we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him

RAMBLING RECTOR

A reflection on the Sunday bible readings

 

 

SUNDAY 21 February 2021 

 

Genesis 9.8-17

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, 10and 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. 11I 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.’ 12God 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: 13I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I 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.16When 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.’ 17God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’

 

Mark 1.9-15

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.10And 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. 11And 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. 13He was in the wilderness for 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,15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ 

 

REFLECTION

Floodwater and Wilderness

Our readings today (both Old Testament and Gospel) speak of Wilderness!

 

In Genesis… the utter devastation of the Flood, sweeping away all in its path.

In Mark’s Gospel, the bleak loneliness of Jesus' 40 days and 40 nights in the desert.

But in each story there is something more than wilderness. There is the Unfailing God, and the sense of his presence, and his faithfulness even in the midst of terror and desolation.

 

The story of Noah and the Covenant (the Promise) of the Rainbow over the Flood, is a familiar one.

 

In recent years, we have seen the terrible impact of flooding, horrifying TV footage which has shown us the complete powerless of human beings against the surge of the up-rushing water. Lives, possessions, families and communities, that will never be the same again…

 

Stories of a great flood are documented as history or legend in almost every culture and region on earth. Whether these tales are myth folk memory, all reflect the common human fear of the devastation of rising water. And our human vulnerability.

 

And yet, as our Genesis reading reminds us….

Out of chaos – God! Out of our helplessness – God!

 

In our Genesis reading we learn that through Noah, and through the Covenant Promise God makes through him, God seeks to restore his relationship with the human race, out of the mud and the deadly waters of the flood. As a Sign of that Covenant Promise, against the gloom of the terrible cloud stands the glory of the rainbow, assuring us, and all generations of the grace of God even when we are swept by storm and the overwhelming waters.

 

As we turn to our Gospel reading, against the Universal assurance of the symbol of the rainbow, we see the figure of a man alone in his wilderness… Jesus

 

In his baptism Jesus had identified with a sinful humanity, even though he was himself without sin. That commitment was answered by tearing open of heaven the descent of the Spirit and the testimony of the voice from heaven. Immediately after this high point, the Spirit impels Jesus out into the wilderness. Jesus must again identify himself with humanity, this time in the desolation and loneliness of the human condition, the stripping away of all earthly comforts and consolations. Wild beasts and angels attend him, but he is without human solace. How true that is, for when we are going through the experience of illness or of severe stress or of bereavement, we too can feel UTTERLY alone, utterly bereft.

 

Like Moses and Elijah before him, Jesus opens himself to the challenges of his wilderness experience. God’s holiness is revealed, as Jesus emerges with a strong sense of his mission. The time has been fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near, yet the way may be, WILL be unutterably hard, and Jesus will have many ordeals to face.

 

***

 

We too have our ordeals, the time when our troubles threaten to overwhelm us, and all seems wilderness and desolation. If we are able to use these times rightly, they can be the means by which God’s holiness is revealed to us.

 

Some years ago, at a moment when I was feeling isolated and overwhelmed with difficulties, one of my wilderness time… (we all have them!) I scribbled an entry in my journal, and it simply reads… “I can use this for God’s glory”

 

I’m not sure where I found those words, but they are surely in tune with the scriptures!

 

Romans 8.28: … we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…

James 1.2 and 3: Count it all joy brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

2 Corinthians 12.9: My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

 

For much of our lives, our attention can be absorbed by many insignificant things, experiences and possessions and occupations that hardly matter when seen from a holy perspective. The season of Lent is a time when we voluntarily put aside at least some of those things that usually afford us comfort and security, deliberately turning to God to find strength, so that when greater trials of suffering and loss come, we too can say:

“I can – I WILL - use this for God’s glory”


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