REFLECTIONS ON THE READINGS
FOR FEBRUARY 21, 2021
A NOTE ON THE SEASON OF LENT
The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 17th. It is a time that we set aside, to prepare for the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of our Lord on Easter weekend. It is a period of reflection and self-examination. While we put our trust in God’s free and abiding grace, and use this time to reflect on our shortcomings, our sinful nature. Many observe the practice of fasting during this time. This sacrifice can become a frequent reminder of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross. I pray that God blesses your Lenten journey this year.
The story of Adam comes to a close in Genesis chapter 5. In chapter 6, we learn that the people had become wicked and violent. God has decided to hit the reset button—to start over. You know the story-- Noah and his family are called upon to build a ship, gather the animals two-by-two, and so on. Today’s lesson intercepts the story after they have found dry land, and all the people and animals are off the ship. Noah immediately builds an altar, and makes a sacrifice to God.
- God takes the initiative, and establishes a covenant—a solemn promise. This covenant is not only made with Noah and his sons, but with the animals of the arc as well. God promises never again to destroy the entire earth by flood. (vv. 8-11)
- God creates the rainbow, to act as a visual reminder of his promise to all living things on earth, that he will he will never again destroy all flesh by flood.
We do not request God to make this covenant with us, He decides to do it all on his own. This is yet another example of his steadfast love for an undeserving people.
In preparing this study this week, I learned that in ancient times, hanging one’s bow up meant that the fight was ended. You could say that by God hanging his rainbow in the sky, He understands that we are not going to be rid our sinful nature. If you read on, you will see that it is true. In the verses starting with 9:20, Noah gets drunk and naked, and weird stuff happens. Even Noah!
1 PETER 3:18-22
In the verses immediately preceding today’s selection, verses 13-17, we learn that Peter is talking about the suffering we sometimes get when we do the Lord’s work.
- Peter reminds us that Jesus also suffered for doing the will of the Father. He died once for all. He died one time, on the cross, and died for all mankind of all time. He did this, to bring us all closer to God. (v. 18a)
- Verses 18b – 20 need to be read as one chunk, but they also need to be broken down.
- After his death on the cross, his spirit (which was very much alive) descended into Hell (or the dead) to proclaim the gospel message even to those who had died. Remember the Apostle’s Creed? (vv. 18b-19)
- These spirits in prison/hell include the disobedient ones from Noah’s time. (v. 20a)
- The same water that saved Noah saves us through our baptism. (vv. 20b-21)
- Jesus now reigns in heaven at God’s right hand, and all angels, authorities, powers, etc. are under his authority. (v. 22)
Peter reminds us that it is okay to suffer the faith. It is Jesus’ suffering that saves us, and that in our baptism we are cleansed from our sin. Jesus’ one-time sacrifice of himself saves us all!
- The lectionary is a list of bible readings that we use as a chart to navigate the church year. It is a three year list, labelled A, B, and C. We are currently in cycle B, which features the gospel of Mark. Mark’s gospel is the smallest, most concise of all the gospels. What it lacks in detail, it makes up for in energy. Today’s gospel reading covers the baptism of Jesus and his temptation, all in six verses.
- Verses 9-11 describe Jesus’ baptism. He is baptized by John the Baptist before he calls any disciples, performs any miracles, or does any teaching. This is the beginning of his ministry, and baptism is a great place to start. As Jesus comes out of the water, his Father proclaims “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
- Immediately, Jesus is whisked away to spend 40 days of fasting and meditation in the “wilderness”. While there, we are told that he was tempted by Satan. No details are given by Mark. You need to look elsewhere for detail. But we do know that angels cared for and protected Jesus from “wild beasts”. (vv. 12-13)
- After Jesus’ retreat in the wilderness, John the Baptist is arrested. This signals the end of his ministry, and the beginning of Jesus’. (v. 14)
- The words that God speaks at Jesus’ baptism, are similar to those spoken at his transfiguration, but they are also different. Here at his baptism, God is speaking to Jesus—“…with you I am well pleased”. At the transformation, God is speaking to Jesus’ apostles—“…listen to him”.
- When I hear the word “wilderness”, I think of forests and perhaps mountains. Jesus’ wilderness was different. It was more of a rocky, near desert terrain, similar to New Mexico. And there were definitely wild beasts there. Most notably lions, bears, snakes, and scorpions inhabited this region back then. He needed those angels for protection.
- Jesus must have been on an emotional high after his baptism. After all, some pretty incredible things took place. But isn’t that the way it always goes—just when things are going great, that’s when we are most tempted to stumble. We know from the other gospels (Mt. 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13) that Jesus is tempted to use his divine power for personal gain. I find it a comfort to know that Jesus was indeed tempted, and endured them. It tells me that he understands what it is like to be human, and how difficult it is sometimes to do the right thing rather than the tempting thing.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
We are all blessed with certain gifts from God. For some, it is compassion and understanding; for others it is prosperity and power. Whatever blessings we receive from above, we are expected to use them wisely. All too often, we are tempted to keep them to ourselves, and use them for our own personal gain. Instead, we are called upon to use them to build up the Body of Christ. How are we doing with this challenge?