Today is the first Sunday of Lent—a time when we prepare for Easter by turning our hearts towards God. The scripture passage for today’s children’s message as well as for today’s devotional (Using your first Activity Egg!) is the story of Noah. It may seem like an odd choice for a lectionary text on the first Sunday of Lent, but in truth it provides a hint about what is coming during this season.
To explain, in The Jesus Storybook Bible (one of my favorite Bible story books for children), Noah’s story is entitled “A New Beginning.” The book explains that during the time of Noah “…many people filled the earth. Everyone everywhere had forgotten about God and were only doing bad things all the time. God’s heart was filled with pain when he saw what had happened to the world he loved. Everywhere was disease and death and destruction—all the things God hates most.” It then goes on to tell about how God found favor with Noah, about the building of the Ark and the coming of the animals, and about the rain and flood. But it is the way story ends—the focus verses for today’s lectionary reading—that most captures my attention:
“The first thing God did [after everything was over] was make another promise. ‘I won’t ever destroy the world again.’ And like a warrior who puts away his bow and arrow at the end of a great battle, God said, ‘See, I have hung up my bow in the clouds.’ And there, in the clouds—just where the storm meets the sun—was a beautiful bow made of light. It was a new beginning in God’s world. It wasn’t long before everything went wrong again but God wasn’t surprised, he knew this would happen. That’s why, before the beginning of time, he had another plan—a better plan. A plan not to destroy the world, but to rescue it—a plan to one day send his own Son, the Rescuer. God’s strong anger against hate and sadness and death would come down once more—but not on his people, or his world. No, God’s war bow was not pointing down at his people. It was pointing up, into the heart of Heaven.”
Instead of destroying the world to get rid of sin, God in Jesus will forgive sin from the cross. As I tell the children in the message, “The good news for today is that God keeps his promises—not just the rainbow promise that shines on dark, rainy days—but more importantly, the promise of forgiveness and a new beginning for us when we choose to believe in and follow Jesus.