FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT + FEBRUARY 21, 2021

PRAYER OF THE DAY

Holy God, heavenly Father, in the waters of the flood you saved the chosen, and in the wilderness of temptation you confirmed Jesus as your Beloved. Renew us in the gift of baptism, confirm our identity as your own. May your holy angels surround and protect us, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

A READING FROM THE BOOK OF GENESIS 9:8-17

God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and 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. I 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.” God 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: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I 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. When 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.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

WE PRAY PSALM 25:1-10

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. My God, I put my trust in you; let me not be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. Let none who look to you be put to shame; rather let those be put to shame who are treacherous. Show me your ways, O LORD, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long. Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting. Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; remember me according to your steadfast love and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD. You are gracious and upright, O LORD; therefore you teach sinners in your way. You lead the lowly in justice and teach the lowly your way. All your paths, O LORD, are steadfast love and faithfulness to those who keep your covenant and your testimonies.

A READING FROM THE FIRST LETTER OF PETER 3:18-22

Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you — not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

THE HOLY GOSPEL, ACCORDING TO ST. MARK 1:9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And 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. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

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.”

Sermon

Brace yourself: We’re experiencing a bit of time travel here! Not only did we step out of time and space entirely last week in the Transfiguration passage, but now we’re reaching back before the passages of the last three Sundays. So what’s up?

In fact, this marks the third time we hear this account of John and Jesus at the River Jordan since Advent and Christmastide! Each time more of the story is included; each time we traverse a bit further into the journey through which Jesus becomes the Christ. Each time we are gifted with a sense of what it means to embrace our destiny, to discern what God is calling us to do, to make room in our lives for becoming all we never realized we could be; never dreamed was possible, and be astounded at what God sees as our potential to become the Kingdom. In our passage today, Jesus shares with us, by Mark’s account, what he experiences in his transition from a quiet, obscure life at home in Nazareth, with family, to the “no turning back now” ministry we witness in the rest of Mark’s Gospel. It is in the desert, among every deprivation and distraction, utterly alone with himself and profoundly vulnerable, that Jesus is tempted to reject his newfound identity as Beloved, and fall prey to the worst possible fate: choosing to believe Satan, the liar and the thief, instead of His Father, who names and claims him. We face this challenge every day, in every phase of our lives. Will we define ourselves by what others, whether good or ill intentioned, think of us? Or will we cling to the Baptismal naming and claiming of God, who looks at us as we are, and calls us Beloved? Like Jesus, we must decide, not once and for all, but in every moment of our lives, to find our identity in the One in Whose Image we are being created, called and claimed. Like Jesus, temptation has no power over what has been claimed by God, and named Beloved. We can discover who we are, by realizing Whose we are! Amen

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