“There Is New Life”
Lent 1 Communion February 18, 2018
The Sanctuary looks a little different today. The wooden cross has been placed in front of the Sanctuary nd has been draped in purple. The outside cross in the Prayer Garden is also draped. The wooden cross is put in place and it and the Prayer Garden cross are draped to remind us that we are in the Season of Lent.
Today is the first Sunday in Lent, the season of the church year when we focus upon the new life God offers us in Christ, and how we can respond to God’s offer by a new commitment of our lives to God and to Christ. We focus on the new life God offers us in Christ by focusing on the death of Christ, for it is the death of Christ that gives us new life. Of course we also know that Christ rose again but unless we focus on how He gave His life for us we will never truly understand the victory He gives us. And as we focus on how Christ gave His life for us we reflect upon how we can give our lives to Him.
As we gather around God’s table to begin our journey down the road to commitment today, we will see that following the road to commitment gives us the promise of new life and a new beginning for our lives. God’s covenant with Noah in the Genesis 9 passage and the Mark 1;9-15 passage that relates the baptism and temptation of Christ both speak to the new life God offers us. These are stories of new life, of new creation, and of new beginnings. These are stories where there is new life.
For Noah, the waters of the flood had subsided, but had completely destroyed the world. All its inhabitants were dead — except for Noah, his wife, their sons Shem — Ham – Japeth and their wives. 8 people. 8 people and 2 of every kind of animal, male and female. Enough to begin again the work of populating the world.
So, from the destructive waters of the flood, there is a new beginning. There is new life.
But — why was all this necessary? Why had God destroyed all living creatures except for those in the Ark? He had to do it because people had turned away from God. The author of Genesis tells us something we really should not have to be told — wickedness was great upon the earth — and every inclination in the hearts of people was evil. This should not surprise us. The created had forgotten the creator and so the creator God decides to start over. The flood comes and kills every person and animal except for those in the Ark, even from the destructive waters of the flood, God brings new life.
Does the flood really change thing? Are Noah and his family really all that different from all those people killed in the flood? Not really. They sin. They forget God. Nothing really changes
Or does it? Something changes. Something is different. What is it? Noah looks and there is a multi-colored bow in the sky. Why? In a sense, God has changed. In a sense, God is different. A better way to put it is that God chooses to change. God chooses to do something different. God makes a promise to no longer destroy life but to save life. So there is something different. God, who had sent the flood to destroy all people, now promises to never destroy all of life again.
“Never again.” God says. “Never again”
New life indeed emerges from the destruction. Hope indeed emerges from devastation. Hope for new life comes from mass death. God sets the bow in the sky to be a constant reminder to God and to us that God has promised to no longer destroy all of life, but to save life.
I read a story not long ago about a boy who was visiting his grandmother. His grandmother read him a Bible Story every day. One day she read him the story of Noah and the flood, emphasizing the beautiful rainbow and God’s promise in the rainbow. It was a beautiful, sunny day that day but later in the day the boy’s grandmother noticed him staring at the sky. “What are you doing?” she asked. “I’m trying to find the rainbow” he replied, “Well,” his grandmother told him, “we don’t see rainbows on sunny days like this, but only on cloudy, rainy days when the sun breaks through the clouds to remind us that God is with us.”
Indeed, God sets the bow in the sky to be a constant reminder to God and to us that God has promised to no longer destroy all of life, but to save life, and to remind us that even in our most cloudy days, our most trying times He is with us and there can be new life.
In the Mark 1 passage before us Jesus emerges from His baptism and testing preaching the coming of the Kingdom of God and our need to repent. Just as new life came from the waters of the flood, the proclamation of new life came from the waters of Jesus’ baptism. There is indeed a new beginning. There is indeed new life.
Friends, the question you need to ask ourselves as we begin this season of Lent is this: How can I respond to God? How can I respond to Jesus, and make this new beginning, live this new life, God has promised to Noah and offers to me through Jesus Christ? How can I respond to God , who promises in the rainbow and through Christ to always be with me? How can I respond to God’s promise of new beginnings and new life?
You can respond by giving yourself to Christ. You can respond by hearing His call to repent and believe. You can respond by turning from sin and turn to God. You can respond by believing that God, and only God, can save you from your sins and give you new life — a new life of hope for this life and the next. You can can respond by living like you believe that new life is indeed possible and that new beginnings are indeed possible, and that God does indeed save you. You can respond by living in that new life, that new way, God’s way, that God makes possible for you. You can respond by begin to pay more attention to your relationship with God. You can respond by beginning to pay more attention to your prayer life, your worship, your commitment to God’s ways of doing things. You can can respond by living the life of commitment, believing that there is always new life, always new beginnings.
Many believe that Lent is a time to “give up” things. I’d rather see it as a beginning, a time to begin new things, rather than a time to end, or give up things. I’d rather see it as a time for new beginnings and new life. You can begin a new relationship with God. You can begin a new commitment to God and to His will and to His work. You can begin a new commitment to your prayer life and to your personal study of and reflection upon scripture. You can begin a new commitment to worship and Bible Study with your fellow Chrisitans here at Edgewood. You can begin living the new life God offers .
This can be a beginning. A beginning of new life for each of us. A beginning of new ways to live. A beginning of new commitments.
God makes the offer — but you have to choose to accept it or not. Accept it — and receive God’s salvation. Because of God’s promise to Noah – that rainbow that promises that God is with you at all times of your life – because of God’s promises through Jesus Christ –you can have new life – and live a life of new commitments. Because of God’s love for you in Jesus Christ, there is a new beginning. There is new life.
Come to the table, Receive strength for your new life – and let us receive strength for our new lives together. Receive strength from God and from Christ.
As you partake of the sacrament it can be as if you are waited upon by angels. There is strength for times of testing. There is strength to discover God — who wills to save and not destroy you. There is strength to see that there is new life.
Come — see — and experience that there is indeed a new beginning. Come – see – and experience that there is indeed new life. Amen.