Year B: February 22, 2015
First Reading: Genesis 9:8-17
The Worry Stone by Marianna Dengler
(Written for ages 6-8)
Comment: The Worry Stone is a beautiful book with three interwoven stories that pay homage to the Chumash Indians in Ojai Valley. In the story an elderly woman shares stories passed down from her grandfather to her, a lonely girl, with a young lonely boy who greets her at a park where she sits watching the children play. In the building of their relationship, the woman begins to remember the stories and relationship she had with her grandfather, which she then passes onto this lonely boy. Focusing on the phrase “I will remember” in verse 15 of the Noah story in Genesis, the bow in the clouds becomes the sign that God has established a covenant relationship with God’s people. The woman, similarly, shares the worry stone, a tangible sign, with this little boy as she remembers and encourages him to remember. The Worry Stone is a story of connectedness of humanity throughout time. Noah’s story is one of establishing covenants, making promises and remembering across generations; “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”. The stone becomes to the woman and the boy a connection of remembrance across generations just as the bow in the clouds becomes a connection of remembrance across generations for God and all of humanity; in light of persecution, loneliness, destruction or punishment, promises are remembered.
Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:18-22
The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt
(Written for ages 5 and up)
Comment: This portion of the letter speaks to suffering for the purpose of being brought to God. Peter reminds us that while we are suffering it’s nothing that Christ himself hasn’t endured, and that there’s purpose to it all. This brief glimpse into the letter points the reader from focus on personal to focus on God; it was all done according to God: suffering, salvation through water, baptism, death and resurrection. We are reminded that it was necessary and it was final; Christ died once and for all, for the purpose of cleansing our sins, because of a patient God who spared a number when all could have been done away with, and we now have a new symbol of this grace in our baptism. Just as Christ was dead in the flesh but alive in the Spirit, so are we as Christ appeals to God on our behalf. The Tale of Three Trees is the story of three trees growing on a hillside that have dreams of what they will become when they are chopped. As the trees are chopped their fates are revealed; what they had hoped was not quite what they had gotten. The third tree doesn’t want to be anything but a pointing to God on the tallest hill and is upset when chopped. Upon construction into it’s new manifestation, the third tree realizes that she will be used as the cross of Christ’s crucifixion, something that saddens her until the third day when she stands tall on the hill pointing to God. The trees each died in their natural form to be rebirthed in a new form, each for a purpose of bringing glory and purpose to the life God gave them. Peter says that Christ suffered to bring us closer to God, and the third tree becomes a representation of Christ’s suffering that points us to God.
Gospel Reading: Mark 1:9-15
Water, Come Down! The Day You Were Baptized by Walter Wangerin, Jr.
(Written for ages 4 and up)
Comment: Mark’s story of Christ’s baptism is the shortest version with the most dramatic flair. It is quickly shared in three verses, followed quickly by two verses of Christ’s temptation in the desert and then two verses of the start of Christ’s Galilean ministry. Mark baptizes Christ “in those days” in the river with John and most likely with others while John is baptizing and speaking of baptism. It is quick and dramatic with the skies opening up and a dove descending, but baptism itself is so much more involved than the mere three verses we receive here from Mark. Wangerin writes a beautiful, colorful story of the importance of baptism and how the world and all of creation (personified) rejoices when a child becomes named in and marked by God’s sign. The story names the child being baptized as “child of God,” much like the dove in Mark’s baptismal story descends upon Christ and name’s him. Wangerin’s book also includes a section at the end of the book to encourage discussion (family, but could work well in a children’s worship/class setting) and several sections describing the elements of creation and how they play into baptism. Mark’s baptism becomes personal and Wangerin’s book helps children to understand that while it’s personal it’s corporate in that we are all part of God’s family and God has chosen to call us all children.
We welcome back Katie Barrett Todd, Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna, as a Lectionary Links writer for the first four Sundays of Lent. Katie, a lifelong southerner, has recently moved to the midwest and is learning to adapt to a different kind of winter!