February 26, 2012

"In Rainbows"
Jason W. Crosby, preaching

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Genesis 9:8-17

                If we were to set aside all that we have come to understand, or think we understand, about God; if we were to try to forget all that we learned in Sunday School as a child about God, all that we have experienced through worship about God, all that we have come to grasp about God through relationships and personal experiences about God; if we were to approach God carte blanche, and begin our relationship with god anew by opening the bible and turning to Genesis 1, we would learn, first of all, that our God is an author.  God is the Author of the universe who yearns to establish a perfect world where all creation – plants, animals, and humanity – live in peace and harmony under God’s reign. 

            If we keep reading, what we soon learn is that this vision God possessed stands in stark contrast to the predispositions ingrained within humanity.  Human beings’ desires, cunning ways, and deceitfulness are at odds with God, the Creator.  God, up until Genesis 9, may best be described as a Creator trying to build a perfect world and this God could not sit by and watch God’s world be marred.  God, the Creator, then, decides to recreate our world.  God begins again.  God wipes the slate clean with a great flood.  God takes some remnants of the first creation, Noah and his family and two of every kind of animal, and recreates our world with creation version 2.0.

            In this new version of creation, we discover a changed God.  Or, at least God takes a new approach.  This statement may be surprising to those who have come think of God as unchanging.  But, if we cast aside our presuppositions we find at least different sides of God before and after Genesis 9:8.  God whose primary role was Creator, reemerges and reveals to us new dimensions of God’s self.   

             In rainbows, God gives us as well as God’s self a sign that serves as a reminder of this new covenant.  Dianne Bergant points out that several ancient creation stories that circulated around Mesopotamia told the tale of warrior God’s who used their bows and arrows to tame the forces of primordial chaos.  The bow hung in the sky by God following the flood reminds us and God that God will never again allow chaos to consume creation.  In the mighty and majestic arch of rainbows, we are all reminded of God’s new, additional role as Protector of creation.

            Another dimension of God bubbles to the surface through this new covenant.  Remarkably, under the covenant God asks nothing new of us.  God imposes no new restrictions on us.  Instead, God places new restrictions on God’s self.  No matter the extent to which our actions stand in conflict with God’s desire for an Eden-like, peacable kingdom, God pledges to never again value God’s hopes for creation above God’s relationship with you and me.  Not only to we discover God as Creator and Protector.  We discover a vulnerable God in the establishment of this new covenant.  God binds God’s fate with the rise and fall of humanity and in do so becomes vulnerable.  In the soft hues of color that faintly streak across the sky to form rainbows, God reminds us God’s vulnerable side.  

Unlike other covenants God makes at other points in time, this covenant is not with a particular person or people.  This covenant is not one with Abraham or the Israelite people.  This covenant is not one made with Christians living in the United States in the 21st century.  This covenant is made with all humanity.  In their various colors, through the coming together of the reds, oranges, yellows, blues, and purples of rainbows, God reveals to us that this covenant is with all people and all creation.  In rainbows, God reveals new facets of God’s self to us.  God’s role is no longer primarily Creator, although that remains a defining feature.  In rainbows, we find God to be a Protector and a Partner, who limiting God’s self becomes vulnerable for the sake of all creation.

There seems to be a disconnect between rainbows and the Lenten season.  Beautiful colors streaming through the sky seem at odds with the solemnity of this season.  Lent calls on us to examine the darker sides of our lives.  In this season, as we walk with Christ to the cross, where our Savior was crucified, we are asked to examine our mortality.  During these forty days of Lent, we are asked wander into the foreboding wildernesses of our lives, and explore those thoughts and actions that keep us in the dark, that keep us from living fully and freely in the light.  During Lent we mark ourselves with black ashes, we extinguish candles, we endure once again with Jesus that fateful night when he was betrayed and arrested, we mournfully make our way to stand in the shadow of the cross. 

Yet, we begin our Lenten journey here for a reason.  We begin this season of self-exploration and penitence here, in part, because we are reminded that God’s covenant established on the heels of the flood continues to this day.  We are free to honestly reveal our heart of hearts before God so that we can be set free from what entombs us and live life anew because God promises to be with us.  God did not completely wipe the slate clean with the flood.  God used elements from God’s earlier creation, Noah and his people, creatures who were roaming the earth prior to the flood, to begin again.  God made God’s covenant with a creation God already knew to be far less than perfect.  Therefore, no matter where we have been, no matter what we have done, God’s covenant with Noah reveals to us that God promises to take those broken pieces of our lives and holds hope for us that we too may put the pieces of our lives back together.  We can honestly confront those things that keep us from living as God intends for us to live this time of year so that with God’s aid we too may be recreated.  We can honestly confront what burdens us because we live with the promise that God through Jesus our Savior will pull us through.

This just may be the place, however, where God’s journey to Golgotha began.  When God elected to change God’s approach, entered into this covenant with humanity, and hung that rainbow in the sky, God’s journey to the cross began.  When God made the shift from slightly removed Creator to also proclaiming to be our Protector and vulnerable Partner, God took to the first steps toward cross.  The cross is antithesis of a removed, distant, all-powerful, unchangeable God.  The cross is where we find God at God’s weakest and most vulnerable.  The cross is where we find God’s ultimate expression of humility, grace, and love.  This is where we are heading during Lent.  This is who God is recreating us to be.  With Christ’s love as our strength and support and inspiration, we are being reformed to become as humble, gracious, and loving as we can be as we walk with Christ to the cross.  Our journeys to the cross to become who God created us to be, began, then, with a rainbow in the sky.