First Sunday in Lent- Deacon Gill- February 18, 2018

February 18, 2018

TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics. I want to quote a short piece from a speech to a TED audience by Pope Francis in 2017.

First and foremost, I would love it if this meeting could help to remind us that we all need each other, None of us is an island, an autonomous and independent “I,” separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone. We don’t think about it often, but everything is connected, and we need to restore our connections to a healthy state. Even the harsh judgment I hold in my heart against my brother or my sister, the open wound that was never cured, the offense that was never forgiven, the rancor that is only going to hurt me, are all instances of a fight that I carry within me, a flare deep in my heart that needs to be extinguished before it goes up in flames, leaving only ashes behind.

Many of us, nowadays, seem to believe that a happy future is something impossible to achieve. While such concerns must be taken very seriously, they are not invincible. They can be overcome when we don’t lock our door to the outside world. Even science points to an understanding of reality as a place where every element connects and interacts with everything else.

So following up on the idea that we all need each other and are connected, we hear today’s reading from Genesis. We hear of God making his covenant with Noah and his sons. God connecting with a covenant for us all.

The term covenant, as it is used in the Bible, describes how God relates to man and the theme runs from Genesis to The Revelation to John. In fact, one could say that at the heart of God’s plan of redemption is the notion of covenant. A covenant in its simplest definition is a promise between two parties that is binding by either a verbal or symbolic oath. God would use the idea of covenant as a means of relating to us. Covenants should be unchanging. However they may be superseded or replaced, but the initial covenant  cannot be changed. It is binding.

Another characteristic of God’s covenant with man is that they are divinely imposed and initiated. God takes the initiative in entering a covenant with us. It is his desire to have a relationship with us, and therefore he initiates this desire of relationship through the concept of covenant. The implication of God’s covenantal relationship is stated early on in the biblical record in the Garden of Eden.

The first evidence of a covenant between God and man is found in the Garden of Eden before the fall. God enters into a covenant with Adam. God promises to take care of Adam, to provide for Adam, and all Adam has to do is abstain from eating of the one tree within the garden. Adam did not keep his part of the covenant because later we find him disobeying the Lord’s command. God despaired.

We all know the story of Noah and his boat. The story of a man who built an ark and took every kind of animal and plant aboard. It is probably the best known and most depicted story of the Old Testament. A flood of water came on the earth, a purging baptism. Only Noah and his family and living things survived.

It could be said of Noah that he endured.  He endured the 40 days of rain, ten months it took the water to recede and the months it took the earth to dry. He weathered the storm. When we go through difficult times, when we feel we are being tested, if we hold on to our trust in God, we will see the full effect of God’s grace, mercy and love.

Noah also obeyed. He did what God told him in spite of everything. He took those animals and plants on board. How did he feed all those animals for such a long period? It had to be with God’s help. God’s help is available to us as we sail through the storms of life as well.

Because Noah endured and obeyed.  God provided for his needs. The covenant is not only with Noah and his descendants, it is with “every living creature of all flesh.” God makes a promise to keep and not destroy every living thing. And he gives us a visible sign of his promise. It is a reminder of God’s promise to us and our promise to obey.

That token or symbol is a rainbow. The thing about a rainbow is that it is born out of the rain as well as the sunshine. Both must be present for the colorful beauty to burst forth. If that is true of a simple rainbow, how much more is it true for our lives. Life is a combination of rain and sunshine. Together they make something beautiful. We all go through periods in our lives when there is rain and sunshine or a combination of both. A period when maybe all is dark. God’s promises are as unique as the person who receives them. But do not forget it is a promise of God that he will walk with you.

Our gospel for today follows the theme of covenant: In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

God proclaims his covenant to his Son at his baptism. Jesus was the dearly loved son and he was told by God that he was dear to his heart. And after that Jesus went into the wilderness and was tempted by Satan but he remained there in the full knowledge of the promise that God made to him that he was dearly loved. Jesus trusted in the love of his father.

The baptismal covenant of our church contains those same promises. At baptism as an adult or by Godparents on behalf of you, you are asked  “Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?” “Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?” In both instances the response is “I do”. That is your covenant with God.

Today is the 1st Sunday of Lent and so a great time for us to reflect on how we are doing and whether we are keeping our promise to reflect on God’s covenant to us and for us to remind ourselves of our promise to God. It is a time for introspection. A time for not only reflecting on God’s covenant to us but whether we are fulfilling our baptismal promises and closely walking with God.

Maybe your time of reflection in the coming weeks draws you closer to an evaluation and understanding that you need to reconcile with others. Just as Pope Francis shared we need each other and so need to be in covenant with each other. He went on to say you may have dark places in your heart that need  reflection, to bring to closure. This is the time when it is appropriate to make a covenant to address those places and to reflect on them. He also said “we need to restore our connections to a healthy state.” If we have made promises that have been broken then we need to work to see if they can be reconnected.

How many of us have felt let down by someone’s promises? Probably everyone here. In fact, at least once in a lifetime we will meet a person who always keeps promising but NEVER carries out those promises. It really hurts a lot when someone breaks a promise. We try to fulfill obligations but we often fail. This reminds us of the lurking power of evil which we need to overcome. When you say you will do something and don’t do it you teach others, including yourself,  that you cannot be trusted.

One common theme that runs through all of God’s covenants is the unchanging truth that God declares, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” That God will be their God and they shall be his people is the heart of the covenant between God and us all.

Service Schedule

Sunday Services
8:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist, Rite I
9:15 a.m. Christian Formation
10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist, Rite II

Weekday Services
Wednesday 12:00 p.m. Holy Eucharist


St. Paul's Episcopal Church
5373 Franz Rd
Katy, Texas 77493
(281) 391-2785

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