Sunday, February 26, 2012

What's this rainbow doing here in Lent?...... Sermon for Year B Lent 1

What’s this rainbow doing here in Lent?

They were sitting on the front porch.
Our son Jody was there for a summer visit with his grandparents,
my parents.
He was about 14 years old.

Each afternoon my mother and he
would take a glass of ice cold Minute Maid lemonade
and a pack of nabs or a few cookies
and they would sit on the front porch
and watch the traffic go by
as they enjoyed an afternoon break.

Sometimes my mother would water her petunias
which adorned the porch in multiple hanging baskets
or she would count the blossoms.
She loved to send me a daily count
when the petunias were in bloom--
32 blossoms today....
45 blossoms on Friday morning...
but this day was not a petunia counting day.

It was a rainy summer afternoon and they were just sitting there.
My mother was never at a loss for words,
so no doubt, she was chatting with our son about something.
Then they saw it.

My mother said,
Look, Jody! Look at the rainbow!
God put that in the sky just for us.
That rainbow is God’s promise.

To which our son replied,
Well, actually Granny, rainbows are a result
of raindrops in the air acting as tiny prisms.
Light enters the raindrop, reflects off the side,
and is then broken into a spectrum of color.

My mother was speechless--for a moment--
and then calmly replied,
That’s right.
God does all that and then puts the rainbow right there,
just for us,
as a sign of God’s promise.

Science and religion met on the front porch
in Raleigh, North Carolina that day.
And the good news is
a difference of opinion did not break them apart.

We hear in the Genesis story this morning a familiar tale
about Noah and a rainbow.
God says to Noah,
I have set my bow in the clouds,
and it shall be a covenant between me and the earth.

God is promising God’s people
that never again would God use violence and destruction
against God’s own people.
Noah and his family and all the living creatures
had survived the 40 days in the ark.

That’s what we are in the midst of trying to do as well.
Survive the 40 days --not of a flood--but of Lent.
4 days down and 36 more to go!

Lent is not a punitive time
but it is a time when we do a careful self-examination
of our lives and of our souls.

We set our hearts and minds to make some changes--
to repent--to do things a little differently.

Somehow the liturgical season of Lent
doesn’t seem like the season for a rainbow.
Rainbows are a little too beautiful to belong in Lent, aren’t they?

And yet... rainbows are a sign that the storm has passed.
Rainbows tell us that the sun is coming out
and there is better weather ahead.
Good news.

In Mark’s gospel we hear the good news of Jesus’ baptism.
It is the beginning of his ministry.
Everything that had gone before Jesus in time and history
is transformed from that moment of baptism forward.

Yet immediately--
(remember how much the writer of Mark’s Gospel
loves that word IMMEDIATELY-?!!)--
IMMEDIATELY after that new beginning, his baptism,
Jesus has to go--
in fact he is DRIVEN--into the wilderness.
And I don’t mean driven in a Subaru!

The Gospel tells us Jesus is driven by the Spirit--
he wasn’t driven into the desert by Satan or demons.
He was driven by the Holy Spirit.

Often it is our times of struggle and confronting temptation,
that help us grow and change.
Often it is our worst of times
that deepen our relationship with God--and with others.
In order to become our fullest selves
we must face and know the demons that call us by name.

The Spirit knew that Jesus had to go into the desert,
go through the desert
and come out of the desert on the other side
if he was going to have the strength, the wisdom
the courage and the wholeness
to do the ministry that was ahead of him.

Temptation, Satan, wild beasts--
they wear many masks--
but we have all known them--
sometimes in big doses
sometimes in tiny tastes.

Jesus did not do face that wilderness struggle alone.
And neither do we.

My favorite line in Mark’s gospel today is this:
...and the angels waited on him.

Part of our Lenten practice
is to let go of the notion that we are self-sufficient,
to recognize that we need help
and to trust that the angels are here for us too.

Even in the times we feel desperately alone.
God never abandons us.

Our journey through the season of Lent
reminds us that even in the desert
we can catch a glimpse of a rainbow,
if we remember to look.

Remember the original Muppet Movie?
Kermit the frog sitting in the dismal swamp,
playing his little banjo and singing,

Why are there so many
songs about rainbows
and what’s on the other side?

There is something about us--
humans and little banjo strumming green frogs-
we long to be connected to the “other side”,
to the kingdom of heaven,
to God.

Our Episcopal catechism defines sin
as anything that separates us from God.

Lent is about looking at the obstacles in our lives
that block us, that separate us,
that weaken or damage our connection with God.

...Have you been half asleep
and have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name...

I have set my bow in the clouds, says God.

God has promised to be in loving relationship with us.
Always and forever.
We are all God’s beloved children.
We just don’t always believe that.
We just don’t always live into God’s love
and act as if we are God’s beloved.

Lent is a journey,
the season when we consciously work on that “rainbow connection,”
a time when we make some changes that will bring us
into a better and deeper relationship with God,
with ourselves,
with others,
with all creation.

Someday we’ll find it
the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.

And you.

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