meets me face to face.
Return to God. Each moment turn again;
receive unending love and life and grace.

Oasis       (Tune: Fill My Cup, Lord)
[ A blessing song to sing to each other at the end of the service.
Can be found in a collection of Blessing Songs
to several familiar hymn tunes.]

Go in peace now, my dear beloved,
in the grace and presence of the Lord.
In the desert, go with love to all who thirst;
be a spring, an oasis of the Word.

Your Will Be Done (Original song)

Father, take my willfulness.
I surrender it to you grace alone.
Mother, be my willingness.
I can only ask: Your will be done.

Jesus, take my brokenness.
I surrender it to you grace alone.
Jesus, heal my brokenness.
I can only ask: Your will be done.

Spirit, take my empty hands.
I surrender them to you grace alone.
Spirit, with my empty hands
I can only ask: Your will be done.

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