Worship at Home for Sunday, February 26, 2023

Dear Friends,

On Ash Wednesday we participated in the ritual of ashes as a sign of repentance and turning towards God. This First Sunday of Lent we will hear again the story of Jesus being tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Jesus chooses to follow God’s plan for the redemption of the world. May we choose to be in relationship with God too.

If you would like a home visit, conversation, or home communion, please call me at 573-437-2779 (church) or 573-832-2475 (cell).


Pastor Stephanie DeLong

Scripture: Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7, Psalm 32, Romans 5:12-19, Matthew 4:1-11

Sermon: Wrong Choices

We all make them. Those choices that we make, but later regret. Choices that hurt others and lead us on paths that we wished we never took. Yes, there are wrong choices that really are benign like choosing to try a new recipe that your family does not like. Years ago, I chose to serve cottage cheese to my boys who hated it. I love cottage cheese, so I just buy it and eat it alone.

Other choices are not benign. Choosing to try an illegal drug out of curiosity may lead to a life of addiction and death. A life that causes pain and suffering for oneself, one’s family and community. Choosing to exert power over another just because you can is the first step toward abusive relationships. It does not matter how the abuser justifies their actions, relationships are broken, and people are hurt.

The serpent in Genesis 3:1-17 seeks to tempt Adam and Eve to make bad choices by appealing to their curiosity to try what we have been told is forbidden and to seek godlike, power for themselves. They eat the one fruit that they were told not to eat. The fruit that will make them like God. Both knew better, but they chose to eat of the fruit anyway. They chose making themselves more important over being in relationship with God. They knew that they had made the wrong choice when after eating the fruit that they saw for themselves that they were frail, naked creatures, and they were ashamed.

Human beings are meant to be in relationship with God. God wants to be with us and guide us through out life. It is when we make choices that break that relationship that sin happens. Adam and Eve made a wrong choice and hurt their relationship with God. God was disappointed by their wrong choice but continued to love them.

God loves us even when we make wrong choices. God is like a parent who continues to love their child even when the child drives them nuts. God wants to learn to make the right choice to trust in being in relationship.

Jesus faces temptation from the devil in Matthew 4:1-11. The Spirit has lead Jesus into the wilderness for a period of 40 days and 40 nights. 40 is an important number theologically for the Jewish people. 40 years was the amount of time spent by the wandering in the desert after the freed Hebrew slaves left Egypt and came to the promised land. Moses spent 40 days and nights on Mount Sinai in Exodus 24 while God prepared the tablets of the law and instructions for the people. Jesus has now spent 40 days and nights fasting in the desert in preparation for his ministry.

At this vulnerable point the devil chooses to test Jesus’ resolve to remain faithful to his relationship with God the Father. Will Jesus choose to put himself above God the Father or remain faithful to God’s plan? A hungry person needs bread. Jesus is hungry but refuses to change the stones into loaves of bread just to suit the devil. Jesus dismisses the devil’s challenge to test God by foolishly throwing himself off the pinnacle of the temple. Jesus rejects setting himself up as an autocratic, earthly king. Jesus chooses to remain true to his relationship with God’s plan for the world.

In an episode of “Top Chef” with Gordon Ramsey, one of the contests was to translate emojis into one of Chef Ramsey’s signature dishes. One of the contestants chose to “improve” on Chef Ramsey’s recipe with variations of his own. The changes looked good to me, but the assignment was following the recipe. Chef Ramsey berated the contestant who made the wrong choice. Chef Ramsey asserted that when the contestant had earned the same number of Michelin Stars as Chef Ramsey, then he would have earned the right to improve upon the master chef’s the recipe. Reminder that the student is not above the master.

Chef Ramsey continued to be in relationship with this contestant who was contrite for his error. The contestant was willing to change and learn from the master chef. With the guidance of Chef Ramsey, he went on to win the competition.

One of my seminary professors would start his first lecture to new seminary students with the words, “Good news, there is a God, and it is not you.” Reminder we are not above God. We often make the mistake of thinking that what we want is what God wants. We will often set up our own needs above those of the community and above our relationship with God. This leads to an insidious series of bad choices that cause God to be frustrated with us.

Good news, even when we make the wrong choices, God is still there with and for us. If we are willing to work with God, listen to God’s guidance and make good choices, then God will help us live blessed lives of faith. This does not mean that all will be perfect, but that God is with us. God will ease our burdens and strengthen our relationships with God and one another. There are no quick fixes, but like Jesus’ experience in the wilderness angels will attend to our needs.

Prayer: God help us to make choices that keep us in relationship with you. When we fail, help us to change our hearts and turn towards You. Amen.

Prayer list: Elizabeth, Cheryl, Dave, David, Evelyn, Jason, Paulette, Bobby, Kevin, Jim, Darryl (doing better!), Marilee, Beverly, Jim, Jenny, Jaqueline-Dixon’s daughter, Kirk, Barbara, Mitchell, Mahala, Mary, La Rae, Bud, Tyra, Marilyn, Tom, Jeff, Mary Ann (Ken’s mom), Jesse, Kate, Kyle and Carmen and for peace. Prayers for Turkey and Syria in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes.