Promises, promises...

Lent can be kinda dull, no alleluias, no glorias, no flowers and in my house fasting which means no drinking or swearing       (which is pretty much all we do in the vicarage for the rest of year).  

For many of us, our Lenten practises are now somewhat over familiar: we join a lent group, we read a lent book, we spend a little more time on our knees, decide what to give up and who to give to.                                           

It was the same last year and the year before – it's all good stuff – really good stuff but its safe stuff, tame stuff, its not exactly - the stuff of adventure. 

But our readings for the first Sunday in Lent are not safe, they are packed with adventure:   deluge and disaster, wilderness and wild beasts;  40 days in a storm-tossed boat full of beasts;   40 days in a desert full, not just of beasts but Satan and angels too.
40 days without chocolate doesn’t seem much of an adventure in comparison…
You could argue that the point of the story of the flood and the point of Jesus’ ministry is not the adventure or the danger but that we get rescued in the end.

But it is also the point that we are not rescued FROM the adventure but BY the adventure. 

Our gospel reading said that Jesus was sent into the wilderness to be tempted but the Greek word is more like tested – to be tried – to see of what you are made of.                                   
God does not send storms into our lives to break us but to make us and then re-make us and re-make us again. 
Both stories for today are stories of re-making, re-creation, echoing the first creation: with the Holy Spirit moving over the waters of chaos. FROM which - from the very waves that threatens to capsize and overwhelm - God brings forth something new.  

This is way that God creates: Seeds fall to the ground and die so that new plants can grow, the earth’s crust melts into lava to that new mountains can erupt,the caterpillar dissolves into a soup of atoms from which the butterfly is born.  
To engage in life is to submit to chaos and change and uncertainty. Looking at it from God’s point of view, the chaos is ordered and beautiful but I suspect that things might look a little different from the point of view of the seed or the caterpillar …
And maybe it would help them if they had some idea of where they were headed and what was in store for them.    It would certainly help us if we knew what change we were letting ourselves in for.                                                                                                   
But God does not do road maps and project plans instead God does earthquakes and heart breaks.                                                   
AND he does promises:                                                                                     
He promises that out of the waters of the flood, out of the waters of baptism, will come something new, something better,
He promises that the chaos and the struggle and the pain will be worth it. 
In Lent this year we will hear, each week, the story of God’s promises: 
this week we have the promise made to Noah and to his descendants and to all living things – a promise sealed by the rainbow – something which only appears when there is a storm. 
I have always found rainbows inspiring – God often seems to send me one in testing times - an assurance of his promise – an invitation to trust.                                                                                                          
And the rainbow has been used as a symbol of hope by people who have been through struggle and storm to wrest from the waves a new and better world:                                                                                             
from the gay community facing violence and prejudice to the South African nation confronting the injustice and horror of apartheid. 
People who not only trusted that God would bring them safely THROUGH struggle 
But who EMBRACED the struggle, knowing that only by doing so would a new creation emerge.
Today, at the beginning of Lent, God again offers us a rainbow, a sign of his steadfast promise.                                                                                         
And we in return today begin the promises we have made to God and to ourselves this Lent:

For me, 40 days packed with spiritually uplifting reading but sadly empty of single malt whiskey – but this promise is for myself, not for God.                                                                                      
God does not ask us for promises, he asks us, instead, to trust in his promises.
And, when we encounter storms and struggles in our lives,  not to ignore and avoid them as did the men and women of the Bible when the flood came but, like Noah to head straight out into them,  usting that when God pulls us once more from the waves, as from the waters of baptism, we will emerge, storm-tossed but changed, re-made once more by God, a new creation.