The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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Based on Genesis, Chapter 9, verses 8-17 “The Covenant between God and Noah

And

Mark, Chapter 1, verses 9-15.  “The Baptism, Temptation, and Mission of Jesus

Opening Prayer:   Holy, gracious and amazing God, be with us in our shared reflection on Your Word for us this day, amen.

Our scripture readings from Genesis and Mark this morning provide a rich tapestry of interwoven themes, images, and stories reminding us of our choice as individuals and our choice as a congregation here and now to be our most authentic and fruitful selves in the name of the Holy One. 

Some of us listening might find ourselves saying: “Sound good, I’m in!” or “ I’m down with that’ or “Sure, where can I sign up?”

Then again, others of us listening might wonder:  “What’s the catch?”  or “Why should I bother?” or “I’m too busy!” as ways of ignoring God’s covenant, promise, and call.

The short answer is “We don’t have to do anything, other than show up because scripture tells us that regardless that “God is there, God is there, God is there”.

Yes, it is true!  We can choose to exercise our free will to respond or not to God’s invitation to change our behaviour in response to God’s call for our lives!

However, this sense of intentional choosing to change is what I see God modelling and inviting for the people in our story from the book of Genesis and in Mark’s gospel as well.

God, owner of the Divine initiative, makes a reconciling gesture of peace and of promise to God’s people by the setting a rainbow in the sky, reminding God’s listeners that God will faithfully and steadfastly attend to the well -being of all of God’s creatures.   

The story tells us that God does this in response to Noah’s burnt offerings to God. 

Noah’s burnt offerings, we’re told, emerge out his thankfulness at the flood’s end and at the relief of a new beginning for all of God’s creatures and God’s good Creation!

If this be so, some of us might well wonder:

But if God kept God’s promise to never send flooding again to the earth, then why do floods do continue to occur? 

If God kept God’s promise, why does destruction and devastation continue to prevail?

If God kept God’s promise, why do so many of our global brothers and sisters live with such hardship?

Surely, these realities are ‘perfect contradictions’ of God’s promises found in these ancient words taken from the book of Genesis! 

Great questions, great conclusions, great opportunities for on-going reflection. 

Here is what I know to be true:  God is not the One responsible for these tragedies.  Indeed no, these tragedies are ours to own. 

As rampant consumers of God’s good Creation, tis we, who are responsible for climate change and global warming. 

Tis, we, who fool ourselves into thinking it’s not our actions that can make a difference in the world.

For me, the 40 days of Lent season invite us into the intentional letting go of all that which would keep us blinkered in our thinking. 

“Surely tis not we”, we ask ourselves, “who are complicit in the degradation of our cosmos and whom are called by God to unpack and respond to such issues as poverty, homeless, and hunger!?!”

Then again, I hear the invitation from our readings inviting us into the Intentional letting go of all that calls us into false understanding of the world’s ills and that block us from embracing our most authentic and fruitful selves for the good of all Creation.

There is no doubt in my mind that such invitations, such propositions can immobilize as much as frighten or challenge us, yes? 

Yet, such invitations are not to be ignored or avoided. 

Here is the good news for today: During Lent, we, who come to church, eager and hungry to derive meaning from our stories from scripture for our own lives, for the well being of our church community, and for the good of the whole cosmos, tis we who are invited to respond to God’s call, promise, and commissioning! 

Here in our reading from Mark’s gospel, we hear the most cryptic version of Jesus baptism and commissioning into the wilderness for his part in the start up of God’s great clean up of the world.    Accompanied by both wild beasts and angels in the wilderness, Jesus, model and perfector of our faith, prepares himself for yet another journey, the one he will undertakes on behalf of all humanity, his journey to Jerusalem and his death on the cross.   

Like the story of God’s promise to Noah and all his descendants, this story from Mark’s gospel invites us into new ways of understanding God, Jesus, ourselves, and our place in the grand scheme of things.     

Are we up for the challenge?  Yes.  No.  Maybe.

Meanwhile, knowing that God’s time is not our time, we begin once again the wilderness journey of our own personal and our corporate journey for the forty days of Lent for this year. 

As the season of Lent unfolds again this year, may we travel together in faith, in hope and in confidence, opening ourselves once again to being invited into responding to God’s call as our most authentic and fruitful selves in this time and in this place.  

Let us pray:  “God of all seasons, in your pattern of things there is a time for keeping and a time for losing; a time for building up and a time for pulling down. 

In this holy season of Lent, as we journey once again to the cross, help us discern in our lives what we must lay down and what we must take up; what we must end and what we must begin. 

Give us grace to lead a disciplined life, in glad faithfulness and with the joy that comes from a closer walk with Christ.  Amen.”