1st Sunday of Lent

21st February 2021

1st Sunday of Lent

Year B

 

Collect

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

 

Genesis 9.8-17

God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 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. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

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: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 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. 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.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

 

1 Peter 3.18-22

Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed 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, and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

 

Mark 1.9-15

Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

 

Reflection by the Revd Sandie

 

Back to chapter 1 on this the first Sunday in Lent.  We have heard this same text now probably several times since the 1st Sunday in Advent.  But each time there is something new, something unique that emerges from the text.  But this is the last time we will encounter this particular text in year B of the lectionary.  Finally, in Lent we will move into the remainder of the Gospel, because now that we are on the road to Jerusalem; the road to the crucifixion. Jesus’ ministry has begun.  It has been a difficult beginning in many ways.  The pace is so fast in this Gospel that it is easy to read past some many important details.  And on this 1st Sunday in Lent my focus is on the details that are contained in verses 14 and 15:

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom has come near; repent and believe in the good news.

. Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom coming into our midst is good news!  God has entered into our world and reaches out to us in Jesus!  These verses represent the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, but this is a dark beginning; a difficult beginning.  Look at the context in the first five words Jesus’ ministry began AFTER John’s arrest. 

John is the voice in the wilderness, the one who prepares to the way for Jesus.  But Jesus remains in the shadows until John is removed physically from the scene.  And we know the rest of the story: John is arrested and is ultimately beheaded during a very violent and perverse banquet as entertainment for the princess Salomé by Herod Antipas and his wife Herodias.  And not only that, but Jesus has also just completed his own wilderness experience.  After being driven into the wilderness by the dove that represents the Holy Spirit, we learn that Jesus is tested by Satan and is with the wild beasts.  This is a time of struggle and of suffering for Jesus.  We should not dismiss this because we know that Jesus is God’s Son.  We must always remember that Jesus is also fully human, and that being in the wilderness (especially the desert wilderness of Judah) is very, very difficult.

Suffering, loneliness, testing, hate, violence – these are some words which describe this beginning for Jesus.  Sometimes I think we can too easily think of the Gospel story as being a kind of special, wonderful story in a far off removed time that can seem so remote to us.  Jesus is sinless, we believe; Jesus is God’s Son! So that must mean that he wasn’t affected by any of this. I don’t believe that.  Jesus was fully human and lived a human life in a very volatile place during a very conflicted time of history.  Jesus suffered terribly; Jesus was very lonely; Jesus was truly tested and had to confront hate and evil and violence constantly.

   We too must contend with these powerful forces.  They are a part of life.  And that is the point.  Sometimes we can feel so alone, so abandoned when we struggle if we think that we are not measuring up.  If we think that Jesus is too good, then we can often feel inadequate.  But Jesus’ life is one of brokenness and struggle and suffering – just like us and because of that he is joined with us in our struggles. 

So, what are you experiencing - joy, sorrow, loss, loneliness, struggle, grief, confidence, discouragement? Are you feeling inadequate?  Are you feeling like you don’t measure up to what God expects?  Or are you feeling a combination of all of the above perhaps?  This is the human condition.  We all have these experiences and they can sometimes all come at the same time.  The good news is that Jesus has been there.  Jesus has shared in all of the experiences we have and is there with us in the midst of whatever challenges we face.  As we face various endings and new beginnings – Jesus is there.  As we contend with the darkness Jesus is there, bearing the light of God’s love and grace.

One last image – another story of endings and beginnings: the Old Testament lesson for this Lent I is the story of how God sealed the covenant with Noah after the flood by sending a rainbow.  Now we have probably all seen a rainbow and from ancient times it was believed to be a bow, like an archer’s bow.  However, modern science has given us a new perspective.  It isn’t actually a bow at all. Rainbows are actually circles.  They appear to be arches (or half-circles) because their bottom half is cut off by the ground.  If you want to see them in their circular glory you need to see them from high above the ground.  God placed the rainbow in the sky as a sign of the covenant, as a sign of God’s love and commitment to God’s beloved children.  Perhaps we should think of that rainbow then as the arms of God clasped together in an embrace; the arms of God embracing the beloved creation; embracing God’s beloved people; embracing you and me and filling the darkness of our human experience with colour and light.  Life will continue to be a struggle with endings and beginnings – but the light of God and the love shown forth through Jesus will always be there to illumine our darkness and to heal our brokenness.

 

 

Post Communion Prayer

Lord God,
you have renewed us with the living bread from heaven;
by it you nourish our faith,
increase our hope,
and strengthen our love:
teach us always to hunger for him who is the true and living bread,
and enable us to live by every word
                   that proceeds from out of your mouth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):

1 Peter 3.18-22 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Genesis 9.8-17 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Mark 1.9-15 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Post Communion (1st of Lent) ©  The Archbishops' Council 2000
Collect (1st of Lent) ©  The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)