First Sunday in Lent, Year B
February 22, 2015
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” — Mark 1:14-15
Time is a funny thing. We humans like to think we can control and manipulate it. We wear our watches, watch our clocks, and check our smart phones in an effort to manage our time and make the most of it. We say time is in our hands. We look for signs of the time in which we find ourselves. We regret or revere the past, hurry through the present, and plan the future, assuming time is on our side.
This week we entered a time that many Christians call Lent. Marked with a dusty cross on our foreheads, we stepped into a time of repentance, reflection, and renewal. We are encouraged to devote time and energy to the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21). We are reminded of our mortality but also flooded with the mercy and grace of our Creator. We are “dusty” folk washed clean in the grace-full waters of baptism and drenched with the Spirit. The signs of our discipleship time point toward Easter resurrection beyond the shadow of the cross.
We begin with a lesson from Genesis concerning God’s covenant with Noah and his family. After water both destroys and makes new, God hangs a bow in the sky for all to see proclaiming that destruction is no longer part of the plan. It is a sign of the time, God’s time, God’s way, and God’s will for humankind.
The psalmist’s cry in this week’s psalm (25) is an appropriate one as we journey deeper into Lent, returning to God, seeking mercy and compassion. Like the psalmist, we too seek instruction and desire to know God’s ways, to be loved rather than shamed. This song has much to say about the nature of God, about the Creators steadfast love compassion for humankind.
Peter takes time in his letter to outline how God has worked through Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection to draw us into the divine circle. In baptism we are cleansed and made new. It is time for a new way of living and being.
Finally, in Mark’s urgent account of Jesus’ baptism, temptation, and beginning of ministry, we encounter a new sign of the time, a sign that in Jesus the covenant inaugurated with Noah and established with Israel is now fulfilled in God made flesh in the person of Jesus. It is time to repent and believe. It is time to know that God is up to something this time that will last for all of time.
Time is something most of us find in short supply. We never seem to have enough time to do all we want to do and be all we desire to be. How then, is the Lenten call to slow down, refocus, and draw nearer to God heard amidst all the other demands for and claims on our time? Do people even have time for the spiritual disciplines of the season? Is it a sign of our time that the allure of the world and its grip on our hours and days makes a real relationship with God so difficult?
These are not easy questions to answer. Long-running television soap opera The Days of our Lives opened with this line: “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” Lent gives us the opportunity to mark time in a different way by drawing nearer to the kairos time of God and away from the siren chronos pull of this world. Indeed, the time has been fulfilled, is being fulfilled, and will be fulfilled. Fortunately, unlike our hourglass days, our Creator holds time in eternal hands and desire to give us a glimpse.
May God bless your teaching, preaching, and ministry, holding you in covenant grace that transcends the limits of time. Peace and blessing on your Lenten journey.