by Abba Basil Irenaeus
The following reflection is in dialogue with these scriptures from the First Sunday in Lent, Year B of the Revised Common Lectionary.
25:1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
25:2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.
25:3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
25:4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
25:5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
25:6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.
25:7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness' sake, O LORD!
25:8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
25:10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
9:8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,
9:9 "As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you,
9:10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.
9:11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."
9:12 God said, "This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:
9:13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
9:14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,
9:15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
9:16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth."
9:17 God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth."
1 Peter 3:18-22
3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit
3:19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison
3:20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
3:21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you--not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
3:22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
Some of us began Lent by planting seeds. Most of us are yet to see the growth of the seeds. Patience is needed. A patience I didn’t have as a child. My family kept a garden when I was growing up. One year during planting season I wanted to tend my own plants; I was given a small plot and we planted several seeds in the small plot. I was told I had to wait for the seeds to sprout. At one point before one of the seeds sprouted above the ground, my curiosity got the better of me and I dug up the seed. The seed had begun to sprout but in disturbing it I had interrupted its cycle. It needed that time in the ground, undisturbed. My dad kindly told me that now I knew what a seed newly sprouted looks like but that I needed to have patience if I was to care for the remainder of the seeds and see them grow into mature plants and bear fruit.
1 Peter 3:20 Saint Peter the apostles describes God saying “...when God waited patiently...” referring to the story of Noah and his family and the ark, God destroying all living things in a flood; we might not read the story of the flood as a story of God’s patience. Though as we read in Genesis 25:1-10, God isn’t okay with the great flood and its destruction. Rather God in making this Covenant with Noah and his family and all living creatures is repenting of the flood and promises such a cataclysmic flood will not happen again.
Peter adds another dimension to this story: Jesus goes to the dead and not only preaches to all the dead but specifically seeks out and proclaims repentance to those who were evil and corrupt and died in the great flood. Peter is interpreting the story of the Great Flood in line with the Hebrew Scriptures in which God is described as long suffering as full of loving kindness who does not desire the death and destruction of the wicked.
This isn’t all there is in the story of Noah, but let's take Peter at his word and sit with God’s patience with us human beings. God’s patience is so great that God doesn’t accept the rejection of God’s embrace of that” evil and corrupt generation” of Noah’s time, but in Jesus Christ seeks them out in Sheol, the land of the dead.
As we wait for our seeds to sprout may we contemplate God’s unbounded patience and loving kindness towards us individually and collectively as human beings. God doesn't desire our destruction or harm, and yet even today, even among those who would name the name of Christ we are as likely to be motivated by our own selfish ambition, pushing away the proclamation of the Good News, the invitation to just and loving relationship between God, ourselves, and all creation. Even so God is patient and waits not desiring our destruction even of those of us who are truly wicked.
This isn't to say that Gods’ patient loving endurance shields us from the consequences of our actions. Yet as Peter’s words tell us, not even death itself keeps God from seeking out humanity and offering a means to turn back.
This is just the beginning, there is much that remains unanswered. I would add this should raise a myriad of questions, o f “but’s” and “What if’s” and ``what about’s”.
Like the seeds in the soil there are things hidden, processes unseen. This hiddenness should not douse our questions. Rather, it should pique our curiosity, and let us pose the questions while allowing them to remain unanswered. This space of a question unanswered, of something beyond our current comprehension is also the space of contemplation. Here admitting we don’t see everything, we can contemplate God’s loving patience with us personally and collectively as human beings. This place of the unanswered questions can itself be the place of receiving the Good News that awakens us to needed repentance.