In Lent the three readings on Sunday are related – they have a common theme. This weekend the connection between the First and Second Readings is evident because of the reference to Noah in both. But to account for the inclusion of the Gospel we need to go deeper to the connection between all three, which is the theme of new beginning, what has often in politics been called a New Deal. The idea is clear enough of God’s New Covenant while the First Letter of Peter talks of Jesus bringing a new deal to those in the underworld. But it is there also in the Gospel passage where, having passed over Mark’s brief account of the temptations in the desert, we find Jesus proclaiming the gospel, saying the time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is nearby – Good News.
So, an obvious application of the Scripture to our situation at the beginning of Lent is the offer to us too of a new beginning. But first it is useful to remark on a feature of the texts that can leave us unclear about the message and can easily come between us and their application to our lives. It is the literary form of myth in which they are presented. Myth is often defined as a symbolic form of expression that seeks to impose intelligible structure upon realities that transcend experience. It is more effective in that of narrative.
Mark brings us quickly on to the sequel: Jesus, tried and tested, sets out on his mission to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom, the new deal if we put it so crudely, for those who repent and believe. And so, we come to our response to the Good News, the call to repent and believe. We all understand the challenge of penance that Lent brings and most make some effort. This does involve our desert experience of resisting temptation, but it also challenges us to stay with Jesus through Lent and out the other side to a risen way of life, where each can say, in St. Paul’s words, ‘I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me’.
In secular society hostile to Christianity, as so many people are saying these days, it is through Christ-like lives on our part, that the Gospel can most effectively be preached and a receptive attitude to Christian values promoted. Life in Christ, that is the new deal offered to us and which we in turn can hold as an offer to others.
Canon Francis Brown