Lent 1 – Feb 21
Today’s readings involve awakening to signs of God’s presence in our lives. Do you ever have God moments, synchronous encounters, and insights that seem to come out of nowhere? From time to time, I do – the first time I saw the bumper sticker in front of Craigville Beach Association – keep sublime alive – a light came on, and I realized that’s what I’m supposed to do as a pastor, writer, teacher, and grandparent…keep sublime alive!
Sometimes these God signs involve an answer to prayer, meeting an old friend or a new one, an unexpected burst of energy, or the solution to a previously unsolvable problem…this happens to scientists all the time – a bunch of equations on the board come out of nowhere to become the theory of relativity, a lunch break gives birth to the discovery of the laser, as Charles Townes, a member of Frist Congregational Church, Berkeley relates.
These God-moments tell you that life is meaningful, that reality is more than meets the eye, and that God has a personal relationship with you.
Sometimes we can awaken our sense of God’s presence by rituals of blessing: scriptures and special words, “this is the day that God has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it” or looking at the night sky before retiring at night, or beginning the day with prayer asking for an answer to a problem or someone to come into your life, or gazing at the cross or a painting, reminding us of life’s fullness and beauty and God’s care.
In the wake of a global catastrophe, a flood that inundates the earth and threatens civilization, Noah receives a promise. God is on his side. God will care for him and the non-human world. And then he receives a sign, the rainbow. God tells Noah, “The rainbow is not just a sign for you, but for all creation. A sign to ease your anxiety and remind you to go beyond your family to care for the earth, and to move from self-interest to world loyalty. And whenever you are afraid or uncertain look to the rainbow and you will know that all will be well!”
The Gospel of Mark is known for its brevity: in a scant six verses we go from baptism and blessing to temptation and mission, with a brief aside on John the Baptist’s arrest. Jesus receives signs of God’s covenant with him, and us. There are at least four God signs in six short verses –
- Jesus’ Baptism – His embrace of his vocation, his embrace of God’s realm and his role in it, transitioning to claiming is role as God’s Messiah.
- God’s Blessing – You are my beloved child in who I am well pleased, pronounced by God.
- Wilderness companionship – The presence angels and beasts to sustain Jesus as he wrestles with his vocation and how to use his power wisely.
- The inspiration to begin his ministry and the emergence of Jesus’ message – “I have good news, God’s realm is near. Let’s get started.”
As a preacher, writer, and speaker, I wait for moments of inspiration. There are times you have to simply go to work – it’s your job – there’s a class to be taught, a sermon to compose, a worship service to plan, and you aim for your best. But then there are moments when Flow Happens, and Glow Happens when you can see light and be light. Something is working within you: greater wisdom is guiding your words and pen. It’s not just you, not your ego, it’s a higher wisdom meant to nurture others not just yourself.
This isn’t entirely accidental…we have a role in it, Noah builds a boat. Jesus comes to the river and then goes to the wilderness on retreat, and we pray for guidance.
I have a regular practice to open to God signs as a writer, teacher, and preacher: each night, as I commit the night to God, I reflect on what I hope to do on awakening. I go over thoughts and dedicate my creativity to God, and then after my morning meditation time, I pour a cup of coffee and get up and write…
You may not be a writer, but you can look back on the day you’ve just spent, note where God was present, reflect on the day ahead and an issue you are working on and put it in God’s care, asking for God’s wisdom. During the night, while you are resting, the Spirit will move, in the sighs too deep for words and an answer may come and all you can do is say thanks and ask God to use your experience to help others…to be God’s hands and feet wherever you are – whether at home, on a walk, with friends, at work, or thinking of a friend. Prayer opens us to possibilities.
As Leslie Weatherhead says, “When I pray coincidences happen, when I don’t, they don’t.”
There are God signs everywhere, and if you open your senses, your spirit, they will come to you. Amid tragedy, grace happens…amid confusion, a path opens…amid feelings of guilt , forgiveness…amid the perplexity, guidance…amid anxiety peace…amid fear hope…amid sickness and death, eternal life…
There are truly rainbows and blessings everywhere….God is faithful and will give you what you need, when you need it, to be blessed and to be a blessing.