The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle
Reflections from Rev. John Murray
Sunday 21 February 2021
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
The risen Christ present with us by the Spirit is our ‘house’, our true and lasting place of worship.
‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way….’ (Heb.4:15)
The testing of Jesus: Luke 4:1-13
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “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.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” 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. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
Safe and Secure: faith under pressure: Psalm 91 (The Passion translation)
1 When you sit enthroned under the shadow of Shaddai,
you are hidden in the strength of God Most High.
2 He’s the hope that holds me and the Stronghold to shelter me,
the only God for me, and my great confidence.
3 He will rescue you from every hidden trap of the enemy,
and he will protect you from false accusation and any deadly curse.
How then could evil prevail against us or disease infect us?.
12 If you walk into a trap, the angels will be there for you and keep you from stumbling.
13 You’ll even walk unharmed among the fiercest powers of darkness, trampling every one of them beneath your feet!
14 For here is what the Lord has spoken to me: “Because you have delighted in me as my great lover, I will greatly protect you. I will set you in a high place, safe and secure before my face.
15 I will answer your cry for help every time you pray, and you will find and feel my presence even in your time of pressure and trouble. I will be your glorious hero and give you a feast.
16 You will be satisfied with a full life and with all that I do for you. For you will enjoy the fullness of my salvation!”
Prayers for the wilderness days
As we enter these Lenten days and look to fall into step behind Jesus, entering with him the wilderness where battles are lost and won, faith tested and futures found, we confess we are not ready: we are not strong to face and to find all that might be revealed. We are not pure in heart – we carry too many burdens of guilt, long gathered wounds, often cherishing a past mulling over wrongs not righted – and so we pray LORD for you to meet us at the edge of the desert and lighten our load. Take the heavy packs off our backs and simply forgive what has been and what has not been achieved.
Our eyes are on the Galilean going ahead of us - clearing a path - promising that for us rain will fall in the desert, and after the storm a rainbow will light the heavens, and we will be made new through Christ our Lord.
Where angels fear to tread comes Christ to walk - feet firmly planted in the earth, that whatever lies beneath, there may be found a way through and a route onwards to life. Where the course of life has taken strange turns, and the landscape shifted out of all recognition, you are with us. Where ancient routes are turned to silt and there is little left to refresh us, you are there:
For unless you go before us Jesus, we cannot follow, and as you walk, remember us: that we be bound in love to you and all humankind. Amen
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.
Deliver us from the time of testing
Arguably, our Lenten journey began a year ago, in March 2020, and we have not managed to find the way out of it yet.
Think of Jesus and his forty days: tempted by the Satan who was offering him the easy platitudes, the smooth assurances, the ‘it will all be fine’ if you trust me. What a hero is Jesus, and all on our behalf. The testing was real: failure was a real possibility. But although success was the outcome for Jesus for now, the Devil would be back.
As we make the long hard journey with Jesus to his destiny in Jerusalem, we see the cross as the finest expression of a temptation overcome, of a despair outrun. Faith, trust, hope, are not natural to humanity. Let’s give thanks to God for what we have, and let us sit with Jesus in his time of trial and see what God is revealing to us in these days.
The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first – wanting to be the centre – wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race.
CS Lewis (Mere Christianity)
Even though the rain hides the stars, even though the mist swirls the hills: even when the dark clouds veil the sky, God is by my side: even when the sun shall fall in sleep: even when at dawn the sky shall weep: even in the night when storms shall rise, God is by my side, God is by my side.
Through the darkness – into the light
What would you say has been the most difficult thing about this pandemic time for you? Have there been things about yourself that you have learned? Or about others? You could write them down or discuss them with someone.
It can be all too easy for us to see Jesus as a Superman character. We believe that he was God and man yet our minds can seem to stick with the God part more than the man. Remember Jesus is fully human, and it is there in his humanity where he is fighting.
The Christian discipline of fighting temptation is not about self-hatred, or rejecting parts of our God-given humanity. It is about celebrating God’s gift of full humanity and, like some-one learning a musical instrument, discovering how to tune it and play it to its best possibility.
Where is the fight for us?
Nelson Mandela said, "I know that if I don't leave all my unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness behind when I walk through those gates, I will be walking out into another prison of my making”. May we know that true freedom.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
We heard from Ruth Donaldson this last Tuesday on the work of CSW, which is an organisation that advocates for those persecuted throughout the world. Ruth spoke movingly on the plight of so many across the world living under regimes where people are persecuted, often for their faith/race/ethnic background. In your prayers please do remember all those that are persecuted and are really suffering.