Rainbow Moments

Rainbow Moments

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. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh, and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.

Genesis 9:12-16 (NRSVUE)

Friends, it’s exciting to see a rainbow in the sky, isn’t it? Often after a storm, as the sky begins to brighten, you can just tell that there is a rainbow out there somewhere. When my kids were young, after a rainstorm, if the sky had that kind of look, we would run outside and look in every direction, trying to find a rainbow. What an unexpected gift. What a sacred surprise. And what an important reminder!

Here in Oldtown, we get excited to see the rainbows that come from the prisms in our windows. Not only is it the beauty of the colors, but it’s also the mystery and surprise because you never quite know where a rainbow is going to show up.

Okay, now today, we heard the story of Noah’s ark, and to be honest, the story is quite primitive. It is filled with violence and destruction. And usually, people either defend the literal story–needing to prove exactly how big the ark was, how Noah made it, and how he got two of every animal into the ark–or they simply disregard it as fiction, as a made-up story, and as unimportant.

And folks, however you need to understand the story is how you need to understand the story, and that is okay. But I’d like to challenge all of us today to look somewhere in between and to embrace the mystery and the sacredness of the story and why it is still such an important story for us today. Because there is a reason why it was chosen to be part of the library of books that we call the Bible.

Now, as we all know, there was a lot of violence in the Old Testament. We hear of wars, natural disasters, mass killings, theft, adultery, and dishonesty. Hmmm… that list sounds quite familiar, doesn’t it? Wars, natural disasters, mass killings, theft, adultery, and dishonesty? Maybe it wasn’t only in ancient times that these things happened.

But the importance of the Noah’s Ark story is the shift that happened when the rainbow arrived. Now, sure, at the beginning of the story, we can focus on Noah and the boat that he built. We can focus on the animals and the storm. We can worry about the number of days and nights that it rained and where the boat landed after the storm. Because those are okay things to focus our attention on as long as we don’t think about the judgment, the destruction, and the lives lost. Because we don’t like to think about a God that would allow that to happen, let alone make it happen. But folks, many of the ancient stories were not told to state facts and to give historical details, but rather to give broad explanations to everyday happenings, to give a new understanding of how God and the world work together, and to give hope and promise to the people.

To be honest, I think in ancient times, God tended to get a bad rap because when anything happened that the people couldn’t explain, they assumed that it must have been God. “God must have done it!” And that is why the Old Testament is filled with stories of God’s judgment and destructive behavior, whether it was God’s fault or not! But the good news is that the story of Noah’s Ark was a turning point. It was a major leap forward in human understanding and a brand-new way for people to perceive the divine in a less violent and more relational light. Sure, the story starts with a destructive flood, as other ancient flood stories did, but then it goes somewhere different, somewhere new, somewhere better. It starts with divine judgment and destruction, but then there is a twist, and things change. Not everyone dies like in other flood stories. A family and lots of animals are saved, and then a covenant or a promise is made moving forward, one that builds not a judging but a loving relationship between God and God’s Creation.

Through the rainbow in the Noah’s Ark story, we are reminded that life is not always easy, there will be rain and storms and difficult days, but that love will always conquer hate, judgment, and destruction. Did you hear that? Love will always conquer hate, judgment, and destruction because the story tells us that the rainbow is God’s promise never to destroy the world again, and that’s not all; the rainbow is also a reminder that God LOVES ALL OF US, “every living creature of all flesh,” scripture says!

Folks, the rainbow is God’s recognition that all of life is sacred, and no one will ever be judged or cast out for being who they are. The rainbow is a promise of belonging–one that signals God’s understanding that we are not just good or bad, old or young, black or white, gay or straight, male or female, but that we are beloved and sacred, and God will never hurt us or destroy us, but rather, God will love us unconditionally just the way we are, forever.

I’ll never forget when my family and I moved to our last house. Our kids were teenagers at the time, and they were not very happy with the move. The house was much smaller. The girls had to share a bedroom. It wasn’t close to where their friends lived, and it just didn’t feel like home.

The house that we bought had been owned by an elderly lady, and it definitely needed some updates. There was drab wallpaper on every wall, and many of the rooms made you feel like you were stepping back in time, and not in a good way. We told the kids they could paint their rooms whatever color they wanted, but that first, they had to strip the wallpaper. We all worked together. It was a very hot summer spent with three unhappy teenagers working in small, second-floor bedrooms in a house with no air conditioning.

The last room we stripped the wallpaper in was my son’s room. He couldn’t wait for the dingy flowered wallpaper to be gone so he could paint his room North Attleboro red and white. We sprayed down the walls with wallpaper remover and waited patiently for it to do its magic. Then we started peeling the wallpaper from the top down. We couldn’t help but notice the sky-blue paint on the wall as we started peeling. Suddenly, the sky-blue stopped, and we saw red, then orange, then yellow, then green, then blue, then purple!

We quickly peeled the rest of the wallpaper from the wall to uncover a giant rainbow that had been painted on the wall years before. The kids were so excited, and the paint was in perfect condition! What a rainbow moment, and what a reminder to all of us that we needed to stop judging our new house and instead start looking for all the amazing gifts that it held.

Friends, as you go out into your week ahead, I would encourage all of you to look for Rainbow Moments. Now they might not appear in the exact colors of a rainbow, but they will be moments of joy, and hope, and promise found after a storm or a struggle, moments that remind you that LOVE always conquers hate and judgment and that, just like every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth, you are loved, just the way you are!

My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!

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