March 6, 2022 – First Sunday in Lent
An audio recording of the live worship service will be available in the evening of March 6, 2022.
Whenever you see this movie reel symbol, you can click on it to view a video segment on YouTube. If you experience any difficulties, please contact our webmaster.
Call to worship
One: We live in the shelter of the Most High,
All: We abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
One: Let us worship God who is our refuge and our strength,
All: For God is the One in whom we trust.
One: The Lord will deliver us from the perils that threaten us.
All: Under God’s wings, we will find refuge and not be afraid.
One: So let us praise God, in song and in silence, with thankful hearts!
All: We will worship God with heart, mind, soul and strength, now and always.
Lighting of the Christ Candle
This is the Christ Candle. We light the candle to help us remember that Jesus Christ, the light of the world, is with us in every place and every time.
Prayers of Approach and Confession, & Lord’s Prayer (sins)
God of our living and our loving, We gather today to praise you. We praise you for Jesus Christ who reveals your loving purposes for all people; We bless you for the Holy Spirit who guides us and strengthens us, drawing us into the embrace of your tender love. We praise you for your eternal love.
Almighty and most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in things we have done, and things we have neglected to do. We have held back from giving to protect what we have. We have not trusted in your goodness and relied on the world’s empty promises instead. Forgive what we have done and direct who we shall become. Help us to serve you by serving your world with generous spirits. We pray in Jesus’ name, and continue to pray as he taught:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever.
Declaration of Pardon
The old life is gone. The new life has come. Know that you are forgiven, and so, in Christ, forgive one another.
Thanks be to God.
The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
The Life and Work of the Church (Announcements)
Today in the gospel of Luke, we will be listening to the story of Jesus in the wilderness. The wilderness represents a place of challenge, loneliness, emptiness, humbling or even humiliating. The wilderness symbolizes a place of struggles and growing pain. Yes, it also represents a place of renewal and rebirth. I believe our pandemic experience has deepened our understanding of the wilderness.
I want to read verse 1, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.” According to the gospel of Luke we read today, Jesus was led to the wilderness by the Spirit of God.
The Spirit of God led Jesus, Moses, David, and the ancient people of Israel to the wilderness. And even today, the Spirit of God continues to lead the people of God into the wilderness.
Let us be clear that the Spirit of God leads us to many wonderful places and people in our life. Yes, the Spirit of God allows us to meet our loved ones, our friends, and our family. Yes, the Spirit of God has led us where we are today.
But the Spirit of God also leads us to the wilderness at times. Yes, the Spirit of God leads us to a beautiful, abundant, and colorful garden where we can deepen our sense of beauty, abundance, and joy, but the Spirit of God also leads us to a dark, empty, and lonely wilderness. Why does the Spirit of God lead us to the wilderness?
Why? I would like to believe that it is because of what is waiting beyond this wilderness. I would like to think it is because of what we learn, gain, and discover in the wilderness. Yes, there is a risk we can get consumed by the wilderness. There is this risk of being consumed by loneliness, emptiness, and darkness. But there is also this precious gift we discover in the wilderness.
What possibly can we learn from the wilderness? What did Jesus do, and what did Jesus learn from his wilderness experience?
Verse 4, Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” Jesus learned to depend on God more than on bread. Verse 8, Jesus said, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Jesus learned to love God more than what God could offer us. Verse 12, Jesus said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Jesus learned to seek God beyond his interest. Jesus learned to build a firm and trusted relationship with God where he is no longer asking God to prove how much he is loved.
What did Moses learn in the wilderness? Moses experienced God in flames of fire that did not consume a bush. Moses learned God was alive and would not be defeated by our human failures.
What did David learn from his wilderness experience running away from his own father-in-law Saul, becoming a refugee? He learned that his creator God was his shepherd, walking with him through both good and challenging times. What did Job discover in his wilderness? Job 23: 8–10, “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold.
I believe we can relate to the wilderness story better because of our experience of this pandemic. It has not been easy for me either. Many challenges: Preaching in an empty room looking at a video camera over two years, spending hours behind computers, you (actually) spend more hours in ministry yet feeling never doing enough, not being able to meet people who are grieving in person. However, as much as I struggled, I learned a lot during this wilderness time.
What did I learn from my wilderness time during this pandemic? What have I learned?
- People love God and their church far more than I think.
- Worship is not about who preaches about who listens and desires God.
- I need others. I miss others. (I will share this personal learning further on Sunday, March 6th)
Dear friends, God is our gentle shepherd and our guide. Yes, we sometimes will have to go through the wilderness, yet that is not our final destination. It is a part of the process of growing, learning, and finding our true home, the eternal Love of God. I believe our life is a process of receiving and accepting the eternal Love of Jesus Christ. Yes, sometimes we will have to take a few steps back, other times we have to turn around…. But I believe we will all find Christ Jesus in our human life. I believe our struggles are a big part of learning who we are and who our God is.
I would like to finish today’s sermon by reading Psalm 23, translated by Nan Merrill.
“O my Beloved, you are my shepherd, I shall not want;
You bring me to green pastures for rest and lead me beside still waters renewing my spirit;
You restore my soul.
You lead me in the path of goodness to follow Love’s way.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow and of death, I am not afraid;
For You are ever with me; your rod and your staff they guide me, they give me strength and comfort.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of all my fears;
You bless me with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the heart of the Beloved forever. Amen.”
(Psalm 23 translation by Nan C. Merrill)
We remind everyone that we must continue to pay our bills; in the absence of being present at Sunday worship, you may sign up for pre-authorized remittance (PAR), donate online, or drop off your offering envelope in the mailbox at the church. Do not leave a cash donation unattended in the mailbox; instead, please call the office (416.261.4037) to ensure someone will be there to receive it. The building will be checked daily for mail and phone messages. If you are not comfortable leaving an envelope, you are welcome to contact the office (once again, 416.261.4037) and someone will pick up your offering.
Dedication of our Gifts
Prayer of dedication
Generous God, we thank you for all the goodness we receive in Christ and in creation. Bless the gifts we offer to share in the work of the kingdom Jesus declared, and bless our lives so that we may be witnesses to his love and mercy. Amen.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope
God of grace, You are our Judge and our Hope. Transform us with your love and harness our energy for your purposes in the world into which Christ came and for which he died. Hear us as we pray for the world, the church, and our community:
We pray for relationships suffering under the stress of prolonged pandemic restrictions. Where families are tempted to nurse grudges and harbour complaints, where friendships have been wounded by misunderstanding or neglect, where workplace tensions have arisen over clashing opinions or exhausting demands, send your reconciling and restoring mercy.
We pray for the world filled with increasing threats and conflicts. Where countries are torn by unrest and persecution, where communities are diminished by prejudice and discrimination, where those with power and authority degrade or dismiss their critics, empower those who work for just solutions and advocate for the powerless. We especially hold Ukraine and Russia in our prayers, Protect people from violence and hatred. We pray for all who are troubled and find it hard to face these uncertain times, we pray for those who face illness or loss of any kind, for those challenged by economic hardship, and for those faced with the reality of death, their own or of someone dear. In silence, we name those on our hearts this day:
Even as we remember the many challenges around us, we give you thanks for the blessings we know, for moments of pleasure, for laughter shared, for conversations that brightened a day. Thank you for your steadfast love and the comfort we draw from your presence with us in all things.
Embrace each one with your compassion and courage. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Changing the Light
Now, it is time to change the light. The light that was in one place can now be in every place and every time going with you wherever you go.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you always. AMEN.
- Go Now in Peace”. Words by American educator, lyricist and composer Don Besig (1936–) and American lyricist Nancy Price (1958–). Music by Don Besig. Words and music copyright © 1988 Harold Flammer Music, a division of Shawnee Press; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- Performed by Rachelle Risling (keyboard) and the GCPC Senior Choir. Audio and video production by Rachelle Risling.
- Audio and video recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
Copyright © 2022 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated 2022-03-05 13:15 – First version.