The first Sunday of Advent has always been an opportunity for me to challenge a congregation to 40 days of significance. The Ash Wednesday service rarely has large numbers, so the 1st Sunday is a great time to teach about Lent, its significance in the life of the Church, and an opportunity to explain the grace in spiritual discipline. We are reminded that Sundays are feast days “in” Lent. These Sundays are days to prepare us for living the way of the cross the other six days of the week.
- The Genesis text is a powerful text of grace. The story of God’s covenant with Noah is the underlying framework of grace that is with us throughout the season of Lent. It is a universal covenant–the includes all living creatures. God’s love and care for all creation is promised in Genesis. The Church needs to claim this promise and live accordingly. I especially like v. 15 ( I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.) The rainbow is not just a reminder for us, it is a reminder for God. We serve a vulnerable and caring God and it is good to be reminded of it at the beginning of this season.
- Psalm 25 is an excellent compliment for the first Sunday–Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.(4) He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. (9) All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees. (10) This can be sung powerfully on this first Sunday.
- The lesson from 1 Peter is a powerful, theologically rich text. It is also complimentary to the Genesis text. I suspect I will not preach from this text on the first Sunday of Lent, but it is background for the entire season–a season of grace, as found in Noah’s ark. Eight persons saved through water is a way of speaking about those who will be baptized in Easter. (This is always an important factor in my worship and discipleship for the season–we prepare candidates for baptism during Lent for Easter Sunday and work towards Confirmation at Pentecost. This lesson from the letter of Peter is an important text in the preparation.
- The Gospel text is Mark’s version of Jesus’ baptism and going out in to the wilderness for 40 days. The other synoptic Gospels take more space and go into more detail, but it is included in all three. It is this passage that gives us context for this 40 day season. Jesus is baptized and goes into the wilderness to prepare. The Church prepares itself during the season of Lent–not just for an Easter celebration, but for a continuing ministry in the world.
- Some good questions for the day: What does it mean to live a Holy Lent? It’s a season of 40 days, not including Sundays–how does Sunday differ from the other days of the week? What spiritual disciplines will the congregation do together during Lent?
- Notes for this Sunday at Sara Laughed
- Lutheran pastor, Susan Gamelin on Day1.org (2006)
- A Journey Begins, John Donohue, SJ