“LOOKING TO SUNDAY” Lent 1B

Lectionary Readings:

Genesis 9: 8 – 17
Psalm 25: 1 – 10
1Peter 3:  18 – 22
Mark 1:  9 – 15

From the beginning of Lent to Trinity Sunday the lectionary texts compliment each other with the Gospel reading being the centre-piece.  While we may focus on a particular text all the others have a contribution to make in a well-rounded act of worship.

Water abounds in the OT reading and at the beginning of the passage from Mark 1, yet it is in the wilderness, a dry and barren place that our Lenten journey begins.  Mark again is less talkative than the other gospel writers, but for me it is the staccato like verses that seem to have an added impact.  For the Epistle reading we have an excursion into 1Peter, (during the weeks of Lent we pop here and there through the different letters in the New Testament like demented chickens!!)  Though this reading is only five verses long it is a very dense passage and the reason for reading it needs a careful introduction.

Genesis 9:

Rainbow World:

The Flood story is conveniently left out, so I will pass on what that was all about.  Everybody likes a story to have a happy ending.  A few chapters back it was all about the world’s greatest tragedy, now we have the promise of all promises.  “Never again” God says, “will I do it again”.  This promise of God is not just contained in a legal covenant document, it is also given in a visible sign – the Rainbow.  It is as if God has hung up ‘his tools of war’.  Like a hunter putting his arrows into their sheath, the Bow of God is to be hung (upside down?) in the sky for an everlasting sign.  Not just a sign for its people but a sign for all creation. Noah, as representative of all people is told by God, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that is with you…….”  (Gen  8 & 9).  In our technological age this is very much like God hitting the “Reset Button”.  Rainbows are illusive.  You cannot touch them and you have to be in the right place to see them.  In the latitude where I live a morning rainbow is a fairly rare thing.  We might think of God’s rainbow as a “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”.  It extends from God’s covenant with Adam, Noah, Abraham and Moses and on into the NT.  Jesus Christ is the ‘Bridge Builder Extraordinaire, whose promise is “Whosoever believes in me shall not perish but have everlasting life”.

Noah made it safely across his troubled sea.  Perhaps he celebrated a little too much with the strong drink.  He and a zoo full of people and animals saw God’s mercy writ large in the sky on a clear sunny day.

 

Rainbows End?

 God gave us the radiant rainbow
The splendour and spectrum of love,
The message of Covenant mercy,
The olive-leaf borne by the dove.
 
 
We clutch in our terror and trembling
This delicate blue crystal ball;
Now high with the pride of possession;
Now desolate dread of its fall.
 
 
O Lord come again to your People
Forgive us and cleanse us we pray
That purged by the fire of you Spirit
We may waken to see your new day.
 
 
Come show us afresh in our yearning,
The truth of your Cross and your strife,
That Easter is not for our earning,
That love is the lesson of life.
 
(These four verses were written by the Rev. Kenyon E Wright and are quoted in a book by Donald Hilton called ‘Liturgy of Life’.  Now an Episcopalian priest, he was formerly a Methodist missionary in India.  Many years ago I had the privilege to hear him speak in one of our local churches.  During his ministry in Scotland he has been closely engaged in the Devolution Process in that country).
 
Psalm 25:

We need songs to sing while we make our Lenten journey.  Something to keep us going and growing as we take our ‘wilderness walk’.  The theology of this Ps. might seem a bit basic, yet it expresses much of what we often feel.  The Psalmist is hoping God will not forget who he is, while he is trudging through the swamps and waste places.  “To you O Lord, I lift up my soul.  In you my God I put my trust”.  God’s covenant promise is that he will never forget.  It is our amnesia that needs attending to.  Jesus is God’s ultimate sign that he remains true to his Promise.  There are no Route 1 highways in the wilderness.  At best there are only ill-defined paths and tracks.  We will need to keep singing this song about God’s faithfulness and love for us if we are to reach our Easter destination.

 
Mark 1
 
 

When Mark sat down, with pen in hand, to write his story of life of Jesus., he had no other writings to consult. He, with his fellow believers only held an an oral story in their minds. This story, Mark  was convinced had to be written down and he does it in an urgent, almost breathless fashion. One of Mark’s keywords is ‘immediately’. He has no time to record any birth stories or to establish Jesus in any geneology.  This comes over in this Sundays reading. In 7 short verses, Jesus is baptized, driven into the wilderness and begins his ministry in Galilee. Unlike Matthew’s and Luke’s  gospels, we have no full narrative of the temptations of Jesus. All Mark says is, ” He was in the wilderness for 40 days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him”.

 

The wilderness is uncharted territory, a place of exposure. Stripped of all the props with which we usually support ourselves, we have to put into operation basic survival techniques. One cannot ‘Ring a Friend’, call out the ‘Spiritual Rescue Service’ or even consult a theological map. The journey through the wilderness as got to be ‘All Your own Work.

 
Christ of His gentleness
Thirsting and hungering,
Walked in the wilderness;
Soft words of grace He spoke
Unto lost desert-folk
That listened wondering.
 
( Extract from Robert Graves poem, “In The Wilderness”)
 
John R
 
 
 
 
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