Revised Common Lectionary: Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15
Narrative Lectionary: First Last and Last First, Mark 10:17-31 (Psalm 19:7-10)
During Lent, the selections from the Hebrew scriptures focus on stories of God’s covenant. For the first Sunday of Lent, the story is of the covenant between God and Noah and all of creation—all flesh—that God will never again destroy the earth by flood. The sign of this covenant to Noah and all future generations is the rainbow—God’s weapon. God has hung up their bow and will no longer make war on creation. This covenant to the people showed how God was different than the other gods, and how God will remember on their part that they are not a God who makes war on the people or the creatures of the earth.
Psalm 25:1-10 is a song of trust in God. The psalmist desires to draw closer to God’s ways, and prays for deliverance from their enemies. While they long for a response from God to their situation, they also pray that God would not hold against them their previous sins. Instead, the psalmist focuses on the goodness of God, and how those who keep God’s faithfulness will know God’s steadfast love.
The author of 1 Peter 3 writes in verses 18-22 how Christ’s suffering for sins unites all believers to God. Christ descended into the place of the dead, “the spirits in prison,” to proclaim the good news. The writer of this letter also interprets the story of Noah as a story of baptism, saving all of humanity before Noah from their sins through the floodwaters, and now baptism saves the believers who are alive.
Mark’s account of Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness is scant on the details, so the Gospel lesson also includes Jesus’s baptism before he went into the wilderness, and the beginning of his ministry in Galilee, in 1:9-15. Again, all three of these stories are expanded in Matthew and Luke. Mark simply lets us know that before Jesus began his ministry, he was baptized by John the Baptist; he was affirmed by God the Father/Parent as the Son; he was driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, and he was tempted by Satan. Jesus had all of these experiences happen to him, and then, Jesus went and proclaimed the Gospel, that the kingdom of God had come near. The action shifts, and Jesus knows he must go out on his own, as baptized, affirmed, and driven by the Spirit. How our past experiences shape us into sharing the Gospel may be one angle in which to present this story.
The Narrative Lectionary focuses on the rich man who came to Jesus in Mark 10:17-31. The rich man asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. He’s kept all the commandments, but he questions whether he’s done enough. Jesus is filled with compassion—the text in Mark reads that he loved the man—but tells him that he lacks one thing: he must go sell what he owns, give the money to the poor, and then he can follow Jesus because he will have treasure in heaven. But the man is shocked, and leaves grieving, because he has many possessions. Jesus then laments to his disciples that it is hard to enter the kingdom of God, and very difficult for those who are rich. Peter begins to tell Jesus, “look, we’ve left everything behind to follow you,” as if to justify their actions. Jesus acknowledges that those who do leave everything behind to follow Jesus will receive everything of the reign of God—but warns that those who are first will be last, and the last will be first.
The supplementary verses of Psalm 19:7-10 speaks of following the law of God, and that the ordinances of God are worth more than fine gold and sweet honey. God’s ways are perfect, true, right, and simple to follow: a clear vision for life.
As we enter into Lent, what is it we hope to gain in observing this season? A deeper understanding of Jesus’s journey to the cross? Perhaps it is remembering the promises of God to our ancestors, and how God is not like the gods of this world. God chooses not to act in violence. God chooses peace. God recognizes that their actions affect not only humanity but all the creatures of the earth. Or perhaps it’s a focus on repentance and renewal, turning back to God’s ways. Lent comes from the Latin “to lengthen,” and as daylight grows, what is being revealed? When we look at what Jesus experienced before and while in the wilderness, where do we find affirmation and assurance to keep going during the hard parts of life, the temptations and struggles we face?
Call to Worship
God has given us the sign of the rainbow,
A covenant between God and all of creation.
God has given us the commandments,
The teachings of old to guide us to God.
God has sent his son Jesus to us,
The Word made Flesh to live among us.
God has shown us the Way, the Truth, and the Life,
May we turn our hearts and minds to worship and follow Christ.
Prayer of Invocation
Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, in this time, may we pause and listen for Your word right here and now. You hold all of eternity, yet our time is brief. We give over this time now, so that in all our time, we may draw closer to You, Ancient of Days, Holder of Tomorrow. Amen.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
God of the Wilderness, we come to You searching for help in our wilderness times. Guide us to find our way when we are lost. Help us to know Your presence when we feel alone. Keep us to Your promises when we face despair. Hold us to Your love when we face temptation. Lead us on this journey of faith into a deeper relationship with You, and to know ourselves more fully in the way You know each of us. Lead us, God of the Wilderness, to the wellspring of life found in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
God does not leave us alone when we are in the wilderness. God provides angels along the journey, and we can be angels to each other. Show love and compassion to others and receive that kindness and mercy in your own life. When you forgive others for the things you still struggle with, you will find that forgiveness is extended to you. Be gentle with yourselves, but firm in your resolve to repent and turn back to God’s ways, and know God’s grace, peace, and love in your life. Amen.
Ancient of Days, the earth flooded long ago, and we were given a sign: the rainbow, a reminder that Your covenant is with the whole earth, that You will never again destroy the earth by flood. Your covenant is a reminder to us that the world is still broken, but You strive to make it whole. We have failed and fallen short, but You have remained steadfast. Your love for us has never ceased, though we have wandered and sought after the world’s desires. Call us back to Your covenant. Remind us of how You formed the world and made us in Your image. Remind us that we come from You, and we return to You, and Your promises never end. You may be ancient, but You also make all things new. In Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.