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Lent 1, Cycle B

These four texts are linked by the themes of covenant and of baptism, as well as of trust and of obedience. All are appropriate for the Lenten season. They provide many possibilities for Lenten keynote messages.

Psalm 25:1-10

The psalmist makes no attempt to present before the Lord a facade of sinlessness. Instead, the psalmist stakes everything on trust in the Lord. The psalmist reminds the Lord that the Lord is widely known and characterized by mercy and steadfast love. Therefore, the psalmist asks the Lord to concentrate on the goodness of the Lord and to teach that goodness and that way of life to those who, like the psalmist, are humble sinners who are eager to live according to the terms of the covenant that the Lord God has established with God’s people. Although this psalm may be nearly three thousand years old, it is not outdated. It provides an excellent model for us, and for the people among whom we serve, for Lent and for all seasons.

Genesis 9:8-17

Among the various covenants described within our biblical accounts, this covenant of God with Noah, with the descendants of Noah, and with every living creature is the most inclusive and perhaps the most gracious on the part of God, the mighty power in the covenant. In this covenant God makes no demands; God makes only promises. It is affirmed in the text that every rainbow that every living creature will ever see will be a reminder to God and to every living creature of God’s everlasting mercy and grace.

1 Peter 3:18-22

The Lenten theme of redemption in Christ is extended in this text to those who, at the time of Noah, did not obey God. Through the waters of the great flood in the Noah story God destroyed all who were disobedient; in the waters of baptism now God saves those who are obedient. The covenant of baptism links the believer to Jesus the Christ, who is raised from the dead and ruling in the heavenly regions. By means of the baptismal covenant with Christ, the believer is endowed with the righteousness of Christ and linked to God the Father. 1 Peter 3:18-22 is a principal reason that 1 Peter, along with Paul’s letter to the Romans and the Gospel According to John, were the favorite New Testament documents for Martin Luther.

Mark 1:9-15

If Jesus was obedient to God in coming to John the Baptizer to participate in a baptism for the forgiveness of sins, how much more should not those who wish to follow Jesus as the Christ come to the Church, the Body of Christ, for baptism in Christ’s name? In the Gospel According to Mark the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptizer marks the beginning of a very special covenant relationship of God with Jesus, a covenant between Father and Son, a covenant in which Jesus is declared to be very pleasing to God. In this text Jesus is depicted as obedient to God even when Jesus is tempted by “Satan” in the wilderness. In this text Jesus proclaims the kingdom of God’s grace and rejects the kingdom of Roman power. He overcomes the temptation of “Satan,” the temptation to try to help Jesus’ fellow oppressed Jewish people by cooperating fully with the alluring, satanic power of the Roman state. Jesus is depicted in this text as not believing that by his cooperating fully with the oppressive Romans the Roman oppression will be reduced. With his life and with his words Jesus will speak out against the satanic power of the Roman state, the state that will near the end of the Gospel According to Mark and at the end for us of the season of Lent this year crucify Jesus. Nevertheless, the Roman state will not, even with all of its power and glory, be able to prevent God from raising Jesus from the dead on the third day, Easter morning for us. That is the Easter message that we will anticipate in a few short weeks when the season of Lent has run its course.

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Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen