Once again, I want to thank Sandy for sharing with us her dream of Murchadha House, where people with exceptional needs can find a special place to be and to grow and, as much as possible, to thrive. Sandy, you are a reminder of how an individual or small group can make a difference.
I know that the people who are newer to Cottam United may now know Sandy but she and her family have a long history here. She grew up just across Highway 3 was baptized here on May 9, 1971 There are pictures around somewhere of Sandy in Sunday School and then teaching Sunday School. She and Darrin were married here on October 9, 2002. We’ve also been connected with their son Joshua from a very early age. I remember when Joshua was baptized here at Cottam United Church way back on October 29, 2006. I remember that day and I remember the hopes that Sandy and Darrin had for Joshua who was so new to your family. I’m pretty sure that was before you discovered that Joshua had exceptional needs. And so, it’s exciting for us to be able to support you as you plan to build Murchadha House right here in our own community.
Starting something new, however, is not easy because right from the beginning there are always challenges and tempations. I think that’s a pretty common experience for people who start new things and new ministries.
Even Jesus experienced this. Today, I want to use the story of the temptations of Jesus to talk about this. The story appears in Luke 4. Jesus has not yet started his earthly ministry. But he’s ready. Before that happens, he heads off into the wilderness. Let’s find out what happens in Luke 4:1-4 (NIV):
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 has been in the wilderness for forty days. During that time he has been fasting and praying as we prepares to begin his ministry. At the end of forty days of fasting, of course, Jesus is very hungry. In another translation it says he is famished. That means that he is also weak, physically, emotionally and spiritually. And it is just at that very moment, when Jesus is at his weakest that the devil comes to him. What he brings is temptations. And why not? The devil is no fool. He knows that the best time to tempt someone is when they are at their very weakest.
And so, what does he offer? He offers food. What better to offer someone who has not eaten for forty days. That’s some temptation. But Jesus will have none of it. He takes a verse from Deuteronomy in the Old Testament and throws it right back at him in Luke 4:4 (NIV) saying, “Man shall not live on bread alone.”
That didn’t go so well so the devil tries again. Luke 4:5-8 (NIV) says this:
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 splendor; 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.”
So if food isn’t going to work, let’s try wealth and power. The devil tells Jesus that if he will only agree to worship him, the devil will give him all the kingdoms of the earth. But once again, Jesus finds another verse in Deuteronomy to counter the devil’s temptations. Luke 4:8 (NIV) says, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
Two down, one to go. The devil takes one more stab at it. Luke 4:9-11 (NIV) says:
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.’”
This time, the devil tempts Jesus to test God. If God really loves you, then you should be able to throw yourself down from the temple and the expect angels to come and save you. Go ahead and give it a try.
But again, Jesus has the Old Testament scriptures at his finger tips and quotes yet another verse from Deuteronomy. Luke 4:12 (NIV) says, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
The then the devil, beaten in this round, goes away. Score Jesus 3, the devil 0.
Jesus faced temptations as he looked to begin his three year ministry in Judea 2,000 years ago. We still face temptations today when we start new things. But I was thinking this week that there are special challenges to trying to start something like Marchadha House and I want to look at three temptations that I think we need to take seriously.
The first thing the devil might whisper in our ears is this: I can’t make a difference. Sandy is here to tell us that that’s not true. Look at what has been accomplished so far. Murchada house has a Board of Directors of committed people. It has a piece of land on Fox Street. It has a charitable organization status with the CRA. It has a partnership with Community Living Essex County. And now it has Cottam United Church on board. And that’s not all. None of that was in place when the idea first came to Sandy and her team but it’s here now. And that’s the foundation we can build on, that Murchadha House, Community Living, Cottam United Church and the whole community can build on. So don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t make a difference. You’ve already made a difference. Always remember this. Even small changes are important. You can’t change the world but you can make a difference.
The second temptation is this: Let’s just let the government do it. That’s their job. Really? Have you been paying attention to the news lately – both provincial and federal? Do you know what can happen to organizations that rely exclusively on government funding for their day to day operations? When times are good and the government treasury is full, everything is rosy. But when budget cuts happen everyone feels the pinch.
As someone who has worked a lot with different organizations, I have found a fundamental difference between government organizers and community organizers. The first question that government people ask is, “Where is the funding coming from?” And if the funding is available then they look at what needs done. With community organizations the first question is different. It’s, “What needs to get done?” And once they establish what the real need is, they they find ways to secure the funding. Both see things very differently because they start at different places. That’s why it’s important to have some government support. It’s even more important to have community support because while the government may or may not be there, the community is more likely to always be there.
Here’s the third one. You can be tempted to let someone else do it. You think you don’t have time or you think you don’t have the right skills or you have idea how to proceed or even what questions to ask. But don’t let that ever hold you back. The reason why Sandy began this was because no one else was. She saw a real need in our community and she decided to do something about it. And when she began she had no idea how to do it or where to go or what had to be done. But she had a dream and she had a purpose and now that dream and that purpose are starting to come together and it’s very, very exciting. Sandy and her team got into this project right up to their eyeballs because no one else was doing it. Don’t expect others to do it. If something needs to be done, then go get it done.
I don’t know about you but I’ve had the experience where there is a dance going on in my head between two competing voices. One of them is the voice of the devil telling me that I can’t do what I think I need to do. The other is God’s voice calling me to be more than I would ever think I could be, to go and do that which he has called me to do. It’s really tempting sometimes to listen to the devil’s voice but when I listen to God’s voice and answer his call, I know that I will be equipped to do that which I am called to do.
There’s one more verse to the temptations story of Jesus that I want to share. I didn’t read it earlier but I want to read it now. In Luke 4:13 (NIV) it says this: “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” This might be the most important verse in the whole story because it reminds of that just because we get past one round of temptations, just because we get over our self doubts and obstacles once, that does not mean that they gone forever. They will come back and there will be times when we will be tempted to give in and give up again.
I want to say this to you and the other organizers of Murchadha House very
clearly. You are doing something that is very important not only for the people
with exceptional needs but also for their families and also for this community.
There are many, many people who will benefit from you hard work and dedication.
Don’t give up. I know you won’t. Together with your leadership and the support
of this community and this church and others, we will get this done and before
you know it, you will be welcoming people with exceptional needs into a new
place that they can call home.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
God of Life and Awesome mystery, we come to you our Creator on this first Sunday in Lent. The reality of life surrounds us. We see our sin and we experience the pain of the world. Yet, in the midst of suffering, there is your great mercy for all people. Remind us, once more of the forgiveness that is ours in Jesus Christ. Thank you for giving yourself to us and for us that we may have the great gift of eternal life. We acknowledge your greatness and your grace.
Thank You for your limitless unconditional love which gives us the assurance that you are available to us at any time. Remind us daily that you will never leave us or stop loving us for we are always safe within your care.
Lent is here, a time to remember, to reflect and to think about how we can better follow your holy way. Keep us aware of our shortcomings but help us also to celebrate the times when we listen to your voice and do your bidding with gusto and enthusiasm.
We thank you for the joy and celebration of being part of the people of God. We give thanks for the fun that we can have in faith and way that we can come together as a community. As a community, we pledge ourselves to support Murchadha House as Sandy and her team seek to fulfill this amazing ministry right here in Cottam.
We also pray for those who mourn. Especially today, we pray for the family and friends of Blake Collard whose funeral will be on Tuesday. Bless them with a sense of peace we pray and touch their spirits with your Spirit.
We also pray for those who are sick or recovering at home. We lift up in prayer Sharon and Mary and Bejeong Kim. Rest your Holy and Healing Spirit upon them that they may be healed and well in your sight.
Heavenly Father, when we begin to feel overwhelmed help us to remember
the struggles of those who have gone before us. We are part of a great parade
of Saints who have lived faithfully throughout the generations. Because of
their faith, courage and persistence, we have the opportunity to know you
today. Give us such strength and wisdom that future generations may look back
and call us faithful. We are grateful for the assurance that you are with us
and that your promises never fail. We lift these prayers to you in Jesus’ name.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
March 10, 2019 / Lent 1
Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Luke 4:1-16; Romans 10:8-16
CALL TO WORSHIP
We come as sinful people, seeking our Merciful God.
We come to seek forgiveness, from the God of All Compassion.
Come, let us worship God, our Creator and Redeemer.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
We come to you, God our Creator, with the confidence that we have in Christ. Through Jesus, you showed us the meaning of love in awesome and incredible ways. His life was a model of human living. His death was your sacrifice made for our sins. His resurrection is a sign of the eternal life that we have through faith in him. Come into our presence and remind us that we are never alone. We live in a world of your making and sit under the banner of your love.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Even though we know that your mercy is great, we come before you with uncertainty and fear. We are deeply aware of our sins. We say that we are willing to follow Jesus but part of us would rather just live comfortable, secure lives. We say that we want a stronger connection with you yet we so easily settle for surface-level living. Enable us to resist the temptation to be less than you have created us to be. Forgive us and open our hearts to your compassionate Spirit.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Hear the Good News; God’s desire is to be compassionate with us. Be assured that God forgives us, believes in us and trust us to grow in wisdom and faith. We can give thanks that we live in the presence of Christ Jesus our Saviour and Lord.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
We are surrounded by your many gifts, O God. You bless us in so many wonderful ways. As a recognition of your generousity, we give back to you a portion of our wealth. Keep us mindful that all that we have comes from you and enable us to use all of our resources for your glory.
We are a new creation in Jesus Christ. Let us
go forth in the strength of God’s love to live and serve in newness of life.
May the peace of Jesus be with us always.