2015 – Cycle B
Genesis 9:8-15; Psalm 25; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15
Have you experienced regret? I expect we all have. This disappointment in one’s self; this desire to wish we had not done something and so go back and change the past. I often consider regret a dead end street; most probably because our regrets are often over situations of immaturity, or rooted in our angers, our petty needs for revenge, or our feelings of inadequacy.
But what about regretting an act of beauty and wonder?
God created a cosmos of life that continues to expand, regenerate and evolve. That most poetic of our stories: “In the beginning God created…and there was evening and morning the first day…the second day …the third day. …and God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good.” How does anyone, even God regret such a creative, wonder-filled, ongoing act(?); particularly the human being created in God’s own “image and likeness”? [See Genesis1:1ff]
Yet Genesis records,
“When the LORD saw how great the wickedness of human beings was on earth,
and how every desire that their heart conceived was always nothing but evil,
the LORD regretted making human beings on the earth, and his heart was grieved. So the LORD said: I will wipe out from the earth the human beings I have created, and not only the human beings, but also the animals and the crawling things and the birds of the air, for I regret that I made them.” [Genesis 6:5-7]
Is this not one of the saddest moments in the biblical story? “…for I regret that I made them” and I will wipe them out and all the other living, and we must add, innocent creatures I created.
Have you ever felt this way? Where deep regret and frustration merge causing us to lash out?
So what about regretting an act of beauty and wonder?
We might ask, how many musical compositions, paintings and sculptures, novels and plays throughout history have been destroyed by their creating musicians, artists and authors? Claude Monet often struggled with the life of his paintings frequently destroying his own work. The French Impressionist shredded thirty of his water garden paintings because he had serious doubts about his work.
Yet our story of divine regret and annihilation is difficult to reconcile with our experience of a creative, life-giving, forgiving and protective God, is it not? How does God destroy that which is fundamentally “very good”? In such an act, is not God destroying a part of God – self (?); for “…in the divine image God created the human being, male and female God created them.” [Genesis 1:27]
With this dissonance, we might ask, who is this story of goodness, evil, regret, flood and promise really about?
Recalling we believe in a God whose very being is relationship: Father, Son and Spirit. Every story must always be about relationship, God and humanity. In the space between God regretting his creation and ever making us and we regretting our sins is found a promise. And just in case we miss it or do not understand, this promise is repeated five times in today’s passage:
“See, I am now establishing my covenant with you…and with every living creature…all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals…”
“I will establish my covenant with you that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed…”
“This is the sign (the rainbow) that I am giving for all ages to come of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you…”
“I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”
“When… the bow appears…I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.”
The rainbow is a reminder to us that we believe in a God of beginnings. And Lent is an opportunity for a new beginning with God, our neighbor and every living creature on the face of the earth.
This story of goodness, evil, regret, and promise are found in microcosm in the brief Gospel passage. Present are Spirit and Satan, good and evil; God and humanity bound in the person of Jesus; humans, wild beasts and angels thus all created living beings are renewed in the desert where God is encountered. The desert is not a place of thirst and death but of life and renewal.
As the Liturgy of Ash Wednesday proclaimed, Lent is not a time of regret, for God has said: “Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” [2 Corinthians 6:2]
Now is an opportunity for a new beginning, a renewed relationship.