Marcus Borg, the progressive Christian theologian,
wrote that we must take the Bible seriously,
but we should not take it literally.
He said of the Bible that
“all of it is true, and some of it really happened.”
Borg’s wisdom helps us a lot with today’s readings.
Science tells us that the Genesis story of the flood did not happen;
it’s not factual; it’s not historical.
Borg tells us that’s okay because even though it didn’t happen,
it’s still true—we can rely on the meaning of the story.
Just as that story expressed serious meaning
for Noah and our ancestors in faith,
so it also holds serious meaning for us.
That flood is a true story
about God’s love for all creation, including us.
It tells us truth about rainbows
and all the other glories of the universe
as signs of God’s care for us and for all living things,
signs of the goodness and sacredness of life.
And, in light of what we now know
about the beginning of the universe
and the evolution of our planet and our own selves,
a further meaning is clear:
God does not destroy creation—
—indeed cannot destroy it—
because all of creation is from God and exists in God.
But we also know that, like the people of Noah’s time,
our sinfulness can make the earth uninhabitable.
We have broken the covenant.
We have failed to care for creation—
care for ourselves, for the earth, for all that is.
Our second reading from the first letter of Peter
is framed in “atonement” or “payment” theology,
the concept that God sent Jesus to die
so our sins could be forgiven.
That interpretation of Jesus’ life may have had
some metaphorical meaning
for the inhabitants of first-century Asia Minor,
people who spoke Greek
and were basically Hellenistic in culture.
The myth of a divine being sent from Mount Olympus
to interact with and intercede for humans
fit their understanding of how the world operated,
so the idea worked for them
in a way it cannot work for us.
Today’s reading comes from the middle of Peter’s letter,
which echoes that Greek mythology
to address the challenge of how to live as a Christian
in a hostile secular world with different values.
That challenge is still with us as we try to live our values
in the culture of 21st century USA.
That brings us to the Gospel:
we are in a desert experience, surrounded by temptations,
just as Mark pictures Jesus.
Much of our culture is accurately described
as consumerist and hedonistic.
Noah, Jesus, and the Christians in Asia Minor
lived in times and places
where practicing the virtues of love and peace and justice
contradicted the values of the society around them.
And we live in that same contradiction.
We’re surrounded by technology that immerses us
in violence and sadism and calls it entertainment.
We are bombarded with messages that we are failures
if we do not buy more and bigger and better stuff.
When I was growing up in the 1950s,
the byword was “keeping up with the Joneses.”
Now people look to keep up with the Gateses and the Buffets
and the Kochs and the Waltons and the Winfreys,
blind about how their wasteful desires hurt other people
and lay waste to the planet.
The British poet William Wordsworth lamented it in his time,
just over 200 years ago:
“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”
One out of four Americans denies
that the climate is changing and the planet is warming.
They don’t see any need to take action…
unless it’s to get more for themselves.
Getting and spending, it’s business as usual.
We at Holy Spirit Community
embrace the call of Vatican Council II:
environmental stewardship is a moral imperative.
We have dedicated ourselves
to ecology as the most important moral issue of our time.
We stand at the beginning of Lent,
ready to fast from the goods of the earth
so as to form habits that will bring us closer to God.
We’ll spend the next six weeks
examining ourselves in the light of the Gospel,
resisting the temptation to excess,
changing our habits and modifying our lifestyle
to more closely follow the Way of Jesus.
The temptations in today’s desert are real
and just as demonic as the ones Jesus faced.
In today’s Gospel we listen to Jesus
asking us to believe the very good news
that God loves us and cares for us.
We hear Jesus asking us to turn ourselves around
and live in that love.
Jesus walked out of the desert and changed the world.
We are called to follow.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
at 3535 Executive Parkway (Unity of Toledo)
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor