Sermon Feb. 18/18: A new Conscience in Christ

In Genesis, we hear about Noah’s Ark. One of the most popular biblical stories filled with the images of the great flood, the building of ark, animals and a rainbow. Overcome with the more Hollywood image of this tale, we often forget that this is a story about God making a change in His own behavior. God promises to never use divine anger as a means of punishing his divine art piece, creation, and his reflected divine image, humanity.

The God of Israel, is moved with remorseful compassion. In other words, the very thing God set out to do was to create life, not destroy it. How do we know that God was moved by this event? God created the rainbow to be a reminder to God’s self to not give into anger and destroy his creation again—the rainbow is not for us to remember, but for God to remember his side of the contract.

The first temptation we need to resist, then, is believing that God is involved in any horrific acts of violence, and terror within the world in order to punish humanity for it’s sins. As we heard, God promised otherwise. With that said, the second temptation we need to resist is believing that God does not care when horrible things happen. In God’s covenant with Noah and to humanity, God allows for humans to be responsible for their actions and their own free will, but that doesn’t mean God could care less about how we use our freedom.

God teaches us how to use our freedom as means of building peace on earth during times of trial. To teach us, God in Jesus is born as one of us and one who is in solidarity with us. Jesus takes on our life, our struggles, our emotions, and even our doubts in faith during turbulent times so that a new path can be carved for humanity to follow—it is a path that is not easy for him or us.
Proof of the latter is found in the Gospel of Mark who clearly paints a different portrait of Jesus. 

Unlike Matthew’s gospel where Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit who will protect Jesus while he is tempted in the desert, Mark’s Jesus seems to be more resistant and had to be driven out by the Holy Spirit in order to be tempted by the devil for forty days. And for some of us here, Lent might be like the Marcan Jesus, whereby, God drives us out into our own desert for forty days to confront our own temptations and our own iniquities.

When we think we can’t survive our own desert experience, we are reminded that in Jesus we have a path to follow. Jesus, in his humanity, shows us that we can survive the time of trial, and avoid the temptations in our life that do not build us up or God’s church up. Jesus entrusts to us the confidence that we can overcome the most challenging obstacles in our life and horrific events within our world.

Therefore, our Lenten journey is about developing a better conscience as we hear in Peter’s letter; but not a conscience that simply makes moral equations of what is right from wrong so that we can use this formula to judge other people’s intentions, actions and faith. What Peter is getting at is that through our baptism, we enter into a fuller and more meaningful relationship with God that is built on love and forgiveness, not hate and anger.

This relationship develops a unique conscience that awakens our hearts to examine and question how we treat God, how we treat others and how we steward God’s creation. A conscience that takes into account that unity in the church is as vast as the colors found within the rainbow, not conformity based on one dark shadow. A conscience that needles us to speak out against injustices and to defend those who can not defend themselves. A conscience that begs us to not join with the oppressors, but rather, the side of God whose path is always love and mercy. Amen.

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