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Rainbows & Promises…

February 19, 2015


In this Sunday’s reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, Genesis 9:8-17, we read about the covenant God established with Noah and his descendants after the great flood. Remember that God had become so angry with the descendants of Adam and Eve, that God decided to wipe the entire earth out with a flood and start over again, with Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark. Following the flood, and once they were on dry ground, Noah built an altar and made a sacrifice to God which was pleasing to God. And God said, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.” (Genesis 9:21)

In Genesis 9:11-17, God marked that solemn promise to Noah, his descendants and ever living creature that came out of the ark with a sign or a reminder. “‘I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ God said, ‘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: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.'” (Genesis 9:11-13)

I have many fond memories of rainbows from the time I was a child up until now. One time on a family vacation, the rainbow was actually streaming into the back seat of the car where I was sitting. It was an amazing experience! Sadly, I didn’t find a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow, though. At other times, I have been fortunate to see a number of double rainbows, including one memorable one during my first tour in England with the Air Force. The base had just gone through a terrible crisis with our base commander being fired and I was in the chapel kitchen with his dear wife. We looked out the window and she teared up as she saw the double rainbow. For the two of them, the double rainbow had always been a sign of good fortune and good luck, a blessing if you will. However, with so much difficulty swirling around her, she was barely able to stay afloat let alone see any blessing in the rainbow. We looked at the rainbow for a few moments in silence and then I spoke softly to her of God’s promise and comfort. Even though at that point in her life, she saw more difficulties ahead than blessings, I saw the double rainbow as an extra special reminder that God was walking with her and with the kids (and her husband as well in his own darkness) even at that moment.

After many a rainstorm that I have experienced literally or figuratively, a rainbow always seems to appear. The above photo was taken somewhere along the Gulf Coast of Florida after a rainstorm had passed. But rainbows always mean a bit more to me than simply the passing of a storm. They remind me that God is with me, even in the midst of the storm, and God will continue to be with me through it all.

As I look to the world today, with all the darkness and evil being perpetrated in the name of religion; it is easy for me to slip into despair. The executions (murders, really) in the Middle East in the name of God, strike my heart to the very core. And yet I am reminded that there has been so much more done, directly or indirectly, in the name of God which never garnered the same amount of outcry as these recent events have. The wholesale slaughter in Rwanda, or the kidnapping and murder of innocents in Nigeria, or the continuous slaughter in the Democratic Republic of the Congo come and go in the headlines. Yet they quickly fade from view as people and our 24/7 media quickly turn to another event that is “fresh and new”. Yes, it is far too easy for me to either get incredibly angry or incredibly hopeless and depressed.

And about the time that I want to wrap myself in my cloak of cynicism and despair, a rainbow appears. It may not be a literal rainbow, but there are ways in which God gently reminds me that I am not alone. One of my rainbows is my dear wife Denise. When we are in our prayer room, praying the morning office, she hears my frustration and my rants of hopelessness. And in her own way, she is a gentle reminder that there is something I can do. No, there is something that I must do!  And we begin to pray… we pray for the families of those who have been slaughtered by ISIS… we pray for those who are perpetrating such hatred and violence… we pray for those who are trying to figure out how to respond to the increasing violence…

As well, we pray for other victims who are victimized in the name of God. Children who are kicked out of their homes and onto the streets by their “Christian” families because they have come out of the closet as Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender. We pray for people who are still discriminated against, again, by so called “Christians” because of the color of their skin, their national origin, or immigration status.

God has promised to never again wipe out the earth. Sadly, it seems as though God’s own creation seems hell-bent on destroying the earth instead. So what, you might ask, is a Christ-follower to do? How do we respond in the face of such horrors, even in our own back yard? As we work for justice, equality, and peace… we must pray and pray with our entire being! We must make our very lives a prayer for God’s peace and God’s mercy.

That is the only answer I can seem to come up with as I ponder, work, and pray. God help me… God help you, dear reader… God help us to be instruments of God’s reconciling love and peace and mercy. I can vouch for the fact that it isn’t easy to do. But I can also say with some certainty, that it is the best and only thing we can do. Take a hold of that rainbow in the sky… that rainbow promise in your heart… and pray… “Ora et Labora” as the Benedictine Monks say… Work and Pray…  Work and Pray for God’s peace in this world… work as God calls you to work to bring about God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.  You can do no more… You should not do any less… Don’t let the light of the candle of hope be extinguished. May God help us to be that reminder to others as we Work and Pray…

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