Sermon for Lent one Sunday 1st March

During this period of Lent we are focussing on ‘Walking the Way of The Cross’ by Stephen Cottrell, Paula Gooder and Philip North (Church House Publishing 2019)

This first week of Lent we have as our theme Temptation

We started our talk on this first Sunday in Lent by inviting some young people to toss some pancakes. They had some fun and we thought about how use up our rich foods before the fast and the preparation for Holy Week and Easter.

Our text then asked us to think about the story of Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness. Jesus was preparing himself for the challenges ahead that his ministry would bring as well as the journey to the cross.

In the Genesis reading we discover man and woman tempted to disobey God because they sought power. The Shrove Tuesday Gospel reading in Mark chapter 9: 30-37 had the disciples arguing who is the greatest? It is a challenging text that asks us to think about what type of Saviour Jesus was? People like the Disciples had a problem with what Jesus was trying to convey to them. How could they believe in a messiah who would suffer and then die? People then as they do now would expect a modern- day Superman or Wonder Woman, a Superhero. Today we are no different to the Disciples, still concerned with status and what the Christian faith might do for us. There is a sense that the Gospel exists just for us to feel good about ourselves. If Jesus is the Messiah then, we too by following Him can be all powerful. Then Jesus picks up a child and says  ‘If anyone welcomes one child in my name, they welcome me, and if they welcome me, they welcome not me but the who sent me.

The text talks about welcome, how we are to welcome all people. The child is representative of the vulnerable and needy, those who seek spiritual and practical help, those who want guidance with key events in their lives, those who want to simply be listened to or valued.

Back to our text for today Jesus is tempted by the devil to be all powerful. Turn stones into food, throw yourself off a building and let the angels save you, view all the Kingdoms of the World and inherit them. Jesus say, away with you Satan, worship the Lord your God and serve only Him. This is the one who on Maundy Thursday will step down from the supper to wash feet.

In Walking the way of the Cross by Philip North, Paula Gooder and Stephen Cottrell we find the temptation to find the easier way. At Station One in the Garden of Gethsemane our three commentators focus on three short texts.

  1. North chooses ‘Not what I want but what you want’ – Philip North says that Jesus could have avoided the Cross and lived as he wanted but he hands himself over to God to give us life.
  2. Gooder quotes ‘Remove this cup from me’ – Paula Gooder suggests that it is tempting to imagine that it would have been easy for Jesus to face suffering and death with calm yet he feels anguish, distress and grief and these words suggest too, that Jesus would want another way. Bravery is not found in people without fear but who take it on. This reminds me of the funeral I took at All Saints for Daniel Hume, the brave soldier who took on his fears to become a man who encouraged others during the war in Afghanistan. Jesus knows the terrible time ahead of him yet despite temptation he bravely faces the trials.
  3. Cottrell – ‘He began to be distressed and agitated’ – Stephen in that personal way that he writes says that he wants Jesus to be strong just like he was when he was turning over tables, casting out demons and clever with his speech so as  to make his point. ‘I want his stories to be true, of hope and forgiveness and a God that loves me’.

Bishop Cottrell shortly to be Archbishop Cottrell you are right we all want an easier way. It isn’t easy for Jesus to be weak and scared and sleepless the night before he died. He must have been tempted too but through those dark hours he went to win for us New and transformed life.