Lent | 2.29.12
1 Peter 3:18-22
I love the way early Christian writers so configured readings of Hebrew Bible stories: they become so powerful.
Certainly we know the happy little story about God and the rainbow. The rainbow is a sure sign of God’s goodness in the world, of God’s promise to be with us even in a storm. Of course, as many of my own childhood Sunday school teachers forgot to make explicit, the rainbow is really God’s promise not to flood the world in a fit of anger and regret. But still, it’s nice to know God wants to continue in relationship with God’s people.
What the New Testament writers—Peter, especially in this case—get so right, however, is that the rainbow doesn’t mean we won’t drown, or that we are immune from a deluge or a flood or that our lives are in any less peril. Rather, it’s the explicit promise—“that flesh shall not be cut off” by the water, but rather, shall remain connected to God’s own life and promises.
This only makes sense because Jesus submits to baptism. Jesus’ baptism is one of those tricky, egg-shell kinds of topics. A couple of slips of the tongue with this one, and you could end up a heretic. But we know that baptism is a kind of death-bywater, a kind of drowning in a flooded pool that keeps us connected to God (it “saves us” according to Peter). It does this because Jesus himself undertakes it—undertakes it as a prefiguration of his own actual death and resurrection.
Lent’s liturgical color is purple, but perhaps it should be a rainbow season. What season better reminds us of our baptism? What season better signals for us our dependence on God’s own character, God’s own covenant-making, God’s own authority over all creation? We fast and pray for forgiveness—not so that we might be better people, but so that we might become a rainbow people, reflecting the Light of the Son through the waters of our baptism in a way that calls all people into God’s Easter covenant.
“We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt and into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.”
Associate University Minister
You can download the full Lent and Holy Week Devotional Guide at:http://www.belmont.edu/religion/files/lent-devotional-2012-final.pdf.