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March 5, 2006 | March 12 | March 26

Sermons

RAINBOW CONNECTION

111'm setting up my covenant with you that never again will everything living be destroyed by floodwaters; no, never again will a flood destroy the Earth. "

What could Noah have thought when the Last trickle of flood water had finally disappeared?

As he gazed over the horizon ... for the first time in over a month the boat was not being bounced on the waves.

It was motionless.

He was motionless.

At last. .. all was still.

But what all was there?

If you have ever seen a landscape after the flood waters have receded ... then you know how nothing is ever the same.

Ask the people on the Gulf Coast. .. ask the citizens of Biloxi or Gulf Port or New Orleans.

Go ahead and have your Mardi Gras parade and Fat Tuesday.

Just don't kid yourselves and the others that things are getting back to normal.

They aren't.

Like me ... you have seen and heard the stories of people who have lost everything ... whose families and homes and jobs and lives have been literally washed away.

They wait.

They wait for trailers that don't come.



They wait for relief that is best sporadic and at worst nonexistent.

They wait.

Noah had no one to wait for.

One of the accounts of the flood story has Noah getting falling down drunk after he emerges from the ark.

Absolutely.

Had I been there I probably would have asked the old sailor to pass the bottle so I could join him.

In the face of what must have seen an impossible task after an improbable voyage ... a few good belts might well be in order.

It's one thing to be on the Mississippi coast or stuck in the Superdome and wait and pray and complain to the newsmen about the late-in-coming rescue ... but they had a national government that still might help them.

Noah did not have FEMA or any other governmental, tribal, or family agency to assist him in his recovery.

Noah was on his own.

If the new world ... the post-flood world was going to be built. .. it was up to Noah and his sons and daughters to build it.

That is a tall order for a man 500 year old.

What happened to his golden years and retirement down on the Mediterranean and a few mint juleps and a suntan?

All that was literally washed away.

Now I know what you are thinking.

Noah wasn't alone.

Noah had God on his side.

After all... wasn't it God who had given him fair warning about the impending doomsday scenario?

Wasn't it God who told Noah how to build the Ark ... 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits?

Wasn't it God who finally made the waters recede and the dry land reappear?

Of course it was also God who stuck Noah on the Ark for 40 days and 40 nights with all his relatives and lions and tigers and bears ... Oh My.

Anyone who has driven more than a few hours in a car or van with one or more screaming kids and a barking dog or two might have some idea what kind of voyage it must have been for Noah.

You can just bet Carnival Cruise lines would quickly go bankrupt after a few such vacation trips.

And the smell.

So here is Noah ... happy ... deliriously happy to get off the Ark and away from the Zoo and the floating family reunion.

Happy ... but also feeling overwhelmed.

And alone.

Wary about what to do and where to begin.

And very wary about this God who had indeed rescued him ... but had also destroyed everything he knew and everyone outside of his family.

Every thing.

Every one.

Gone.

There had to be in the back of Noah's mind a question:

Would God do it again?

Would God get fed up with the humans God created and decide to start over again?






Like a solitaire player who reaches the point that he cannot win the game and throws in the hand to start a new deal... would God decide that the human game is a loser and it is time once more to reshuffle the deck and start over?

Like the popular lyrics go ... not the water but the fire next time.

The text in Genesis tells us that God must have known that Noah had such thoughts and fears and questions.

God may have seen Noah's drunken stupor as an act of denial and grief.

God may have heard the hesitation in Noah's voice as he begins to give instructions to his sons as they begin the task of rebuilding.

So what can God so?

What can God do to give Noah confidence to begin that task of rebuilding?

What can God do to reassure Noah that God is serious about not wanting to destroy creation again?

What can God do to rebuild the trust between the divine and the humans?

God decides to strike a deal.

I'm setting up my covenant with you that never again will everything living be destroyed by floodwaters; no, never again will a flood destroy the Earth. "

God makes a promise that he will not act so totally in judgment against the earth and its inhabitants.



You can almost hear the question in Noah's mind as he listens to God's promise.

How do I know you will keep your word?

Now that might seem a bit presumptuous on Noah's part ... down right unfaithful.

But I believe if Noah was as human as you and me ... if a little older then we are ...

Then he has to have that question in his heart and in his soul.

How do I know you(God) will keep your word?

God knows the question is there.

God has an answer for Noah.

I'm putting my rainbow in the clouds, a sign of the covenant between me and the Earth ... I'll remember my covenant between me and you and everything living, that never again will floodwaters destroy all life.

The rainbow.

That is the enduring symbol that will remind both of us of this promise I make to you now.

The rainbow.

When Noah looks up and sees the rainbow ... he will know and remember ... God has made a promise and God will remember God's promise.

The rainbow.

When God sees the rainbow God will remember God's promise ... never again will floodwaters destroy all life.

The rainbow tells us that God needs to guard against God's own inclination to carry out swift and sure judgment against human sin and evil.






God has no illusions that humans have "learned their lesson" after the devastation of the f1ood.

God knows in no time Noah's descendants will be hard at it again ... knee deep in stealing and lying and killing and adultery again.

But God will not destroy everything and everyone again as before.

The rainbow will remind God must act differently.

If the rainbow is God's reminder to behave… what is the rainbow for us?

What is the rainbow for you?

What do you take from this story of flood and judgment… rescue and reassurance?

Does the rainbow covenant mean a new relationship with Gods and humans?

Or is it just of freak of nature… an optical illusion?

The illusion theme seems the more popular.

And to the 21st century mind… more realistic.

I mean… come on… how can a mixture of moisture and oxygen and atmosphere… that creates colors in the sky…

How can that be seen as a divine message.

Isn't it only an illusion?

Such a theme calls to mind a favorite song of mine.

The first verse goes like this:

Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
And rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it




I know they're wrong, wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

Lovers… dreamers… believers.

It takes a dreamer to believe that God could both judge the world…

Bring about its punishment…

And then vow never to do it again.

I suspect most people scoff at the idea of a 500 year old man being rescued by a ship that has his family and animals aboard.

Lovers… dreamers… believers.

But who else but a crazy ol man would heed the words of a crazy ol God who promised to drown everyone “right out”… and build a boat to ride out a 40 day flood.

Who else would believe the God of the whole universe would become human…

live as a renegade Rabbi in a small country…

confront the mightiest superpower on earth…

Be executed as a political prisoner…

then beat the empire of earth and the empire of death…

And rise from the dead.

Lovers… dreamers… believers.

Who else would believe in rainbows and resurrections?

Those who choose to take the Lenten journey must do so on faith…

Relying on a God of rainbows and resurrections.

Lovers… dreamers… believers.

Amen

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