|➤First Sunday in Lent, Year B||February 21, 2021||First Sunday in Lent, Year B 2021||Genesis 9:8-17, Mark 1:9-15|
|Ash Wednesday sermon – “This is the season to unlock the doors of our hearts”||February 17, 2021||Ash Wednesday, Year B||Isaiah 58:1-12, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21|
|Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||February 14, 2021||The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||2 Kings 2:1-12, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||February 7, 2021||Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Isaiah 40:21-31, Mark 1:29-39|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 24, 2021||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||I Corinthians7:29-31, Mark 1:14-20|
|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 10, 2021||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Genesis 1:1-5, Mark 1:4-11|
|Epiphany, Jan. 2021||January 6, 2021||Epiphany, Year B,||Psalm 72, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas Eve, Year B, 2020||December 24, 2020||Christmas Eve, Year B||Luke 2:1-20|
|Fourth Sunday of Advent – Messages of Hope||December 20, 2020||Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B 2020||Luke 1:26-38, 46-55|
|Third Sunday of Advent – “I’m not the one”||December 13, 2020||Third Sunday of Advent, Year B||Isaiah 6:1-4, 8-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8,19-28|
|Second Sunday of Advent – Repentance||December 6, 2020||Second Sunday of Advent, Year B
||Isaiah 40:1-11, Mark 1:1-8|
|First Sunday of Advent – The Waiting||November 29, 2020||First Sunday of Advent, Year B 2020||Isaiah 64:1-9, I Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:24-27|
|Last Pentecost – Christ the King, Year A||November 22, 2020||Christ the King Sunday, Year A||Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 25:31-46|
|Pentecost 24 – Diocesan Convention (Rt. Rev. Phoebe Roaf, Bishop of the Diocese of West Tennessee)||November 15, 2020||Pentecost 24, Proper 28||Matthew 25:14-30|
|Pentecost 23, Year A||November 8, 2020||Pentecost 23, Proper 27, Year A||Matthew 25:1-13|
First Sunday in Lent, Year B
Sermon Date:February 21, 2021
Scripture: Genesis 9:8-17, Mark 1:9-15
Liturgy Calendar: First Sunday in Lent, Year B 2021
“When we claim Jesus as light…we start to see Spirit shining in droplets of water refracting light and creating rainbows. We start to see God’s love and Spirit manifest in the creatures and every living thing. And we start to see the light of God shining, even if dimly, through all people too, even the ones we would rather not love. We start to realize on an elemental level, deep within, that God made God’s covenant not just with you, or with me, but with all people and all creatures, not just the ones we like.”
In today’s lectionary passage from Genesis God makes a covenant with Noah and all living creatures.
God says, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.”
This covenant is about God’s commitment to life rather than to death—for us and for every living creature.
“Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
God’s sign of this life affirming covenant is the rainbow.
Rainbows occur when droplets of water spread sunlight out into its spectrum of colors—creating circular arcs of color that all have a common center.
Sunlight and water!
Do you remember that the first thing that God created was light?
“Let there be light,” God said, and there was light.
Light is necessary for life, so no wonder God called it forth first thing. Sunlight keeps us alive. We literally live on sunlight, which plants use to produce the food that supports the entire web of life.
Another thing that we must have for life is water. We can’t even breathe without water. Water is necessary for respiration, the process of taking in life giving oxygen when we breathe in and releasing carbon dioxide when we breathe out.
So the sign of this life affirming covenant that God makes with us and all living creatures happens when the two most basic things needed for the life on this earth, sunlight and water, produce the dramatic light show that is the rainbow.
Rainbows are a visual sign of the marriage of both the physical and spiritual worlds: We have a physical relationship with water, a substance that we drink, bathe in, play in, and get baptized in. Our relationship with light is more ethereal. We can’t physically grasp light or hold onto it. Light, by its very nature, is mystical.
And it is at this intersection of the physical and the spiritual, that place in which the two are held together, in the rainbow, for example, that we find God, and see and know God, and remember that God is fully available to us and in relationship with us.
And not only do we remember, but God says that “When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh.”
When the physical and the spiritual come together as a sign of God’s life affirming covenant with us, God remembers the covenant too!
At his baptism, Jesus experiences this same merging of the physical and spiritual, a covenantal juxtaposition, you might say, with God fully present in the intersection—As Jesus is coming up out of the water, as he feels the river water that has just covered him in a cool bath pouring down his body, he sees the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And he hears the voice from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Artists rightly portray this tearing apart of the heavens as a stream of light. Water and light come together and figure dramatically at this baptism.
Then immediately, the Spirit drives Jesus out into the wilderness. Mark sums up the entire forty days that Jesus spent there in just one verse.
“Jesus was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”
Mark is direct and to the point about Jesus’ time in the wilderness being an ongoing extension of the merging of the physical and the spiritual that Jesus had just experienced at his baptism.
Jesus is not alone in this wilderness.
“He was with the wild beasts,” Mark says.
Jesus has creatures around him. I hear echoes of God saying back in that life affirming covenant with Noah, “I will remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
And then there are the angels in Mark’s account– those messengers from beyond the physical world, messengers of light from God.
Mark simply reports that the angels waited on Jesus. Mark does not describe the arrival or the exit of the angels, so we can assume that, like the wild beasts, the angels were a constant presence with Jesus throughout the forty days.
In the wilderness, Jesus continues to live within the life affirming covenant that God made so long ago with Noah and with all the creatures of the earth. Angels from the realms of glory settle around Jesus and wait on him.
Jesus gets forty days to ponder the meaning of what he heard God say when Jesus was baptized. “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus gets forty days to dwell on the fact that he is the Son of God as well as the Son of Man, inseparably spiritual and physical.
Of Satan, Mark only says that Jesus was tempted by Satan, without going into detail.
Matthew and Luke suggest that Satan tempts Jesus to misuse the power he has as the Son of God, but Mark may have had in mind a more basic temptation–that is, for Jesus to deny that he was the Son of God at all, that the voice that Jesus had heard at his baptism was only a voice of his own imagination, that his mind had been playing tricks on him. Satan may have tempted Jesus to just go on back home and keep on being a good son, to ply his trade as a carpenter, to settle down, have a family, lead a quiet and exemplary life—forget bringing the kingdom of God near, forget telling people to repent. Forget asking people to believe in the good news.
Satan tries to convince Jesus to deny the fact that Jesus is God’s beloved Son.
But Jesus is matter and spirit, intertwined in his very essence. And Jesus claims his essence and his identity, there in the wilderness. Jesus comes to terms with who he is, both Son of God and Son of Mary.
And Jesus as the Son of God and Jesus as the Son of Mary reveal the totality of who Jesus is. When we see Jesus for who he really is, we see life and light. As the psalmist says of God, “in his light, we see light.”
When we claim Jesus as light—no wonder Jesus described himself in the gospel according to John as the light of the world—our eyes get opened to see that Spirit shines through all of matter, that God’s light shines in and through all of creation, that everything is sacred, full of God’s affirming life giving love. Seeing the light of God shining through Jesus helps us to see God’s light shining through everything everywhere.
We start to see Spirit shining in droplets of water refracting light and creating rainbows. We start to see God’s love and Spirit manifest in the creatures and every living thing. And we start to see the light of God shining, even if dimly, through all people too, even the ones we would rather not love. We start to realize on an elemental level, deep within, that God made God’s covenant not just with you, or with me, but with all people and all creatures, not just the ones we like.
When we start seeing the incarnation in its completeness, in all that God has made, we become lovers, justice doers, people of hope and faith in ways that we could not even imagine—because we free our bodies and spirits for God’s loving Spirit to work in us and through us. Our vision gets clear enough to see how God wants us to reach out our hands in love to all that is around us. We can see that the kingdom of God really has come near, just as Jesus said.
But we have to learn to see with new eyes, to see not just what is around us, but to see God’s light shining through it all.
When we miss seeing God’s light shining through everything, we can so easily go astray. Satan tempts us as Satan tempted Jesus, to deny that God dwells in us, or has anything at all to do with us. Satan tempts us to shut our eyes and refuse to see God’s light shining in us and in everything else. God must feel horror and dismay over how we can abuse our free will, the myriad ways we can blindly turn love into hate, justice into injustice, hope into fear, faith into despair. God must abhor the way we so easily love ourselves at the expense of others when our vision becomes too clouded to see the Spirit alive and at work in everything around us. But in spite of our death dealing ways, God keeps the life affirming covenant, remembering that offering us life instead of condemnation and death is the way for us to become people of love and light.
When God established the covenant with Noah and his descendants and with all the living creatures, God already knew the awfulness of what human beings could do, and how we would continue to be tempted to choose death over life, how Satan would get us to deny the very essence of our own goodness.
God already knew that all too soon, Jesus would be in a garden praying, surrounded not by wild beasts and angels, but by sleeping disciples. God already knew that darkness would cover the earth as Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That Jesus would die at the hands of his fellow human beings because of their hatred, injustice, their fear, and their despair.
No one witnessed the actual resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.
But I would not be surprised that if an eyewitness account of that merging of body and spirit into new resurrection life ever turned up, the report would describe Jesus coming out of the tomb, shining, full of light and life, encircled by a brilliant rainbow–because the resurrection of Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to remember the everlasting covenant, God’s proof to us that God really is with us and around us, and shining through us here and now, in all things and in all times and in all places—the good news that Jesus proclaimed in his life, his death, and in his resurrection.