22 February 2015 – Lent 1 at Aston Abbotts and Cublington
Reading Genesis 9: 8-17
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 ‘I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you – the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you – every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.’
12 And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.’
17 So God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.’
Reading 1 Peter 3: 18-end
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits – 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
Gospel Mark 1: 9-15
The baptism and testing of Jesus
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’
12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
Water a mixed blessing bath and shower — clean feeling after shower — warmth after bath. Rain and farmers — floods in Somerset. Leaking taps, walls, pipes.
Genesis story of floods and Ark — animals 2 by 2 — country folk 4x4 — God’s covenant not to destroy earth again — sign of rainbow.
I Peter only 8 people saved in Ark — water symbolises baptism that saves us now, like Noah. For us, we are saved through resurrection of Christ.
Mark 1: 9-15 Baptism and Testing of Jesus.
We already talked about Baptism of our Lord. Lectionary writers include temptation readings at Lent 1.
Testing What is going on? Testing follows immediately after baptism by John. Like stepping clean from shower into filthy, dirty, sweaty, dusty wilderness — unwashed for 40 days. Testing at start of Ministry.
1. Holy Spirit initiates Testing. 12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness. εκβαλλείν — “driven out” — same word for casting out unclean spirits. Forceful. Abrupt. Holy Spirit “enters” Jesus at baptism — possesses him — drives him. Holy Spirit initiates encounter with forces of evil. Formidable adversary — personified as Satan. Satan has a kingdom of his own.
2. Confrontational Mark does not say Jesus successfully passes test — no details of testing. Other synoptic gospels emphasise Jesus’ faithfulness after testing. For Mark, it’s about what God can achieve through this spirit-led, spirit-filled Son.
Mark has no cosy birth narratives, flying angels, stars, lowing cattle. After only 13 verses, Jesus encounters forces of darkness — enemy to God, determined to counter and destroy His intentions for the redemption of His fallen world. Enemies are not human failing and weakness — they are the dark forces of evil — we do well to note.
3. Testing not Temptation — God’s own creation poses no threat to Jesus. Wild animals should be a danger, but not to Jesus. God’s own Son — filled with Holy Spirit — cannot be tempted. Word best translated tested.
Empty tomb — Jesus cannot be confined or held ransom by forces of God’s creation in this world. Not even subject to death itself — let alone wild animals.
4. Kingdom — from verse 14, Jesus immediately proclaims good news. The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news. Even though John sent to prison, Jesus returns to Galilee and proclaims the Kingdom.
5. Ministry — immediately Jesus calls first disciples. Join the new era — new state of affairs has come about — Jesus announces God’s intention for all humanity.
This new existence comes about through Holy Spirit — a new existence in the Spirit — family, society, politics, economics, health, well-being, purity, acceptability — no aspect of our lives is unchanged — no aspect unaddressed by God.
Meantime, present moment is dangerous. Perhaps we have become too cosy in our assurance of faith? What Jesus begins is total transformation of world — but it turned on him and ended up rejecting and killing him.
First Sunday of Lent — forget the resolutions, so-called denial that means little — forget even taking up the things we should be doing to balance the ones we give up. Lent is not about chocolate and study — but total transformation.
Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news! Amen