Readings for First Sunday in Lent, 2/22/15: Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 25:1-10, 1 Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1:9-15 Genesis 9:8-17:
One of God's first covenants established with God's people - never again to destroy the earth and its people as God did in the flood. What other covenants does God make with humans?
Have you ever made a personal covenant with God? Have you kept your part of the promise? Has God?
The rainbow is a symbol of a promise. Symbols are important reminders of promise - we use rings, for example, as symbols of promises made in marriage. What symbols are important reminders in your own life?
Have you seen many rainbows? When I see them, I am always filled with joy, they are so rare and precious. How do they make you feel? Do you remember God's promise when you see them?
The psalmist mentions shame several times - his shame, the shame of those obedient to God, shame he hopes is put on others by God. Shame is a powerful emotion, a powerful motivator, a powerful weapon of oppression. Of what are you ashamed in yourself? In others? How do you shame others? Does God shame us?
"Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions" - Many people probably echo the psalmists worries - will be judged by all the things we did when we didn't know any better? I think we can trust in God's abundant grace, who calls us into a more mature discipleship. Indeed, verses 8 and 9 talk about God as a teacher, The One who instructs us. How have you learned/grown in your faith over the years? Are you a mature disciple? Or an early student?
1 Peter 3:18-22:
Peter clings to a New Testament dualism between flesh and spirit. Sometimes, thinking of these separate spheres is helpful, but sometimes New Testament writers make it seem as though everything flesh - flesh God created - is bad. What do you think? How do we nurture our spirits without negating the temple/bodies in which we live?
Note the connection in verse 20 to the Genesis reading for today, and the connection in verse 21 to the gospel lesson about baptism.
The author has a unique description of baptism: not a removal of dirtiness, but an appeal to God for a "good conscience." This emphasizes personal responsibility and repentance without emphasizing guilt/unworthiness/original sin. It leaves out God's initiative of grace to us, but I like the way the Peter describe his view.
We start with a review of the baptism of Jesus - short and sweet in Mark. Make sure you compare Mark's recording of this scene (remember Mark is the earliest gospel written) with the accounts in the other gospels. In Mark, God speaks directly to Jesus: You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased. Other accounts have God saying This is my Son. I prefer Mark's recording - God speaking directly to God's child.
This passage highlights Mark's love of brevity - where the temptation lasts several verses with many details in Luke and Matthew, with a recorded conversation between Jesus and Satan, Mark sees no need for such an account, simply recording that Jesus was tempted for 40 days, driven into the wilderness by the Spirit. What do you make Mark's account? What does his brief style say about what is most important to him about Jesus' temptation?
Mark again emphasizes that for Jesus, the good news is: "the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe." Do you see this as good news? Why was it so important for Jesus to tell this?