Monday, March 10, 2014

Covenant of the Rainbow

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.  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.  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.”  God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”           Genesis 9:8-17 (NRSVA)
Saint Benedict, who wrote the guidebook for monastic living, said that a monk’s life “…ought to be a continuous Lent.”  He also recognized that not many people have the strength of discipline to live Lent all year long, so he suggested using Lent to “wash away the negligence of other things.”[1]
After nine long months Noah and his family stepped out of the floating zoo onto dry land.  If you consider what they had been through, you can sense what Lent tries to convey to our understanding.

The Ark was a LONELY place

Remembering that every living human being and animal on planet earth had succumbed to the flood waters, and that Noah and his seven family members at that moment comprised the entirety of humanity, made “global community” a very small scope with an overwhelming sense of aloneness.  Lent should speak of the aloneness man faces without a Savior.

The Ark was a DARK place

Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King have made a fortune with the terror of the darkness.  In antediluvian times darkness was to be feared.  Even today we cannot shake our natural fear of the dark.  Noah’s little family huddled against the darkness of a storm, surrounded by the darkness of a closed ark.  Lent should speak of the darkness in our souls which craves the light of God.

The Ark was an UNCERTAIN place

No matter where Noah looked there was water!  God had promised…but, would they have enough food to wait out the waters?  God had said they’d be safe…but, the animals were restless.
Fear of the unknown is perhaps the most emotionally-paralyzing prospect of human existence.  If there is anything that makes a dog bark, or a child cry, or the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up, it is uncertainty. 
For Noah, if God was that angry to wipe man off the face of the earth – what did that mean for him?  Had he dodged a bullet only to face God alone and in the dark?  What was to become of them?
Lent ought to speak of the uncertainty which life in the 21st century smears over our hearts.  But, then…

The Ark Brought Noah to a NEW PLACE

God’s promise (or covenant) was unequivocal and was not predicated upon anything mankind would do or keep from doing; God just promised – NO more catastrophic floods to start over.
God’s promise was also not just to Noah, but to his descendants – you and me!  And God said He would always keep watch over that promise.  So, every time you see a rainbow, you and God are staring at the same thing at the same time.  That should spark chill bumps up and down your spinal column, when you consider the context in which the promise is made.  God has chosen to never again destroy the planet.
So God Keeps His Promises?
The whole point of the flood account making it into Holy Scripture, and that of Lent is to keep before us the reality of just how far God goes to keep His promises.  He’ll go as far as a cross and an empty tomb! 
Lent should do more than cause us to give up drinking or chocolate for a few weeks.  It ought to be as life-changing as spending 40 days and nights in the terror of darkness, loneliness and uncertainty of the storms – and then coming out into the light of God’s marvelous promise!
What’s It All About, Preacher?
Let me not “toy” with you here.  If you’re like me you occasionally trudge through dry spots – valleys, really – where you are just going through the motions, hitting the high spots and wondering if things will ever get better.  You are empty spiritually, depleted physically and strained by time and commitment, and surrounded by conflicts.  Life stinks!
This is where Lent comes in, friend!
I recently read some excerpts from a work by Debra Farrington[2], who quotes monastic guides for stepping out of the ark – and finding sunlight and firm land.  In it she suggested a few things that began to light my Lenten fire.
 Let me share a few of them as a suggestion to those of us who may have an empty spiritual gas tank today:


Re-connect with God.  That presupposes that there has been a “disconnect”.  We don’t mean for it to happen, but somewhere in the middle of living life and doing all that people expect, the one person in our lives that should not be neglected is God. 
Like a light that’s been turned off, or dimmed too much, we need reconnection.  We need to take a slice from whatever time we now spend on worthless things – or even good things – and do the best thing; we need to reconnect with the One who loves us.
Lent means coming out of the darkness to reconnect with light!


We Americans have a hard time not working more.  Surveys suggest that in the 1990’s the average American added a week of work to his schedule each year.  And it’s getting worse!
Lent means coming up from the darkness of tending the Ark’s residents and leaky hull, to grab a breath of fresh air and play with the doves hanging out on the mast. 


Scripture is plain at this point; it is a waste of time to stay up late and rise early if you’re trying to do it all in the flesh.[3] 
Every so often I will find myself violating that principle.  After multiple late nights of meetings or ministry I’m strung-out and still have to prepare a sermon and a zillion other items for Sunday.  I awake early and have to use a whip and cow prod to get myself out of bed to do devotions and study.  Pursuing a relationship with God is much better accomplished when one has had rest. 
Lent comes to the over-amped, under-rested saint and says, “God is on the job; go take a nap”!


Jesus said that our lives do not revolve around things.  The poorest American has much more than 80% of the world’s people.  We have enough stuff!
Lent says, “Be Detached from all this stuff and see how much you can do to help someone else”.
The Bottom Line
I have found myself in one of those valleys recently…all dry, parched and spiritually depleted.  I’m glad Lent is here.  My game plan is to:
·        Reconnect with God each day – I’m not on vacation, but I’m taking a little extra time to talk to my Lord.
·        Recreate – Scratch the dog’s ear each time I pass her in the hallway, take Elizabeth for an ice cream cone.
·        Rest – The TV is off!
·        Release – I’m going to let go worrying about stuff, and start hunting for some way to be a blessing to someone else.
The covenant of the rainbow was something God gave to assure us that God was not interested in destroying mankind.  During Lent it should also speak to us that He’s not particularly fond of seeing us self-destruct either. 
Lent – a season of life!

[1] Homiletics Online
[2] Debra Farrington, Living Faith Day by Day; How the Sacred Rules of Monastic Traditions Can Help You Live Spiritually in the Modern World, (Perigee, 2000)
[3] Psalms 127:2

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