Based on Genesis 9:8–17 and Mark 1:9-15
What comes to mind when we hear of God’s promise to not destroy the world?
What do we hear this morning as we listen to scripture that speaks of God’s covenant to not give up on creation?
Noah, his family, and the creatures he saved are starting the process of rebuilding as God tells him to look to the rainbow as a sign of this promise, this covenant.
We are now a year into this pandemic. In Canada, over 21,000 people have now died as a result of the COVID-19 virus. The social impact on our society has been profound. This is not the same as a flood that wipes out just about everything,
but I can understand if people have some questions.
For me, the issue turns around the question, as it usually does, ‘Where is God in the midst of this mess?’ Where is God as we mourn the loss of rituals, social gatherings and, most painfully, friends and family?
There are times when it may seem we are all alone and can only rely upon our own strength and resources to overcome the challenges in front of us.
And I think that is why we are told to look to the rainbow. That it is in the rainbow that we receive reassurance that God is there; that God continues to love us and is not giving up on us. That we can find refuge and strength in God’s presence even as we endure the most difficult of times.
A story about a flood that threatens to destroy all that people have known would have real resonance for a society based around flood plains. I do not know if they would have had the words, we use today but they would be familiar with the trauma that comes as a result of such destruction. That a rainbow that comes after a rainfall would signify God’s promise to now destroy everything would be powerful.
I have often reflected on the significance of a rainbow as a symbol of God’s presence. A rainbow is of course an image that appears when sunlight is refracted through water particles. Sunlight and water in the atmosphere. Those elements are in fact, always there. It is just the particular circumstances of rainfall and the emergence of the sun from behind clouds that creates the right combination to see the rainbow.
To me that has come to signify that God is always there. But there are particular circumstances when we are better able to recognize God’s presence. Often during or following moments of fear or pain or doubt.
In the calm and the relief following a storm, we are able to look up, to take a breath, and truly consider what is happening around us.
We reflected on the baptism of Jesus just a few weeks ago. But I want to consider that in Mark we are told the spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan, the accuser or adversary. That it is only after that trial that Jesus is ready to begin his mission. While Mark does not get into details, we are left with the notion that he gains something from this time that is needed for the coming journey and ministry.
But we are also told in no uncertain terms that he is not alone. He is served by angels. But there are also beasts. Jesus receives assistance, perhaps nourishment and security from angels. He avoids being devoured by the beasts in the wilderness.
I am certain you have heard the notion (perhaps from me) that we all will experience times in the figurative wilderness. That we must all experience times of hardship when we feel cut off from everything we usually rely upon. That we cannot turn to the things we usually take for granted.
It is times like that when we are asked to consider what is really important. What is it we truly value and where do we find our strength and our sense of who we really are?
It is in those times we often find ourselves needing to discern who and what are our angels and who and what are the beasts. Who is there to truly serve us and nourish us and who or what are the beasts that threaten to devour us?
Where do we place our trust? That can seem like a tricky question. But I suspect things become a bit clearer when we can clearly articulate what it is, we value. When we can articulate what it is God calls us to do and to be. Those things that draw us away from love and justice? Perhaps we should reject them. Those things that call us to kindness and mercy; that encourage us to love one another? Perhaps we should give them more attention.
We sent out a personal reflection this past week. It asked us to consider where we see signs of promise and hope. Where do we see the signs of God’s love and God’s promise? As we continue to struggle to find our way; as we attempt to wrap our head around the loss and the disruption of the past year, where do we see signs that God is here; working amongst us and offering us a path to something new?
In the aftermath of the flood, Noah and his family rebuild. They create something new in a new relationship with God.
Jesus comes out of the wilderness with a message of God’s good news and preaching a message of repentance and hope in God’s love.
We are called to see the signs of God’s love and promise all about us. To draw near and rely upon the angels in our midst. And to build something new that responds to the coming of God’s kingdom of love and justice and peace.
And for that we say thanks be to God.
Rev. Warner Bloomfield
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