By Barbara Klugh
Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 2:1-9; 2 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text.
Lent: Ash Wednesday—this year on February 18—is the first day of the season of Lent.It is the time when Christians symbolically go into the wilderness with Jesus for forty days to prepare to celebrate the joy of Easter. We observe Lent by “self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word (Book of Common Prayer, p. 265).
Lent is a time for spiritual revitalization, a pilgrimage of heart and mind. We intentionally give up those things that keep us from God and commit to live in a way that allows us to come before God in humility and reverence.
Genesis 9:8-17: Although generally considered to be legend, the flood narrative is distressing—far from the cute images of arks and cartoon animals I remember. God saw that humankind was sinful and rebellious and was sorry he created them. God said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But not completely. God decided to start all over with Noah and his family and pairs of animals. It seems to me that God overreacted. But who hasn’t had the desire to wipe the slate clean when things get difficult and messy—with a new spouse, a new job, a new church, a new city?
When Noah came out of the ark, he built an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings on the altar, which pleased God. “The Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.’”
In this week’s reading, God made the first covenant recorded in the Bible. It’s not only with Noah, but with every living creature. God promises never again to destroy the earth by water. And he set his rainbow in the sky as a sign of this promise. So even though God knows we’re inclined to be evil, he will never give up on us. When we look around, and look within, we see that again and again, God gives us another chance.
Psalm 25:1-9: Attributed to David, this week’s psalm is a prayer to God for protection from enemies and for guidance and forgiveness. “Show me your ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long (vv. 2, 3).”
1 Peter 3:18-22: For various reasons, most, but not all, scholars conclude that Peter did not write this letter. However, I’m going to stay with the canon and call the author Peter. The letter is addressed to “the exiles of the Dispersion,” which was a term used for Christians living in provinces of the Roman Empire. It was a general letter, meant to encourage followers of Jesus who were suffering persecution from the Roman government.
In this week’s reading, Peter wants Christians to understand the significance of what Christ has done. He died for our sins, once for all, “the righteous for the unrighteous” in order to reconcile sinners to God.
Although Jesus was put to death physically, his resurrection enables him to give spiritual life to all. In a nice tie-in to our first reading from Genesis, Jesus journeyed to the spirit world to save sinners from the time of Noah. Peter considers Noah’s rescue from the flood as a type of baptism, which now saves us.
Mark 1:9-15: This week’s reading from Mark’s gospel consists of three straightforward scenes. Jesus was baptized, tested, and began his ministry. Here is the entire reading:
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
I’m planning to use the forty days of Lent to imitate Jesus’ time of testing, and, with God’s help, I, too will emerge victorious.