Promises, Promises

Kenora                  Lent 1

Year B

21 February 2021

Genesis 9:8-17

Psalm 25:1-9

1 Peter 3:18-22

Mark 1:9-15

God of the wilderness, your Son battled with the powers of darkness and grew closer to you in the desert: help us to use these forty days to grow in wisdom and prayer, so that we may witness to your saving love in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Today I want to talk about God’s promises; promises for which we can see the evidence of it in the pages of the bible.

Promises, that we know have the ability to shape and change our lives, when we adhere to those promise, and the love with which God makes them, not just for you and for me, but for all of creation.

Not just for the people of the time when the promises are declared, but for every one of every time and place from Adam and Eve to the ending of the world.

In the pages of the bible, we see that God’s promises are lasting promises, that they are always fulfilled, and that they are more than we could ever envision, in their outcome.

And our readings, today, all talk about God’s promises. Promises made to us, promises made to all of humanity.

The reading from Genesis reminds us of the promise made to Noah, the promise to never flood the world, again, found in the rainbow that can still be seen in the sky after it rains.

In the gospel, we see Jesus proclaiming the promise of the imminent arrival of the kingdom of God. A promise that is able to be fulfilled when we repent and believe in the good news.

We receive the promise of God’s grace through the cross, and through the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

It’s only through Jesus’ death that the power of death is able to be overthrown, that the power of sin is able to be broken, forever.

And it’s in the breaking of the power of sin and death that we realize the in-breaking of the kingdom of heaven, that we are able to have a right relationship with God, and to receive daily, the gifts of faith and grace that sustain us from day to day.

But what we have to remember is that the promises given, by God, are not given only for those who are in attendance. That would be a very select group, if that were true.

After all, the only humans in the world at the time of God’s promise to Noah and his family were Noah, his wife, his sons, and their wives. If the promise were only for them, then we would not know that the rainbow in the sky is God’s covenant, God’s promise that destruction of the entire world by flood will never happen again.

And when we see the life and ministry of Jesus, when we hear his teachings, see the healings in the pages of the bible. And we know that the promise of the resurrection, the promise of God’s love is not just for those living in 1st century Palestine.

Instead, the promise of the cross is for each one of us; its for all of creation from the breathing of life into Adam and Eve, to the ending of humanity at the end of time.

But God’s promise, found in the cross, is only one part of the entire promise of salvation, of the inbreaking of the kingdom of heaven, of living a closer life in the light and love of God.

After all, what good is a world in which we live if we don’t live in the grace of God? What good is having God’s grace available to us if we don’t know how to live within that grace?

So, in s lifetime, in his ministry among us, Jesus continues to teach us. He teaches us about God’s love. He teaches us about God’s compassion, and about God’s desire to be a part of our lives.

But the power of sin and death, the part of our lives that reaches for the ‘shall not’s’ are still at the corners of our minds, of our lives.

It’s like someone on a diet, who knows there is a chocolate bar in the freezer. It plays on the mind, and it works against the good efforts of the diet to encourage the dieter to not eat that chocolate.

Or, it’s like someone who knows that alcohol adversely affects their lives, and yet, they imbibe. And the end result is that the act of consuming alcohol has the ability to affect every aspect of their lives, from their relationships with loved ones, to jobs, friends, and it even has the ability to see them arrested for their behaviour.


Because like sin, it nags at the corners of our consciousness. Because like most addicts will tell you, one is too many, yet at the same time a million is not enough.

Into this life of the eternal rounds of sin and redemption, of trying to walk the ‘straight and narrow,’ we find the promises that God makes, that Jesus teaches us to appreciate and use. Promises like the one that Noah receives, because God promises mean life for all people. A life lived wholly in the love and grace of God.

At the same time, God knows we have difficulty with the ‘straight and narrow.’ We are easily distracted by everything and everyone around us, maybe that is why God’s promises and the proof of God’s promises are ever before us?

After all, in the face of God’s promise to Noah to never destroy the world in a flood, again, his response was to get drunk, and then to curse the son who discovered his father in such a state.

What had Noah learned? That he has the ability to shape human interaction with such a curse? After all, the race of people cursed was the Canaanite people, named after the grandson of Noah whose father discovered Noah drunk and disorderly.

Into this, we receive God’s promises for our lives.

Into this we see the steps God goes to fulfill this promise, including sending us Jesus, who at the beginning of this ministry declares that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. God’s promise of salvation is before us, and at the same time all around us.

But ‘at hand’ means we still have to strive for it, and desire it in our lives. At the very least, ask for it; and so, we encounter Jesus’ teachings, maybe for the first time.

Yes, we receive God’s promise of salvation, through the cross, but at the same time, God wants to be a part of our lives.

So, along with the promise, we encounter Jesus, the one who can fulfill the promise who take the time to work with us, help us, heal us, show us what a life lived in God’s love looks like and why it is that our heart of hearts desires the fulfillment of this promise so much.

And still God’s promises are before us, and all around us.

We see Noah’s rainbow in the sky, we see the cross before us, always; both promises that assure us of God’s eternal love for us. But how do we know how to appreciate that love? How do we know that those promises exist with out learning or being told?

I remember that a pastor once said that a secret is only a secret so long as you don’t know what it is. And its the same with the loving message of God’s salvation, found in the cross. It’s a secret so long as we don’t know it, or as long as we don’t share it with the world.

And if we don’t know it, how is it able to be a promise, how can it inspire our faith and our love for God, as God strives to give us his grace and salvation?

If we don’t share what we know, then how is this able to be a promise? A message for all of humanity?

After all, we know live in the world, and still in full possession of God’s promise of salvation, and yet, there are people who are perishing. Looking at the situation of the world, we see so many places where God’s promise seems to be unknown.

We see situations in the world where it seems that to lie and cheat are now standard operating practices in order to get into positions of power, and stay there.

Where to unleash armies and mobs against your own people in order to deal with those who don’t agree with your leadership style, where to disrespect other cultures is still a standard operating procedure, and you are able to get away with it as long as the other culture doesn’t discover either your disdain, or their own strength.

It’s this world that needs to be let in on our secret, who needs to be reminded of God’s promises for salvation, for the continuance of the world, for God’s love to be a valid part of our lives as we live these promises to the world around us showing the love of God to those who still need to experience the in-breaking of the kingdom of heaven, as we do, living out the promises of God, for each of our lives, and for the whole of creation, every day.


About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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