How’s your Lent going? I know, we’re just getting started. But it’s good to check in - when stepping out into the wilderness, the first step can be a pretty big one.
The gospel story of Jesus going into the wilderness is the inspiration for the season of Lent. I think it’s important to remember that, for Mark in particular, the wilderness is where Jesus goes - with the Holy Spirit - after his baptism and before his ministry. In other words, it’s the place he goes to wonder about how to live out who he is before he goes and does it. Jesus appears, Jesus is baptized (remember, that’s when he sees the dove as a sign of the Spirit and hears the heavenly voice “you are my beloved child, I’m pleased with you”), Jesus goes to the wilderness, Jesus begins his ministry.
I like that because we could all use some wilderness time for the same reason. We need to set aside some time to wonder, about how we are loved by God, about how we could live that love into the world, and about how that love is lived in relationship - before we go and do it.
This year, each of the Sundays in Lent offers an opportunity to look at how we live those relationship in covenants. Each week includes a story from Hebrew scripture about our covenant relationship with God and each other.
Biblical covenants aren’t contracts or investments expecting a personal return, they’re about much more. In a covenant, each of the participants give something of themselves that, together, creates a new thing which isn’t just of benefit to them, but has a much wider and bigger impact. A covenant creates relationships and community.
It’s important to remember that covenants aren’t perfect and neither are we. Our understanding of covenant doesn’t seek perfection, it doesn’t involve making an impossible promise that you’ll never break. We can expect that in covenant with one another we might fall short of what we intended. We might break our promises to ourselves, to each other and to God. Our divine side understands that our human side needs work - that’s why we’re doing this. What matters is that we continue to work toward being back in covenant, even if we fail at times to uphold it.
You can see why Lent would be such a valuable opportunity to wonder about this.
And we begin, not in the cold, sombre shadows we so often associate with Lent, but in the bright light of a new day and the brilliant colours of the rainbow. At the end of the story of the Great Flood in Genesis, God offers the rainbow as a sign of promise, that together with us and all of creation, we will be co-creators of a better world. Together.
The rainbow means so many things to so many people. However we see it, it’s the hallmark of inclusivity. A sign of more than just welcome, it says that we are all part of the same family of creation and we should care for each other and the earth as family. And, to God, all means all. We all belong, not because we’re the same, but because we bring our own uniqueness, we can share our gifts as well as our needs and we can do that with love, respect and appreciation. We can love as we are loved, we can change as we bring change, we can need as we are needed, we can be a living part of creation. Will we?