Lent 1B

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Voice in the Wilderness: Casey Fitzgerald

Featured Musician:Christopher Grundy


Tasty Wafer:

Featured Musician: Gillian Chen


Exegetical Notes

Mark 1:9-15

Initial Thoughts

  • The beginning of Jesus’ ministry in a nutshell: Anointed, Tested, Proclamation

Bible Study

  • If this were a Star Wars movie- we would still be in the yellow text- important? Yes, but really just setting the scene for what is to come

  • Baptism

    • Directly connected to last week- Transfiguration

    • Why Does Jesus need to be Baptized? To repent (turn away) from sin or to repent (turn away) from the world (i.e. political power, institutional religious oppression, wealth, etc.)

    • Words are just for Jesus (we are voyeurs on a private divine proclamation)

    • Are the words of God to Jesus any different that they are to us in Baptism? Are we not the sons and daughters of God, redeemed and with whom God is pleased?

    • Does Jesus’ path then become our own?

      • How do we respond to temptation and what will our proclamation be?

    • “In whom I am well pleased” - allusion to Isaiah 42 - Suffering Servant

      • Isaiah 42 is OT reading for Lent 6

  • Temptation

    • No specifics - Jesus was tempted and Jesus resisted

    • Jesus is remaking the Israelite story- led into the wilderness Jesus resists temptation where the Israelites succumbed.

    • Wilderness

      • Jesus accepts the wilderness- does not complain against it but instead is content with the wild animals and the angels - unlike the Israelites who desires slavery and idolatry over the wilderness

      • Wilderness is not only a physical place but a spiritual place - to be tested and transformed. See this article for more on forest/wilderness symbolism in literature. Or The Wisdom of the Desert by Thomas Merton:

        • It would perhaps be too much to say that the world needs another movement such as that which drew these men into the deserts of Egypt and Palestine. Ours is certainly a time for solitaries and for hermits. But merely to reproduce the simplicity, austerity and prayer of these primitive souls is not a complete or satisfactory answer. We must transcend them, and transcend all those who, since their time, have gone beyond the limits which they set. We must liberate ourselves, in our own way, from involvement in a world that is plunging to disaster. But our world is different from theirs. Our involvement in it is more complete. Our danger is far more desperate. Our time, perhaps, is shorter than we think.

  • Proclamation

    • Repentance- turning away from temptation and our own personal sins, as well as the sins of the world (over importance, power, wealth, despair, apathy, etc)

    • Kingdom of God - used 14 times in the Gospel of Mark

Sermon Thoughts

  • If through Christ we are all sons and daughters of God, then how do we respond to that call? By resisting Temptation, accepting the care of “angels” and proclaiming prophetic good news?

  • Is our Christian calling much different that Jesus’? We are baptized- God claims us a beloved son or daughter. We are tempted- life is filled with temptation - we resist or repent from temptation. We are called to proclaim the good news of resisting temptation. This is not just a story about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, but is our calling.

Genesis 9:8-17

Initial Thoughts

  • Great song: God Said to Noah

  • The worldwide flood is one of the most common stories in ancient history. That so many cultures tell a story of a worldwide flood has led some to consider theories for how such a thing may have actually occurred. This How Stuff Works article gives a pretty concise view of two main theories. Like most of these types of stories however, the truth and meaning of the story is not found in scientific fact-checking.

  • End of a familiar story that is probably less familiar than people think.

Bible Study

  • Covenant

    • This is the first covenant found in the Hebrew Bible, and the first of many that will be examined in Lent.

      • Lent 1 - Covenant of the bow

      • Lent 2 - Covenant with Abram

      • Lent 3 - Covenant of the Law

      • Lent 4 - Story of the bronze snake (bizarre)

      • Lent 5 - Jeremiah’s New Covenant

      • Lent 6 - Isaiah’s suffering servant

    • Act of covenant initiated by God.

    • All of creation included in the covenant - “every living being with you” (Gen 9:9)

    • The people are given the same command they were given at creation (Genesis 1:28), to “be fruitful and multiply. Populate the earth and multiply in it.”

  • God’s bow

    • The bow is a weapon, as in “bow and arrow,”

    • When God hangs up the bow, he is disarming himself.

    • Reminder of the hanging bow is a reminder to God that he will not lift up such violence again. It is a reminder that God’s way of “doing business” will forever be different.

    • Rainbow exists as a reminder that God has changed.

    • Just as all action of the covenant is initiated by God, all promises in the future are God’s alone. There is no action required by people, there is only a promise that God’s way of dealing with creation will never include destruction again.

  • Remember/Forget

    • Bad things happen when God and the people forget.

    • Reminders run throughout Hebrew Bible. People are told to “Remember what God has done.” God is told to “Remember the promises.”

    • Whenever people forget, they risk God’s judgment and anger.

    • Petitions in Psalms for God to remember include 9:12, 13:1 25:6-7, 42:9, 18-23, 77:9, 98:3, 106:4, 45. (Walter Brueggemann, Texts for Preaching, Year B p. 193)

  • Divine regret.

    • Genesis 6:6 “The Lord regretted making human beings on the earth, and he was heartbroken.”

    • There are a lot of implications about what it means for God to regret something. It is hard to hold onto an omniscient God and one that regrets as the same.

Sermon Thoughts

  • Hanging of the bow is an important reminder for those that think that the promise here is only that God won’t destroy the world “with a flood.” There is a strong strain of Christianity that envisions Jesus coming back as a warrior, ready to destroy those that have opposed him. This twisted theology is often wrapped in terms like rapture and tribulation, and was popularized and monetized by the Left Behind series. The promise of God lies not in the mode of destruction, but in the act. God is hanging up the bow - he is giving up that kind of behavior.

  • Question/Challenge why this is so popular with Children’s Bibles/nurseries. This, in a way, is a story that is outdated. It tells of a God that no longer exists. It is a reminder of how people thought of how gods acted in the world, but is also a foundation to how God is different. That God saved Noah and some animals (was it two of each, or seven of some?) ignores the fact that God then destroyed EVERYTHING else. People were disturbed by the Noah movie for many reasons. Maybe one is that they were expecting it to be a Children’s story.

  • The flood is such a rich story it is hard to capture in one week. For Lent, it must be seen as a larger picture of a journey to Good Friday and Easter. It is the initiation of the relationship between God and humanity. The flood waters did not cleanse humanity of sin. The humans are still created in the divine image, but are still going to be subject to sin. “That bow in the clouds is the sign of God's promise that whatever else God does to seek our restoration, destruction is off the table. An implication of this promise is that God will try everything else. God will seek us and seek us, despite or perhaps because of God's knowledge of every sin, every grief, and every shame that veils our vision of God's reality and of our own as God's creatures. Whatever dwells in our hearts that keeps us from hearing the harmony of all life in God's care, God will not give up on loving us into restoration” (Elizabeth, Working Preacher). In the framework of the beginning of Lent, we can see that God has promised not to destroy everything and start over, and we already know the path God has chosen to restore us to life. It is not the war bow. It is through his Son, the Cross, and the Empty Tomb.

1 Peter 3:18-22

Initial Thoughts

  • Glue that bridges Genesis and Mark texts

Bible Study

  • Historical Context:

    • Probably not written by Peter, but clearly debated

    • “The author wants his audience to understand who they are in relationship to the OT people of God, and he wants them to remain faithful to Christ in the face of pressures to conform to the larger world’s social and religious values.” (Common English Study Bible notes on 1 Peter, p. 461 NT).

  • Literary Context

    • Themes of 1 Peter (according to Common English Study Bible)

      1. Living honorably and ethically in spite of hostility from unbelievers, especially verbal hostility

      2. The return of Jesus as a basis for Christian hope.

      3. Continuity between the audience of primarily gentile believers and the Israel of old.

      4. How the community should treat each other, with an emphasis on love and unity.

    • 2:11-3:7 includes some of more troubling parts of the Bible, especially in dealing with submission.

    • 3:8-17 shifts to the theme to treating one another with love.

      1. The household codes are to be seen through the dual lens of cultural context and verses 8-17.

      2. Includes encouragement for those who are suffering because of their faith

  • Suffering

    • Addresses suffering as a result of Christian living. Not a sweeping generalization of all suffering.

      1. “It is clear however, that the suffering mentioned in the text is not meaningless anguish that comes to victims of accidents and natural disasters, to sufferers from birth defects and cancerous cells, unavoidable tragedies against which there is no immunity. The suffering here is caused by the specific reaction of others to one’s doing what is good. It is suffering one could avoid by choosing not to swim against the stream. Furthermore, it is to be distinguished from the just suffering that is the punishment for doing wrong” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, year B, p. 197).

    • Jesus suffered even though he was faithful - he suffering is an example and through his life, death and resurrection (i.e. how he lived and died) all others will be measured - radical claim.

    • By suffering for faithfulness, we are living out our connection to Jesus.

  • Flood and Baptism

    • “Spirits in Prison”

      1. “It is likely that 1 Peter is alluding here to an interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4 developed by Enoch and other apocryphal authors. These writers taught that the sons of God who intermarried with human women provoked humans to rebel against God and to attack each other. The violence unleashed by these evil powers prompted God to flood the world and imprison the rebellious angels. In 1 Peter, these disobedient angels are the imprisoned powers to whom Christ makes a proclamation. Does Christ proclaim judgment, or an opportunity to repent? The author does not say, turning instead to God’s concern for human beings.” (Judith Jones, Working Preacher)

      2. “The legend of Gen. 6:2 concerning the angels who mated with human women and who were responsible for corrupting the human race had undergone considerable elaboration by the first century. Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:9 allude to the tradition of imprisonment of these angels, Gnostic mythology considers them to be the cosmic powers that keep humankind imprisoned. The Savior’s triumphant ascent destroys the foundation of their rule.” (Pheme Perkins, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: First and Second Peter, James, and Jude, p. 65)

    • Flood is typically seen as God’s wrath punishing the world. Instead, Peter sees the ark as God’s act saving humanity.

      1. God saved the righteous in the midst of the waters, just as Jesus saves the unrighteous in the water.

      2. “1 Peter appears to think of the ‘spirits’ as human rather than fallen angels, since they are described as those who once were disobedient, when the Lord was patient during the time of Noah. Divine patience typically refers to a delay in punishment that sin deserves. As an example applied to the Gentiles who were completely cut of from God prior to their conversion, patience refers to God’s tolerance of their former ignorance. Rather than exploit the common parallel between the flood and divine judgment, 1 Peter exploits a different typology, the flood referes to the waters of baptism.” Pheme Perkins, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: First and Second Peter, James, and Jude, p. 65)

Preaching Thoughts

  • Preaching thought - is the church willing to suffer or even die for the sake of justice and love?

    • “For us, just as for the first-century Christians to whom the author of 1 Peter was writing, today’s passage speaks an important word. No government, corporation, or employer is ultimate. No oppressive system is greater than the power of God. If we suffer because we work for justice, if we are publicly shamed for doing what is right, we can be sure that our lives are in God’s hands, and God will have the last word. Christ walks with us in our suffering. Christ has already won the victory. Our task is to remain faithful and wait for God’s triumph to be revealed to the world.”  (Judith Jones, Working Preacher)

  • Baptism binds us to the life, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Christ. All the submission language needs to be seen through this lens - that ultimately we are all equally bound to Christ and Christ’s glory.

  • “As an introduction to the season of Lent, the passage echoes dramatic highlights in the story of salvation. The passion, resurrection, and exaltation of Christ demonstrates God’s triumph over the powers of the universe. The cosmic reach of that salvation extends back to the beginnings of humankind at the time of the flood.” Pheme Perkins, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: First and Second Peter, James, and Jude, p. 65)


Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).