We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, and we respect and honor with gratitude the land itself, the legacy of the ancestors, and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Lectionary Lent 1, Year B , Feb. 18, 2024

Lent 1, Year B Lectionary Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024 

I.Theme –   Developing covenant relationships

 "The Peaceable Kingdom" – Edward Hicks, 1834

The lectionary readings are here  or individually: 

Old Testament – Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm – Psalm 25:1-9 Page 614, BCP
Epistle –1 Peter 3:18-22
Gospel – Mark 1:9-15 

Connections between the readings – Noah enters the waters in the ark, sojourns for a time adrift, and emerges with a new covenant of co-creative transformation;  In 1 Peter, the covenantal relationship of co-creative transformation that emerges from the Flood is now taken up and extended in the covenant of new life in Christ that is marked and sealed in baptism. The saving power of baptism lies in its role as “an appeal to God for a good conscience,” an active connection to God that brings an intensive and intimate knowing of God’s aims and intentions for our actions. In the Gospel reading, Jesus enters into John’s baptism, sojourns for a time in the wilderness, and emerges with a new proclamation of the reign of God.

Commentary by Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell:

Our Lenten journey through the Old Testament takes us primarily through the covenants that God has made with the earth and with the people. We begin in Genesis with the covenant after the flood, that God will never again destroy the earth and all living things by flood. We are reminded that there is nothing we can do that will separate us from God’s love (Romans 8) because God loves the world so much. When we begin with this premise, we understand the role of Jesus more clearly, in that God’s intention from the beginning is to love and save the whole world, not destroy it.

Psalm 25:1-10 is a prayer for wisdom and guidance. As we begin the season of Lent this is an appropriate prayer to pray together.  Seeking God’s guidance on the path of faith is the beginning prayer for all of us on this Lenten journey.

Mark 1:9-15 is Mark’s version of the baptism, temptation and beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Mark is short and to the point, not giving us many details at all. Traditionally we read the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, but Mark’s version is just so short, one verse (13). While Matthew and Luke go into elaborate detail of the temptations Jesus faced, Mark lets us know Jesus was tempted. We all face temptation in our lives to leave the way of faith–to seek our own success, to seek earthly wealth and fame–instead of seeking the path of God and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus has to go through this time of temptation before he freely proclaims the Gospel, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (vs. 15). We all have temptations we face, and struggles we go through. To repent means to turn back to God, to turn away from where we have gone astray. Repent, turn back to the path of God and believe in the Good News (the gospel). But always remember first and foremost that you are God’s beloved. There is nothing you can do, nothing you will face that will separate you from God’s love.

1 Peter 3:18-22 echoes back to the story of Noah, in that God’s intention is life and love for the world, not death and destruction. Christ’s death is the final death, for in Christ’s resurrection, we are all resurrected. We are given this promise at our baptism, a reminder of the new life in Christ.

As we enter Lent, we are reminded that as we journey to the cross of death that we are really turning towards the resurrection. We have this time to remind us yearly that our journey is not complete. We all have temptations we need to turn from, places where we need to repent and turn back to God. But rather than dwell on the darkness, on our sins, Jesus wants us instead to repent and believe in the Good News. Turn back and know that you are forgiven, you are loved, and you are given the promise of new life here on earth and the hope of resurrection. 

Gospel- Mark 1:9-15

In terse but densely packed phrases Mark tells of how Jesus embarked on his public ministry.

The way is prepared by his cousin John whose call to repentance and baptism signify that the time has come when God will execute a decisive judgment from which a new Israel will emerge. In his baptism Jesus identifies with his people and the judgment they face. His commitment is answered by God in the vision of the rending of the heavens, the descent of the Spirit and the testimony of the voice from heaven. A very local and time-specific event takes on universal and eternal significance.

This is underlined in an unexpected way when immediately after the affirmation which marked his baptism Jesus is driven by the Spirit into the wilderness. The action of the Holy Spirit shows that we are concerned not only with human reality but also with divine initiative. The forty days of temptation recalls Moses’s stay on Mount Sinai and Elijah’s wandering through the wilderness to Mount Horeb. The adversity Jesus met in this concentrated period points to the confrontation which will mark his entire ministry and lead finally to its climax. Being with the wild beasts speaks of being far removed from the inhabited and cultivated land that the Bible associates with blessing. Despite the hostile environment, however, Jesus is sustained in his purpose by angels representing the presence of God.

When it comes to time, the Bible is concerned less with chronos – the passing of hours, days or years – and more with kairos – the moment of opportunity. Here we arrive at a point where the time is fulfilled – the moment has arrived for something decisive to happen. Picking up the note struck first by John the Baptist, Jesus introduces his message with this sense of urgency. What is arriving is nothing less than the reign of God – now present in Jesus to bring a radical challenge to human alienation and rebellion. The message brings an imperative – “repent and believe in the gospel”. How will we respond to this summons?

Typically the story of Jesus in the wilderness is used on the First Sunday in Lent to introduce the Lenten fast. But Mark, unlike Matthew and Luke, does not actually say anything about Jesus fasting during the forty days he spends in the wild. Instead, Mark comments that “angels waited on him”; this is a clear echo of the story in 1 Kings 19:5-8, in which Elijah is served by an angel who twice brings him bread, and that bread sustains Elijah for forty days and forty nights; and the Elijah story itself is an echo of the “bread of angels” (Psalm 78:25) which sustains the entire Israelite population in its forty-year sojourn in the wilderness.

The suggestion here is not so much that Jesus fasted as that he committed himself entirely to God’s care, like Elijah and the Israelites and Noah before him, and God sustained him in some not wholly understandable and yet undeniably factual way. Similarly, during his forty days Jesus was “with the wild beasts.” Noah was also “with the wild beasts” while the ark was adrift, and by a special providence of God the wild ones did not threaten or attack Noah or his family (or each other) during that entire time. We are invited to consider it a special providence of God that Jesus was safe “with the wild beasts” in his wilderness as well. Mark shows Jesus relying on the provision of God for his sustenance and safety, rather than anxiously attempting to serve himself in these needs; and, given that Mark never specifies how Satan tempts Jesus, as Matthew and Luke do, we may take it that such deep trust in God is in fact what overcomes the Enemy’s testing.

The personal experience of relying on God’s provision for him is what confirms for Jesus the divine words at his Baptism — “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” — and what gives Jesus the personal authenticity and authority to call people to “repent” (metanoeite, “transform your thinking”) and “believe” (pisteuete, “put your trust in”) the good news that the reign of God is at hand. Jesus’ figurative reenactment of the Noah story puts him in a position to re-announce the covenant of co-creative redemptive action God made with Noah, extending it now even further with his own proclamation of God’s reign for new life.