Saturday Reflection


20th February 2021

...but does it matter?...

13 'I have set my rainbow
    in the clouds,
    and it will be the sign of the
    covenant between me
    and the earth.'

....Genesis 9:13

We'd be hard pressed to come up
with a symbol or image that has
a wider appeal than the rainbow.

Scientists, lyricists, photographers,
and romantics are all drawn to this
remarkable optical and
meteorological phenomenon that
causes a spectrum of light to
appear in the sky,
when droplets of water capture
the light of the Sun in a
perfect manner to create
a multi-coloured arc.

I know there are good scientific
explanations for what causes a rainbow,
but does it matter?
We love rainbows -
we sing about them,
we will pull off the road to
look at one and, when successful,
we thrill at the capture of
a rainbow in a photograph.

Our Old Testament Lesson for today
recalls the wonderful story of
Noah and the flood,
one of those Bible stories we feel
we know about as well as the
Nativity account or the
events of Holy Week.

But in reality, we generally
miss the point of this story.
The most common mistake we make is to
simply think of it as a delightful
children's story of animals
in a house boat and the appearance
of a rainbow as a kind of
"all clear" signal that
the flood-time is over.

The other common mistake we make
about this story is when we interpret
the story as a description of a time
when God was so discouraged by
human rebellion that God,
in effect, reversed the Creation.

What God had pronounced "good"
in the creation,
is now seen as "evil;"
Instead of holding back the waters
to create the heavens
and the earth,
God allows the waters to
flood the whole earth,
wiping out nearly everything.

And so we have a story of the
Creator God, now totally overcome
by anger and fury,
ready and willing to reverse
Creation by destroying everything.

Neither of these interpretations
of Noah and the Flood are helpful.
Perhaps a better way to understand
the story is to see it as an
expression of God's determination
to restore the harmony that
was the original purpose
in the creation.

In today's Old Testament reading
we see God establish a covenant
with Noah and his descendants,
not based on a demand for
better behaviour,
but purely based on God's
gracious promise to put
aside forever the
option of destruction.

In some primitive societies
the symbol for peace was the
hanging up of the war-bow,
meaning no longer would arrows
fly in combat.

Well, God, in effect hangs up a bow
....a rainbow the sky in token of his
determination to never bring
such massive destruction
upon the world again.

So the event that is captured
in our reading takes on
profound significance.
In effect, all of creation is
given a new beginning,
a new chance to live in
accordance with God's
will and purpose.

God uses the remnant preserved
by Noah and his family on the Ark,
as a new beginning as shown
in the promise that God
makes to Noah and his sons:

I now establish my covenant
with you and with your descendants
after you and with every living
creature that was with you
the birds, the livestock
and all the wild animals,
all those that came out
of the ark with you every
living creature on earth.

I establish my covenant with you:
Never again will all life be
destroyed by the waters of a flood;
never again will there be a
flood to destroy the earth.

.....Genesis 9: 9-11

This is a wonderful story
which tells us that the rainbow
should have a special meaning for us
as Christian people.
I know the rainbow has been
appropriated for all sorts of
purposes and causes:
as a symbol for inclusivity -
particularly an open and
accepting attitude toward
Gay and Lesbian people.

Jesse Jackson led a Rainbow Coalition
to encourage multicultural
participation in the election process
and in the 16th Century
the rainbow was the symbol for
the German Peasants' Uprising
against their feudal lords.

The rainbow remains a peace symbol
throughout Europe today.

This weekend we observe the
first Sunday of Lent and begin
the serious work of preparing
to celebrate the
Death and Resurrection
of our Lord.

The events of Holy Week
certainly are more powerful
than the rainbow God
hung in the sky for Noah
and his sons to see.
And yet, I believe,
they parallel each other.

Both events declare that God
is not driven to punish,
but desires to restore.
Both events capture the wisdom
of those beautiful words
from John's gospel:

For God so loved the world
that he gave his only begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes
in Him may not perish but
may have eternal life.
Indeed, God did not send
his Son into the world
to condemn the world,
but in order that the world
might be saved through him.

.... (John 3:16,17)

Many of us,
or people close to us,
have been devastated
by the Corona epidemic,
affecting health and
work and family life.

While the lock-down is taking
effect with the numbers going down
radically and more and more
people are being given
the vaccine, there is a light
at the end of the tunnel,
but there are many people
with mental health problems
caused by isolation,
who are without employment or
facing an uncertain future.

So, let us not forget ~
we are a people of faith.
Let us point to the rainbow
and to the empty cross
and remember:

God has not forgotten us.
God has promised that He
will not forsake us when the
flood waters of sorrow
and suffering threaten.

Hold on to that promise.
And let us never forget what
the cross and the rainbow remind us ~
God has made a covenant with us
and that covenant will not fail.

It may be interesting to watch,
or just listen to a song
'For God So Loved the World'
sung by St Paul's Cathedral choir
(John Steiner)
via the link shown below.