Lent 1 - Click Here for the Bible readings for this week.
Sunday we hear the end of the Noah story - God establishing a covenant with humankind. The pictures of Noah, the ark, the pairs of animals and the rainbow have graced many a child's room and Arky, Arky is an all time favorite church camp song retelling the saga of Noah and the Ark, happily leaving out the death and destruction for the entire world. Dead bodies of humans and animals floating in the sea don't make for nice pictures or songs.
Our lesson this week comes in at the point where God swears off using the power of God for such total devastation. Those hearing the story in the days of sitting around the fire telling and retelling the stories of faith, before they were written down, would have the picture of God wiping out the earth and its inhabitants and this most surprising revelation. God, the almighty and all-powerful, was setting his bow - that symbol of war - in the sky for all to see that God would not use power in this terrible way again. People throughout history have seen this action - the broken arrow, the broken bow, the swords turned to pruning hooks, the axe turned into a plow, weapons turned to signs of peace. The bow in the heavens is a reminder that God could wipe out life but will refrain from destruction. Instruments of war are laid down in favor of life. God's limits God's power for the sake of the world.
The psalmist prays that God will teach God's ways to the people so they may also walk in the paths of peace, paths of love and faithfulness.
The first letter of Peter draws parallels of baptism and the waters through which the world passed in the days of Noah. It shows Christ as the one who lived into the fullness of God's true nature in submitting to the cross rather than calling down the armies of angels. Christ reveals God in giving up all power in his crucifixion.
In the gospel Jesus is just setting out on his journey to the cross - the heavens are torn open at his baptism and then he is driven out into the desert to wrestle with what it means to be the Beloved Son. The tearing open of the heavens reminds me of the roof ripping friends of the paralyzed man of Mark 2:1-12. They found a way to get around the rules that kept them from Jesus. God tears open the skies to break through to show us a new way. Sometimes the roof or the sky needs to be torn open so our imaginations can see the Holy breaking into our everyday lives.
Bishop Tutu, the retired Archbishop of South Africa, is one who can see this inbreaking of the Holy and communicates what he sees to those of us who can't. There is an incident from the days of apartheid when the soldiers broke into his office and slammed down their automatic weapons - threatening his life with their power. He looked a them with his joyous smile and said - why don't you put away your weapons and join us - you have already lost.
People like Bp Tutu, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks saw the rainbow - the promise and lived in a way that did not use power over others to gain their dream. They used the weakness of God - that is so much more powerful than any thing we can imagine to bring fullness of life to all people.
Lent is a time to go into our personal deserts and wrestle with those things that do not bring life to ourselves and our world. We go into our time of reflection with the message of God that we are beloved daughters and sons. It is this message that allows us to emerge with a renewed sense of who we are and whose we are.