Somewhere over the rainbow
Sorry - late again! This was Susan Carter's sermon from last week, 21st February
Lenten Rose in Michigan.
READINGS FOR Lent 1
1 Peter 3:18-22
In this occasionally cold, seemingly endless Covid winter, it is comforting to think of spring. We’ve had a delightful touch of it this past week.
With spring comes rain. And with rain, comes the rainbow.
I don’t know about you, but my experience of the rainbows in Clermont-Ferrand, and larger Auvergne, is that they are remarkable.
How wonderful, and extraordinarily beautiful these visual treats are – radiant and full of color. I can’t imagine tiring of them. Perhaps you have considered the following questions:
+ When is the last time you saw a rainbow?
+ With a smartphone, how many pictures of rainbows have you taken?
+ Have you ever been driving in a car and stopped, just to take in the splendor of a rainbow?
+ Where was the most spectacular rainbow you ever encountered?
+ Have you ever seen a rainbow while flying in an airplane?
+ When was the last time you saw one of this region’s double rainbow – with the smaller one exactly matching the arc of the larger one?
+ Have you ever wondered what lies “over the rainbow?”
A rainbow happens when sunlight passes through a raindrop and splits the light spectrum into the visible colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. That’s the science of it.
The majesty of the rainbow is much greater.
But we don't get to the rainbow, and what lies over it until we go through some pretty rough times. That’s the story from Genesis today. It is one that carries through all the way to the gospel of Mark, and the temptation Jesus endures in the desert.
Let’s not get ahead of the story, though.
God had created this marvelous world and populated it with animals, and then humans, taking us to the Garden of Eden.
That’s where things first go wrong.
Adam and Eve willfully defy God and are swiftly ushered out of the Garden. Humans, sadly, don’t improve their behavior. Finally, God is so fed up that God is willing to wipe the slate clean – humans and critters alike.
Except for Noah. Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord.
It’s a story we all know. Noah builds the ark, loads it up with two of every kind, and then he and seven others wait. They wait for the rains.
The dense clouds and the pelting rains arrive with a violence. And it pours for forty days, until there is nothing but water.
(A hint here, some “inside baseball” – forty days in the Bible is shorthand for “it was a very long time.”)
The rains stop. Then the winds blow, and the waters start to recede. Slowly, but obviously, the Earth is drying out. For more than two months Noah and his family and the creatures all wait.
Finally, what does Noah do – he sends a dove as a scout for dry land.
The dove returns.
Seven days later the dove goes out again, and this time comes back with a freshly-plucked olive leaf in its beak. The nightmare of the flood has ended, and God’s anger is no more.
To show the people that this destruction will never ever take place again, God devises a symbol. It is a rainbow – to seal the promise.
God tells Noah, “I have set my bow in the clouds and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and Earth.” God vows, God promises, that never again will there be such a flood as to cover the whole planet.
Somewhere, over the rainbow where Noah and his family sheltered in the ark, was God’s promise of love. It was a promise to protect – and not to destroy.
The rainbow was also a reminder to God of the covenant with people.
The promise not to destroy, but to be in a loving relationship is expanded in the gospel of Mark.
Again, there is water, and we have a dove bringing a message. This time, it is the dove as the Holy Spirit, coming from God, and lighting on Jesus as he comes up, out of the water.
He had just been baptized by John.
The message from God is that Jesus is God’s son. Not just another prophet. Not an earthly king to rule over subjects – rather the son, and one, with the Creator.
There is another promise that follows this exchange in the River Jordan.
It is that the kingdom of God is near and there is good news for those who repent and believe.
Jesus, as he begins his preaching, is expanding on God’s promise. It is no longer only that God will be in covenant with the Earth and not destroy it.
It is much more than that.
God, through Jesus, is telling us that the promise is of life everlasting. It is a paradise beyond this world and a kingdom that is eternal.
And so, what lies over the rainbow? More than bluebirds, I can assure you.
Over that rainbow is God’s full assurance of a beloved life here on this Earth – and of a life beyond for evermore.