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  • The Revd Canon Camellia Flanagan, TSSF

240218 Lent 1B Genesis 9:8-17 Psalm 25:1-10, 1 Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1:9-15

+In the name of the Lord, Source of all being, Eternal Word and Holy Spirit. Amen 


The early chapters of the book of Genesis contrast two competing views of human beings. One view is that the Bible claims that we alone of the earth’s creatures are made in the image and likeness of God. According to Genesis 1:26 God created us to be the wise stewards of creation. We were to rule over it in the same way that God rules. To rule in this way, we would need to be the most life-giving creatures on earth. The other view is that the story of the flood warns that we can become the most dangerous and destructive creatures in creation and not at all in the image and likeness of how we understand God. Our first reading from Genesis in the telling of the story confirms the story of the faith of the children of Israel, and that despite their destructive tendencies, God is unconditionally committed to them (and therefore us) as seen in the story of the covenant with Noah and the sign of the rainbow. 


I love rainbows. When I was a small child, I would walk for what seemed like miles across the paddocks to find the end of the rainbow only to find that the end of it, the end had disappeared. But somehow, I also found out that the symbol of the rainbow and its significance did not disappear. God had unconditionally committed to his people and the covenant with Noah and the sign of the rainbow were the tangible evidence of that commitment and it did not disappear. 


But in spite of the fact that humanity can be at times, very bad and of itself finds it impossible to change, God maintains this commitment.  So given the propensity we have to wreak havoc on one another and the environment, it is comforting to have the Bible’s expression of God’s commitment. 


In the oral tradition of the Children of Israel the sad situation of humanity is not the end but is an opportunity to teach us how we can escape from it and transform our lives. God chose Israel through the ancestors Abraham and Sarah to bring blessing to all the families of the earth. The Torah, the oral tradition, now written, teaches this but the Children of Israel did not tend to take the stories seriously. The teaching is that Israel can live in the land in a way that transforms if from a potentially destructive rabble to a life-giving community. It can learn to live in the image and likeness of God. In order to do this the Children of Israel must rely on God’s power, not its own, in a state of what we would call grace. The Old Testament is in many ways Israel’s honest assessment of its failure to live up to its vocation in most of the pages of history. But despite its failures, the Children of Israel’s unshaken conviction about God’s commitment remains. 


If only they had Jesus’s example to follow. They had the prophets and the consequences of their actions but did not tend to take them seriously. If they had the Gospels, they would have known that Jesus is the one who above all has the power to bring about transformation. We are the lucky ones, perhaps even chosen, as the Children of Israel before us. In a dramatic portrayal of Jesus’s divine power at work Mark tells of Jesus being driven by the spirit – the almighty power of God, with which Jesus is fully in tune. He is driven into the wilderness. This wilderness was where according to the book of Numbers Israel failed to live up to its God given vocation and it is here that Jesus is tempted to follow the human tendency to rely on their own or a false power – the power of Satan. This power is the kind that leads to destruction and chaos. In Mark’s few words, Jesus is described as living with the wild beasts. Here is a human being that is good news for all creation. 


Instead of being fearful and afraid of creation as demonstrated in the flood story, there is the possibility of an ideal relationship between humanity and creation that God had planned from the beginning of time. Jesus is the one who brings about that harmony with creation that is the God given task of human beings. As one who is perfectly in the image and likeness of God, there is harmony, not only with creation but also with God. And appropriately Mark tells us that the angels waited on him. In the presence of Jesus heaven and earth can again be at one. But on the other side of the story there is one Wild Beast that still needs to be dealt with and this is potentially the most destructive creature in creation.  

 

This is the Lenten journey and the journey through the wilderness with the wild beast we all travel until the saving grace of Christ’s work on the cross and resurrection brings healing to our flawed humanity and transforms us into the image and likeness of himself. 


By refusing to exercise power in a violent way to counter violence, Jesus is able to lead us through the death of our destructive nature to our new life in the image and likeness of God.     


The sign of God’s enduring commitment to flawed humanity is the rainbow in the clouds. The sign of our commitment to share in Jesus’ death in order that we may be created anew, is the water of baptism. As we commence the season of Lent in response to God’s promise made visible in the rainbow, we are invited again to accept the power filled, life giving love of Jesus that alone can transform our lives both as individuals and as a Community of Christ Church Cathedral in Grafton. 


Amen.  

 

The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan tssf 

Grafton                                                        

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