We started with remarking on the number of 40 day periods in Bible stories. The Flood and Jesus’ temptation were the ones in today’s lectionary but we recalled also Moses’ 40 day trial after the golden calf incident,Elija’s 40 days on Mt. Sinai, the Jew’s 40 years in the wilderness. SC made the point that the trial, as in the flood, was a period to be endured but there was a promise at it’s end. We discussed what was the new covenant between God and the people after the Flood as represented by the rainbow. It was not unlike other ancient gods’ symbols in the sky. The bow was a warrior’s bow. The arrows were lightening. God was already becoming a more loving, less judgmental, figure in this story. PG cited a commentary that compared the promise at Creation to the promise after the Flood. God had Created the earth by separating the elements, containing the waters and the heavens to their own realms. At the flood, the boundaries of the elements were dissolved and there was chaos again. When God set the rainbow in the sky,it was to show the elements were back in their places. God promised never to destroy the earth and all its creatures again. God promised to stay in the people’s lives.
We went on to Mark 19-15
Jesus’ baptism and temptation, AD commented, had the same water and time elements as the Flood story. She’d read a commentary that spun out the water allegory, describing how water both bathed and was tranquil and ran over objects (rocks) over time wearing them down. We discussed how trial or temptation was part of the process of being faithful, waiting through the bad times trusting in the outcome. PG mentioned a commentary that described Lent as a time to open ourselves to letting God have God’s way with us. God’s forgiveness after the Flood, like baptism, made things “good” as in Creation, “and it was good”. (Wesley called it sanctification, to become holy in heart and life). The testing or wilderness is where we sort out our paths, learning to find God’s direction for our lives, and, like Jesus, the third step in faith is mission or service.
We ended by going back to the image of the rainbow and how perfect a symbol of our perception of God’s covenant it is. We see it only briefly and occasionally. The cycle of our moments of sanctification, wilderness and mission is constant and various and reflected in the church year.