One of the first questions the worship planning team needs to determine this week is whether these temptations are ours or his. Is this something unique to Jesus and our role as we encounter this event — to stand in awe and wonder and to glory in the power he presents “to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves,” to borrow from our baptismal liturgy. In which case, our worship is focused on Christ this week. We sing praise to him; we pray in awe of him; we pledge to follow him because of who he has revealed himself to be. In short, we lift up the name of Christ as we worship this week, loudly and publicly. We proclaim to the world who he is.
If, on the other hand, these are our temptations that he bore for us, as he bore our sins “even unto death,” then we bow in confession and in hope. We give thanks; we ask for grace and forgiveness; and, most of all, we seek the spiritual power to resist the ongoing temptations that surround us, even as we stand with others in our community who wrestle day by day for a sense of peace. We acknowledge that it is not simply about us alone, but about a world that wrestles with that which will destroy us all. And so, we declare our commitment to be part of the solution, to be kingdom workers in the world.
Of course, the only real answer to the opening question is that it is both. Both his particular journey and at the same time the story of our lives. Worship then lifts up the name of Christ at the same time that we fall on our knees before him and confess and repent and receive that grace and that hope and pledge to be a part of the spiritual transformation of the world around us.
But as with each of the themes this Lenten season, we can’t simply focus on the inward part of the journey. We come in confession and in repentance, but we rise ready to serve and to love in Christ’s name. So, what direction can we give during worship that helps participants catch a glimpse of their place in the mission? What challenge can we issue that will help worshipers put hands and feet to their redemption so that the world around them is impacted by their inward journey? What hymn of mission can we sing? What prayer of service can we offer? What zeal can we instill to work with the Spirit to build the kin-dom of God in the relationships we treasure?
If we endeavor to work in the world around us, we will fall down. From time to time, we will fail; our efforts will not be received in the spirit intended; the fruit will be slow in coming. So, if we must fall, let us fall down in worship of the one who redeems us.
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.