Sunday Worship Service ~ February 21, 2021

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Good morning, everyone!  We continue to meet online and in person, and are glad for all of our worshippers, whether home, away or at church!  Tammy’s new Sunday School lesson can be found on our Sunday School page.  Every day we add a new post right here on the website that automatically pops up on Facebook and Twitter as well.  If you missed any of this week’s posts, just scroll down to see them!

Wednesday morning Bible studies meet at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.  Our Thrift Shop is open on Saturdays from 10-2 and always in need of volunteers ~ simply contact Tracy S. or the church office.  Sharing a Meal serves the community this Thursday, February 25.  United Methodist Women meets Monday, March 1 at 1.  A blessed Lent to all!

CALL TO WORSHIP:  Isaiah 40:3-5

Prepare ye the way of the LORD!
MAKE STRAIGHT IN THE DESERT
A HIGHWAY FOR OUR GOD.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
THE ROUGH GROUND SHALL BECOME LEVEL,
THE RUGGED PLACES A PLAIN.

And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
AND ALL PEOPLE WILL SEE IT TOGETHER.

UNISON PRAYER:

SWEET HOLY SPIRIT,
AS WE ENTER THE SEASON OF LENT,
WE PRAY FOR THE POWER TO RESIST TEMPTATION,
THE HUMILITY TO BE TRANSFORMED,
AND THE COURAGE TO PUT OUR FAITH INTO ACTION.  AMEN.

WORDS OF ASSURANCE:  Mark 1:13, New International Version

Jesus was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.
He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

Our Father,
Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those
Who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil,
For thine is the kingdom,
And the power,
And the glory forever.
Amen.

OPENING SONG:  “One Thing Remains” (originally by Passion; performed by our church band)

CONGREGATIONAL PRAYER
(Note: Add your own prayers at the beginning or end)

Lord Jesus, be with all those who are without power or who have been returning to homes without heat or with burst pipes.  Help to provide shelter for those who need it, sustenance for those who are on their own and encouragement to all affected by the recent storms.

We thank you for watching over Miki’s son Jeff and Pastor Doug of Living Word Church, and pray that you will help them as they continue to recover from COVID-19.  Be with Tina and Robin and reduce their symptoms so that they may soon be on the mend.

We ask for a relief of pain for John W. following surgery for kidney stones.  May the surgery have been successful, and the relief swift.  We pray for no recurrence of the condition.  Bless Carl (Sue and Todd’s son) and his wife Vanessa and surround them with your strength; heal the illness that Vanessa is suffering, and make her whole.

Be with Janet C.’s relative Rolene throughout her chemo treatments.  May her symptoms be slight and her recovery complete.  We pray your blessing upon Liz S. and Barbara G. in their fights with cancer, and ask for continued progress, healing and hope.

We pray for others in our church family who are going through times of need:  for Ursula, Amy, Pat, Jim, Sue, Janet, Joan, Lois, Derek, Dannie, Kathleen, Marilyn, Lily, Ken, Bunny, Harriet, Diane, Laurie & Steve, Paul, and Ruth; for all members of our extended family who are suffering; for this nation and for the world.

We come to you now in silent prayer …

Lord, as you know what is written in our hearts,
Attend now to our spirits, we pray in your name, Amen.

SCRIPTURE LESSON:  Luke 4:1-13, New International Version

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 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.”

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.

SUNDAY MEDITATION:  “Pandemic Temptations”

We began our lockdown a month into Lent; in a strange way, our Lent was put on pause, and now we’ve pressed Play.  But in another way, this whole last year has been one long time in the desert, wandering in the wilderness, fighting temptations, praying we can find our way home.

We’ve fought the temptation to give into despair, as we watched our loved ones die around us, as the COVID numbers increased, as two weeks of lockdown became two months and then a year.

We’ve fought the temptation to grow pessimistic, to see the news on TV as the only news that mattered, to give up on the Good News as outdated, unrealistic and powerless.

We’ve fought the temptation to become fearful and anxious, afraid of what the next day will bring.

We’ve found the temptation to give up on humanity, as Congress has continued to feud, as our nation has separated into groups, as family members have fought, as riots have raged in the Capitol and in the streets.

We’ve fought the temptation to shrink into ourselves, to cocoon in a nest of Netflix and Uber Eats, to ride out the storm like survivalists in an apocalypse.

We’ve fought, and sometimes we’ve lost, and often we’ve wished we had done better.

Now imagine doing all this without food.

That’s what happened to Jesus in the desert.  For forty days he was tempted; for forty days, he refused to give in.

It would have been easy for Jesus to give in to despair.  It’s lonely out there in the desert.  But Jesus knew he was not alone; the Spirit and the angels were with him.  And he knew that things were even worse back in Jerusalem, where an entire populace was starving for spiritual guidance, where political and religious leaders were corrupt, where there seemed to be no hope for the common man and woman.  Instead of giving in to despair, he spent forty days and nights deciding what he was going to do about the problems of the world and praying for the strength to see it through.

Considering what he was facing, it would have been easy for Jesus to get pessimistic.  He knew he would get no support from the government and little from the Temple.  He would be fighting an uphill battle the entire way.  But Jesus wanted to go uphill ~ to the hill of Golgotha.  He could see beyond the sorrows of this world to the glory that was to come, and this foresight kept him going.

He did not give in to fear or anxiety.  Instead, he noticed how his Father took care of the birds and flowers, and realized that his Father’s love was even greater for humanity.  And so he relaxed, trusting in the One who was higher than he.

And he did not give up on us, although most people would say he should have.  After three years of preaching, teaching and healing, he was rejected by his own people.  The same religious leaders who taught him sent him to the cross.  One of his disciples betrayed him, another denied him, and the rest ran away.  And yet, even from the cross, he looked upon those who crucified him with love.

He never shrank into himself or ran away from his calling.  He cared not for his own protection, only for the protection of others.  He was a king, but he sought only to serve.

Jesus took the hard road, but it was a good road.

One of our church signs reads, “Will the road you’re on get you to my place?”  When Isaiah prophecies about the coming of the Lord, he uses a similar analogy.  “Make the rough places smooth,” he writes.  “Raise the valleys; lower the hills.  Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

When my sister and I were kids, my family got lost coming home from an out-of-state trip.  We were not only lost, we were epically lost; we were even in the wrong state!  But my father insisted that we were going in the right direction; he had just “decided to try another way” which he called “the scenic route.”  It took us three extra hours to get home and no one was in a good mood when we arrived.

Sometimes it’s hard to admit that we’re on the wrong road, or that we’ve taken the wrong path, especially when we’ve already traveled so far down that path.  But Lent is all about admitting that we’re wrong and want to get back on track.  There’s no shame in it; instead, there’s the relief of knowing that finally we’re going in the right direction.  It’s the feeling my sister and I had in the back seat when we saw a sign that said “Welcome to Connecticut,” not Massachusetts or Canada.  Sure, we were at the top of Connecticut and we lived at the bottom, but at least we were in Connecticut!  In like manner, it’s better to be on the first brick of the road to heaven than the last brick of any other road.

And so as we travel through Lent, may we do so in the knowledge that we are not alone in our wilderness, but that we have a guide who has been there before us and knows the way out.  He’s even traveled as far as heaven and come back to show us the way.  Without him, we are lost, but with him, as soon as we find the right path and begin to follow it, we are found in turn.  Amen.

OFFERING

Please use this time to make out a check to the church (Sayville United Methodist Church, 164 Greene Avenue, Sayville NY 11782).  Thank you to all who have been contributing during this time, and helping the church to pay its bills!  As you write, please enjoy Salt of the Sound’s “Awake My Soul,” from their new EP “Lent, Vol. 2,” released this past Friday.  The band will remind many of Enya; their goal is to offer the peace of Christ through relaxation, surrendering to the Spirit’s rejuvenating power.

OFFERTORY PRAYER

Thank you, Lord, for leading us through the wilderness of our lives.  Thank you for being our Good Shepherd.  Guide us now to use what is given to help others to find their way to your Kingdom.  Amen.

BENEDICTION

As the Spirit sustained Jesus in the desert, may you be sustained in the deserts of your lives.  Whatever you are going through, whatever battle you are facing, may you always be aware of the presence, the power and the protection of our Lord.  Amen.

Blest Be the Tie That Binds

Thank you to Tanae, Lee and Kaitlyn for helping with today’s online service!
And thank you for worshiping with us!  We wish you God’s blessing of peace.

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