Genesis 9:8-17
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,  9 “As for me, I am
establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after
you,  10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the
domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many
as came out of the ark.  11 I establish my covenant with you, that
never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and
never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between
me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future
generations:  13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign
of the covenant between me and the earth.  14 When I bring clouds
over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,  15 I will remember
my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature
of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to
destroy all flesh.  16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and
remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living
creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”  17 God said to Noah, “This is
the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all
flesh that is on the earth.”

1 Peter 3:13-22
13 Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?  14 But
even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not
fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated,  15 but in your hearts
sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to
anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in
you;
16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience
clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for
your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.  17 For it is better
to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to
suffer for doing evil.

18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the
unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in
the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,  19 in which also he went and
made a proclamation to the spirits in prison,  20 who in former times
did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during
the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were
saved through water.
21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a
removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good
conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,  22 who has gone
into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities,
and powers made subject to him.

Gospel of Mark 1:9-15
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was
baptized by John in the Jordan.  10 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.  11 And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  12 And
the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  13 He was
in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the
wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming
the good news of God,  15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the
kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good
news.”

A good sermon is an opinion expressed and grounded in
both scared scripture and contemporary reality. A good sermon
invites its hearers to engage, reflect, challenge and reshape the
message for deeper, personal connection with God. This is my
intention and prayer every time I preach.
Mark’s gospel tells us that Jesus came to Galilee,
proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is
fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and
believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:14b-15) Jesus envisioned and
experienced God’s kingdom, within him and around him. He
was confident that God was bringing earth and heaven once
again together, as it was before creation, when everything was
connected in the mind and heart of God.
I found a quote from Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) that
made a lot of sense to me. He wrote: “Not redemption from sin,
but the unification of the world in itself and with God is the
ultimate motivating cause for Jesus’ (the) Incarnation (and, as such, the
first idea of the Creator, existing in advance of all creation”).
Now, that quote standing alone may sound rather
confusing. But the Franciscan philosopher and Doctor of the
Church, St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (1217-1274) may help us.
He was a mystic, pulling his brilliant mind down into his
passionate heart. In Bonaventure’s writings, you will find little
or none of the medieval language of fire and brimstone, worthy
and unworthy, sin and guilt, merit and demerit, justification and

atonement, even the dualistic notions of heaven or hell, which
later became obsessive (took over) in Christian theology.
Bonaventure summed up his entire life’s theology in three
central ideas:
Emanation: We come forth from God bearing the divine
image, and thus our inherent identity is grounded in the life
of God from the beginning (Genesis 1:26-27).
Exemplarism: Everything in creation is an example,
manifestation, and illustration of God in space and time
(Romans 1:20). No exceptions.

Consummation: All returns to the Source from which it
came (John 14:3). The Omega is the same as the Alpha; this is
God’s supreme and final victory.
(From Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations)

What these great minds are conveying, and what I’m trying
to say is simply this: Jesus envisioned and experienced God’s
realm on earth, right there in first-century Galilee. Jesus had
confidence that God was drawing all of creation into oneness
with God.

In that way, all creation would effectively emanate the
presence and essence of God. God’s peace, God’s justice,
God’s compassion and mercy, God’s forgiveness and healing

would reign within our lives and permeate all of creation and
every aspect of life.

As the ancient story tells us of God speaking to Noah,
promising never to destroy creation again with a flood, and
placing the rainbow in the sky as a sign of that divine promise,
so God gave the world Jesus as God’s promise to love and heal
and connect us to God forever.

We are now the bearers of Jesus’ proclamation. We are
those chosen to counter society’s addictions to all things
distracting us from living in God’s realm. We are the people
called to lovingly point out the wrongs of society by being living
examples of an alternative lifestyle connected to God.

Society continues ineffectively addressing human need as
well as issues threatening the heart and soul of humanity.
Among those issues include, in my opinion and in no particular
order:
the drug abuse crisis;

civilian accessibility to semi-automatic guns and
military-style weapons;

overarching environment of suspicion and fear;

affordable and available health care including mental health
care for all citizens;

increasingly normalizing abusive, vulgar, disrespectful
language;

emotional, and physical abuse;

bullying;

human trafficking;

suicide;

inability to contain and heal destructive anger;

the growing threat of violence throughout our nation;

technology increasing isolation and availability to divisive,
hateful and dehumanizing websites;

increasing inability for people to effectively communicate
and negotiate face to face;

lackadaisical or unrealistic expectations;

immediate gratification as opposed to self-discipline;

feeding the hungry without judgement;

clothing the naked without condemnation;

accessibility to affordable, excellent and applicable
education from early age through college;

reformation of an often ineffective, punishment-oriented
American justice system;

appropriate surveillance of people expressing potential
terroristic threats while balancing human rights;

fair, just and compassionate immigration policies;

ineffective, money-oriented politics where government is
no longer for the common people and by the common
people, but driven by the influence of lobbyists and groups
like the Coch Brothers and NRA;

public statements promising thoughts and prayers, while
holding to inaction and apathy in making things different;

divisive religious voices perpetuating hatred and ignorance;

these are among the issues you and I are challenged to address;
these issues reveal society’s ultimate incapability. The issues
demonstrating society’s inability and hopelessness give cause
for you and me to recall God’s hope and love for all creation.
Jesus envisioned and proclaimed a new world. Some
accepted it and worked with Jesus to bring it about. Others
fought against it. Those same responses are active today.
The writer of First Peter pens: “Do not fear what society
fears (they fear), and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts
dedicate yourselves to Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make
your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting
for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and
reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are
maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ
may be put to shame.”  (1 Peter 3:14b-16)
No one can speak as clearly about issues as those who are
directly affected. Brian Mann, a reporter for NPR spoke with
several youth and adults affected by the Florid School Shooting
on Valentine’s Day this past week. I think some of the dialogue
is appropriate for us to pay attention to.

One of the students, DAVID HOGG, a senior at Marjory
Stoneman Douglas High School – spoke this week on CNN,
saying: “(And) some of our policy makers – and some people need
to look (- they need to look) in the mirror and take some action because

ideas are great, but without action, ideas stay ideas, and children
die.”

KAELAN SMALL, 16, with swollen eyes and leaning
against her mom, is in shock, but also disgusted and angry. She
says: “I just think that it’s enough. Like, how many lives have to
be lost just for them to take control and do something about it?”
“I really do hope – I’m praying each day that something is
changed – is going to change, but you never know.”

(Mann reports) Katherine Posada teaches English at the school. She
was one of the faculty who listened to bursts of semi-automatic
gunfire as she huddled with terrified students. She agrees that
maybe it is time for the kids to lead, saying, “I think that it’s
amazing. And if it’s going to take the young people of this
country to step up, then I am here with them all the way.”
(Brian Mann, NPR News, Parkland, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR).

You and I can make a difference. As we take Jesus’
teachings and examples to heart, believing with our minds and
putting into action God’s hope and love for all creation, we will
make a difference.

We can no longer keep silent. Our lifestyle, our love and
our hope will radiate and spread – and God’s kingdom will
come in its fullness.

Allow this Lenten Season to be a turning point in your life.
Claim the hope and love God has for you and let it be known to
others. Realize how powerful our voices and actions are, and
use them to God’s glory.

God desires to draw every person and all of creation into
harmony with one another and into the Divine embrace. We can
help or we can hinder.

Let God’s hope permeate our lives and intentionally fill the
world with God’s love.