A sermon for Lent 1; Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 25:1-9, 1 Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1:9-15
This morning I am at Calvary Episcopal Church, in part to dedicate the new front doors, given in memory of Gladys Hyatt. They are impressive: quite substantial, regal in appearance, they mark a welcoming entrance into the house of the Lord. As I prayerfully discerned how these doors might connect to the scripture readings for today, I thought of three sets of church doors.
The first set are the entrance to my home parish, Holy Trinity, Decatur Ga. My first memory is being big enough just to grab the handle. Some years later, I could lean back with all my weight and pull one of the doors open; I couldn’t get in, but I got the door open. Finally I was big enough the open the door, and hold it open for someone else. Then the church burned. The new doors were even bigger I had some more growing to do before I could open these doors and hold them wide for someone else to enter in to the house of the Lord.
The second set of doors, belong to Holy Trinity Clemson SC, literally across the street from the University. They were building a new church and gave the architect 2 criteria: the sanctuary should seat however many hundred people, the high altar, and the house of the Lord had to be open to the public all the time, continuing a relationship they had with the University, for long, long time.
The third set of doors, are the front doors of St. Peter’s Bon Secour, AL. The current sanctuary was built in 1928, the front doors have a lock; no one knows where the keys are, they have never been used, the doors the house of the Lord are always open.
All this ties together rather well. It even ties into our bishop’s convention challenges to open our doors and being a welcoming congregation. And this year, the challenge is … well the challenge is the other way round, the challenge is to go through the doors out into the boundaries of our parish. Be it in or out, I wonder what the rainbow, baptism, wilderness and good news have to do with doors. Let’s begin with the beginning.
You know the story; after the flood, God sets his bow in the clouds, and whenever we see a rain bow we’ll remember … remember what? Well, that’s not exactly the way it goes. Yes, it’s after the flood, and after the destruction of all flesh; God makes a covenant with all humanity, all the families, all the villages, all the nations, all the peoples; God makes a covenant with all living creatures that never again will God cut off all life. (Petersen & Bevery) So, he sets his bow in the sky, and whenever God sees it God will remember the covenant. (p. ibid) The story is tinged with an incarnational hue as it reveals God’s desire for deeply personal relationship with all humanity. (Howard, 2015) The story is deeply intimate in that it reveals that God regrets, God grieves, God remembers, and God takes steps ~ to remember forever. (Howard, 2015) Remembrance is a thread woven through the concluding segments to the prologue to Mark’s Gospel account.
The heavens are ripped open, and God tells Jesus he is God’s beloved son. Jesus’ baptism reveals Jesus is fully human. Jesus is promptly driven into the wilderness, where in the presence of fierce wild creatures and Satan he is tested for 40 days. That Jesus is not exempt from human struggles is another sign of his humanity (Williams, p. 25414) And, unique to Mark’s account, the Spirit and Angels are with Jesus throughout the 40 days; the Hebrews were never alone in the Sinai, Jesus is never alone in the wilderness, and neither are we, (Williams, p. 25413) no matter the form the wilderness and related test take. The next thing we know, Jesus is in Galilee proclaiming the Kingdom of God is right here, right now.
A couple of things to notice: Jesus is in Galilee, not necessarily friendly territory; however, he may be there because John has just been arrested, meaning home is not so friendly territory. Nonetheless, the Kingdom of God is near. Secondly, Jesus isn’t taking people away to some secrete, secure undisclosed place; nope, the Kingdom is here and now. (Skinner, 2015)
After the flood, God walks through Heaven’s door and establishes a divine covenant with all life, with all people, forever. In the Jordan River, in the wilderness, in Galilee, Jesus walks through heaven’s door, bringing the Kingdom of God into the here, and now. What had long been sealed is suddenly flung open. (Williams, p. 25397) The old ways of Davidic Kingship and the Temple are no more. (Skinner) The fully divine the fully human, has walked through Heaven’s door into the boundaries of creation establishing an intimate, personal divine/human/spirit presence.
On this first Sunday in Lent, a time to ponder how we will change our lives, I invite us to prayerfully discern how will we walk out our front doors, into our parish boundaries, friendly or not, with all our regrets and grievances, into mutually responsible, interdependent relationships with all our neighbors and Christ? Yea, it’s a wilderness test, but we are not alone, as they were so long ago, the Spirit and Angles are with us.
Harrelson, W. J. (2003). The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press.
Howard, C. B. (2015, 2 22). Commentary on Genesis 9:8-17. Retrieved from Working Preacher: http://www.workingpreacher.org
Petersen, D., & Beverly Roberts Gaventa. (2010). New Interpreters’ Bible, One Volume Commentary. Nashville TN: Abbingdon Press.
Skinner, M. (2015, 2 22). Commentary on Mark 1:9-15. Retrieved from workingpreacher.org: http://www.workingpreacher.org
Williams, L. J. (1983). Interpretation: A BIBLE COMMENTARY FOR TEACHING AND PREACHING: Mark. (J. L. Mays, P. D. Miler, & P. J. Achtemeier, Eds.) Nashville: John Knox Prress.