Monday Reverb – 19February2024


Yesterday, we celebrated the first Sunday of the Lent or Easter Preparation season.  This is a time when we examine ourselves, seeking to prune the things that no longer serve us so God can grow new life.

The theme for this week is God’s passionate presence.



  • based on the Genesis passage, we see where God, using his own initiative, made a covenant with Noah and his descendants.
    • Genesis 9:8-17   8 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: 9 “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. 11 Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”  

      12 And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.  14 It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; 15 and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.  16 The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”     

Rainbow’s Promise     

Greg Williams



Do you remember the first time you saw a rainbow?

Rainbows are iconic, universal, showing up in legends and stories throughout history.  Despite years of pollution and our increasingly busy lives, rainbows still make us stop … and look up.

The first recorded rainbow appears in Genesis 9, just after the flood recedes.  Noah walks out into the steaming earth and hears the voice of God:

I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 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.    
Genesis 9:13-15 (NRSV)

This is what is called by theologians “The Noahic Covenant” — one of several agreements that God made with Israel — and by proxy all the world.

And here we see this strange imagery of the rainbow.  “I have set my bow ….”  This word “bow” is the same Hebrew word as the bow of battle.  To the original readers, the bow would have been a common sight in battle.  It meant war and death.

But for God to “set his bow” meant that war was over, that the struggle was over.  This is the sign of the rainbow in the clouds, turned away from us, a bow at rest.

That rest is what we remember when we see it. and it reminds us of all of life.  As violent as the storm might be, the rainbow will be there — the power of the thunder and rain turns to beauty and color.  That’s all that’s left standing.

The covenant reminds us that a devastation like a flood won’t destroy us again.  God will not destroy us and start over; he will work with us and through us to accomplish redemption.  He works through each storm in our lives to make beauty and light come through.

Instead of ending history, he works within it.  And instead of starting over with humanity, he became one.

He set his bow in the sky.  He set his covenant that he will always work with us and within us on our relationship with him.  Let’s remember this promise when the storm comes.

I’m Greg Williams, Speaking of Life

  • The Psalm speaks about God’s faithfulness and how God actively teaches and leads the humble.
    • Psalm 25:1-10   To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  2 O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me.   3 Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed; Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.  

      4 Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths.   5 Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation;  On You I wait all the day.   

      6 Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, For they are from of old.   7 Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions;  According to Your mercy remember me, for Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.   

      8 Good and upright is the Lord; Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.  9 The humble He guides in justice, And the humble He teaches His way.  10 All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies. 


  • In 1 Peter, the author describes how Jesus suffered and died for humanity.
    • 1 Peter 3:18-22   For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.  21 There is also an antitype which now saves us — baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.
  • Finally, the Gospel passage recounts how God tore the heavens in order to make his presence on earth known.
    • Mark 1:9-15   9 It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  10 And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. 11 Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  
    • 12 Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. 13 And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him. 
    • 14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  



The Heavens are Torn

Mark 1:9-15 NIV

If you ever watched one of the Law & Orders, CSIs, or any other crime drama made in America, the following scenes will be familiar to you.  The audience observes someone commit a crime.  We will call this person the Crook.  The Crook somehow gets away.  Maybe there was some kind of chase down an alley with a random fence in the middle of it that the Crook scales like they are some kind of monkey squirrel.  Or maybe the Crook runs out into the street and makes it across while the good-looking-even-while-running detective pursuing the Crook gets hit by a car.  Don’t worry.  Despite being hit by two tons of metal, the detective is never seriously hurt.  They just kind of bounce off the windshield.  Either one of those two options is usually featured in the story (sometimes both).  At any rate, the Crook gets away and hides in some dingy motel room or at an unwitting relative’s house.  (Just so you know, Crooks only hide in dirty places.  It’s apparently a rule.)  Through some nifty police work, the detectives find out where the Crook is hiding and a SWAT team instantly appears outside the door.  The armored SWAT team, led by the unarmored detective, proceeds to break the door down.  There is a lot of yelling of things like “Police!” and “Freeze!”  Mysteriously, the detectives never check to see if the door is unlocked.  They just break the whole thing down.  There is probably a rule about that as well.

Breaking a door down is dramatic (hence the term crime drama).  When the detectives break the door down, it sends the message that their need is urgent.  They are determined not to allow their quarry to escape and no obstacle will stop them.  In real life, police do far more knocking on doors than kicking them down.  However, a broken open door is much more compelling and entertaining for the uninvolved observer, which better serves the purposes of the show’s producers.  It helps the audience understand the importance of the chase within the context of the story and become more invested in what happens to the characters.  We can understand what it means when a detective kicks open a door.  However, what does it mean when God breaks down a door?  In essence, this is what happened at the baptism of Jesus.  We can find the account in Mark 1:9-15.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.  He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.  “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near.  Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:9-15 NIV)

The first appearance of Jesus in Mark’s gospel could seem underwhelming.

  • Matthew and Luke begin their accounts of the life of Jesus with a miraculous virgin birth accompanied by prophecies, angels, wise men, and a genocidal king.
  • In one of the most beautiful writings in scripture, John’s account starts in a time before time.  By paralleling the creation narrative, he immediately points to Jesus as Immanuel, God with us.  John’s gospel then lines up with Mark’s — a discussion of John the Baptist followed by the baptism of Jesus.  However, John includes the Baptizer’s protest, proclaiming his unworthiness to baptize his Lord.
  • Matthew, Luke, and John make Jesus’ first appearance in their gospels auspicious.
  • The audience is given the clear signs that Jesus is special.

In Mark 1:9, we first encounter Jesus, a guy from a lowly regarded town, standing in the hot desert, waiting in line like a “normal.”  No prophecies.  No angels.  No lofty prose.  Jesus unremarkably receives a baptism that he should not need.

Then everything changed in verse 10.  As Jesus came out of the water, the heavens — the boundary between the spiritual world and physical world — were torn open.  They were not gently parted.  They were not surgically cut.  The fabric of space and time was ripped apart so that the frayed edges could not and cannot be mended.  The baptism of Jesus not only signaled the official start of Christ’s earthly ministry, but it was a sign of God breaking into our world in a new way.  Through the tear, God-the-Spirit entered our reality like a dove and alit on God-the-SonGod-the-Father could not contain his excitement and bellowed his love for Jesus.  To Mark’s audience, tearing the heavens feels dramatic.  When God tore open the heavens, he sent the message that his need was urgentHe was determined not to let his children escape and no obstacle would stop him.

Mark wanted us to understand the importance of this chase within the context of the story and become more invested in what happens to the characters in his gospel.

For Mark, the most important thing he wanted his readers to know about Jesus, right from the start, was that Christ embodied God’s passionate pursuit of humanityGod’s desire for humanity was (and is) not careful and measuredGod does not stoically observe us from a distanceGod would tear apart heaven itself in order to save, redeem, and restore his children.  His love for us has even been described as reckless.

Therefore, we should not wonder what compelled Christ to face the enemy right at the get go.  After baptism, Mark says that Christ’s first act was to be led by the Spirit into the desert to prepare himself for ministry by spending time with his Father and to face the accuser of humanity on our behalf.  Passionate protective love drove Jesus to face Satan on the enemy’s home turf — the realm of isolation, discomfort, and physical weakness.  The Lord wanted to keep his children safe from the schemes of the Devil.  Also, Jesus’ victory over the enemy was another way that he demonstrated that God would be present on the earth in a different wayThis is part of the “good news” that Jesus started to proclaim at the end of today’s textOur loving God has drawn nearHe has torn the heavens in his zeal.  He has confronted the enemy in his passionThe kingdom of God has been established on earth and it will never be stopped.

In this season of Easter Preparation, we make ready our hearts and minds to worship Christ, in whom we have new life, on Easter Sunday.  In this season, we try to remove distractions and lean into spiritual practices to make ourselves more available to God.  Some in the Christian community will practice abstinence, temporarily depriving themselves from something harmless (i.e. meat on Fridays), to remind ourselves to make room for God.

  • Unfortunately, some see this season as a time of self-punishment in order to make ourselves acceptable to God.
  • Some still see God as stern or distant and make Easter Preparation sad and serious.
  • They believe that God is somehow pleased when we wallow in misery.
  • Instead, it is fitting that we start this season with a reminder of God’s overflowing love for humanity.

We prune our lives because we have been accepted and we want the reality of God’s presence to be more and more of our realityLet our worship of God be motivated by his deep, abiding love for us.

The thing about broken down doors is that they are no longer useable.  Once a door has been kicked in, a new door must be hung.  When God tore open the heavens, he never repaired the breach.  The heavens will remain torn until he makes a new heaven and a new earth.

  • In that day, there will be no more need for the sun because God’s presence will light up all creation.
  • Until that day, God continues to be present here with usHis passionate presence should fill us with joy and hope.
  • This is good news worth sharing.  This is the Gospel by which we should live.


Small Group Discussion Questions

  • The first sentence about the appearance of Jesus in Mark’s gospel is underwhelming.  Do you think that Mark was trying to make a point about Christ?
  • If so, what do you think he was trying to say?
  • In your own words, what do you think it means that God tore the heavens at Jesus’ baptism?  Cf. Matthew 27:50-51
  • What are some things we can do during Easter Preparation to remind us of God’s passionate presence with us?



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