This week's author is Sioux Wilusz, Registrar and Program Associate for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
Scripture: Genesis 2:15-17 (NRSV)The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’
Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11 (NRSV)Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written,
“One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you”,
and “On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’
Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.” ’
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Reflection: TemptationIf you are a gardener, you are starting to get restless. You are getting eager, and you are willing the snow to melt and the ground to thaw. Chances are that your coffee table is stacked with seed catalogs and garden design plans; you're taking advantage of these warmer-than-normal weekends to sharpen your tools and to turn over your compost piles, adding nutrients and fertilizer. You are planning the flower beds and starting seeds indoors. You are pruning the shrubs and preparing them for new growth. You long for Spring. After the dullness of the winter greys, the grocery store tulips and daffodils tempt you with their magnificent color, and they stir within you the need to plunge your hands deep into the earth.
But if you are a gardener, you know that you must be patient, and you know that planning a garden is just as important as planting it.
We often think of temptation as something bad, something to avoid. But there can be benefits of temptation. It allows us moments of reflection and self-understanding. It allows us to explore the powerful differences in what we need versus what we want. We often think the temptation is "out there," but often, it is within us. Temptation can teach us valuable lessons on what we crave and what our strengths are. Being tempted can often lead us to spiritual change, stronger moral convictions, and opens us to the vulnerability that makes us able to say, "Dear Lord, I need You."
In order to overcome temptation, instead of letting it overcome us, we must regularly devote time to planning our spiritual growth, in the same way that a gardener patiently plans their beds. Our roots must be strong and deep. Our soil must be fertile so that grace can grow. Let temptation be a reminder to plunge our palms into the garden of our blessings and hold up all that we have to be thankful for.
Prayer:Holy One, please lead us from temptation by helping us to practice gratitude and reminding us that our blessings have deep roots in fertile soil. Give us the energy and the fortitude to keep the gardens tilled. Amen
Special Prayer Requests:New Requests:
- The family and friends of Cheryl Polydor, friend of Michael and Diane Ciba, who died on Feb 21;
- Mark Engstrom, member of the CT Conference Board of Directors, and his wife Nina, who are facing health issues;
- the community of Conway, MA, and the United Congregational Church, UCC, Conway after a tornado touched down on Feb. 25 causing significant structural damage; and
- the people of New Orleans, after a driver ran into a crowd of parade viewers, injurer over 20 people on Feb. 25.
- The people of South Sudan where nearly 1 million people are facing famine;
- the people of Pakistan where more than 100 people have been killed in militant attacks in the past week;
- Richard "Ned" Bunell, member of First Congregational Church of Canton Center, who was hospitalized for an illness and is now recovering;
- the people of southern Louisiana, after tornadoes struck the area on Feb. 7;
- those residents around Lake Oroville, CA, who were evacuated for safety reasons after authorities found erosion at the Oroville Dam on Feb. 7 causing concerns of partial failure of a spillway;
- the family of Neva Arno Weber, who passed away on Feb 6. Neva is the daughter of Larry Arno, husband of Rev. Shannon Rye Wall;
- John Polglase, husband of the Rev. Betsey Polglase, Pastor of the Columbia Congregational Church UCC, who has chronic pulmonary disease;
- the people of Quebec City, Quebec after a gunmen attacked a mosque in the city killing 6 people on Jan. 29;
- the Rev. Micki Nunn-Miller, who had knee surgery on Jan. 17;
- Debi Mastroni Kenyon, Director of Faith Formation at Monroe Congregational Church, who had surgery on Jan. 18;
- the members and staff of Thompson Congregational Church after a fire severely damage the building on Dec. 29;
- Michael White, former Operations Manager at Silver Lake Conference Center, who was diagnosed with colon cancer;
- Juliane Silver, the daughter of the Rev. Jim Silver of Middletown, who is in dire need of a liver transplant. We pray that a donor will come forward giving the gift of life and a portion of their liver to Juliane;
- Chacy Eveland, husband of the Rev. Marcia Eveland, pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Ansonia, who has been moved to a full-time facility for care of dementia;
- the thousands of migrants worldwide who flee from violence and persecution in search of safety;
- our ecumenical partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery in South Korea;
- the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
- the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
- this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism;
- those suffering due to the ongoing financial woes of the nation, be they struggling to meet an unaffordable mortgage, seeking employment, or working to find just resolutions; and
- those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
The First Congregational Church of Darien UCC
Dale Brian Rosenberger - P
Gary Morello - AP
First Congregational Church, Deep River, UCC
Timothy E. Haut - SP
Sybil Higgins - CE
The First Congregational Church, UCC
James R. Tudesco - IN
The United Church of Christ in Devon
Karl H. Duetzmann - P
United Churches of Durham UCC
Jeanette Cooper Hicks – P
The Executive Assistant to the Bridge Conference Minister provides organizational support for the Bridge Conference Minister, and oversees much of the day-to-day administrative functions of the Conference.