Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Lent 1B Readings & Commentaries

The account of Jesus’ forty days of trial and temptation in the wilderness is our Gospel reading always on the first Sunday in Lent.  Mark’s version is short and without the details of Matthew and Luke (the familiar description of the temptations).

1st Reading:  Genesis 9:8-17
Our first reading is the end of the story of the Flood.  Once the flood is over, and Noah and his family and their animal companions are back on dry land, God makes a covenant with them (note the covenant is with “all flesh that is on the earth”).  God will never again destroy the earth.  The sign of this covenant will be the rainbow.  It is significant that among Israel’s primordial stories is not only a flood story (which parallels stories in other ancient cultures), but the promise of God:  “never again.”

9:8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:  13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Psalm 25:1-10
Our psalm is a psalm of lament, a cry for God to make things the way they ought to be.  It is framed by statements of trust that, at the end of the psalm, God is implored not to forget.

1     To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
       my God, I put my trust in you; *
              let me not be humiliated,
              nor let my enemies triumph over me.
2     Let none who look to you be put to shame; *
              let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.
3     Show me your ways, O Lord, *
              and teach me your paths.
4     Lead me in your truth and teach me, *
              for you are the God of my salvation;
              in you have I trusted all the day long.
5     Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, *
              for they are from everlasting.
6     Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; *
              remember me according to your love
              and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.
7     Gracious and upright is the Lord; *
              therefore he teaches sinners in his way.
8     He guides the humble in doing right *
              and teaches his way to the lowly.
9     All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness *
              to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
10   For your Name’s sake, O Lord, *
              forgive my sin, for it is great.

2nd Reading:  1 Peter 3:18-22
In our second reading, Peter uses the story of the flood to make a point about the depths to which God has gone to save us.  Many were concerned in the early Church about the status of those who had died prior to the cross and resurrection.  Were they also saved by Jesus’ action?  Peter replies that this was precisely the work Jesus did while he was in death.  He “descended to the dead” (as we say in the Apostles’ Creed) to bring the good news “to the spirits in prison.” Orthodox icons of the resurrection reflect this belief. Jesus is seen atop the gates of Hell, which have been broken.  With one arm he lifts Adam and the other Eve to new life.  If this is the depth to which Jesus has gone, the writer of this letter is saying, how much more are we saved through our Baptism, which the Flood prefigured.

3:18 Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 1:9-15
The account of Jesus’ forty days of trial and temptation in the wilderness is our Gospel reading always on the first Sunday in Lent.  Mark’s version is short and without the details of Matthew and Luke (the familiar description of the temptations).  Mark tells the story in a single sentence, begun with one of his favorite words, “immediately” and then the strong word “drove.”  Jesus’ message of repentance strikes a familiar Lenten theme.  The Greek word is metanoia, which means literally “to turn around” or “to change one’s mind.”

1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2018, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved.

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