This week, worship needs to be seen as a second beginning. Unless your congregation is unusual, many will not have come for Wednesday worship; therefore, this week is their entry into the season of Lent. Much of what was said about Ash Wednesday could be repeated here. It is a time to issue a call to deeper living, to repentance, but with the grace of a loving Christ wreathed around us. Perhaps you could review the “Invitation to the Lenten Observance” (Book of Worship, 322) if there are enough who were not present for Ash Wednesday. It is an effective way of providing encouragement for the season of self-examination and self-denial.
We play a little bit with Luke’s words in verse 13, how the adversary left him “until an opportune time.” You could look at this from two directions. It could be those “opportune times” for temptation, when we are in the midst of struggle or questioning and find ourselves vulnerable to stray from our journey. Or you could talk about the opportune times for growth, for seizing the day perhaps, when we find ourselves drawn closer to the Christ, who wants to gather us up. Lent need not be a constant “downer,” where we focus on our failings. It could also be a time when we recognize the joys of belonging, the growth in knowledge and wisdom, the support of the community around us. It can be a time for knowing we need more, we want more, more Christ, more discipleship, more discipline.
Certainly, there should be space in worship for confession and repentance from sin. But there can also be encouragement and moments of reconciliation and recommitment. Find space and ways of building up, even as we challenge the worshipers to be honest with themselves and with God. Through it all is the image of the Christ who comes not to condemn but to save; the Christ who longs to gather us up as a hen gathers her brood. Offer the sheltering wings of the comfort of Jesus as we worship together.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.