RAINBOW – BEAUTY OF IN-BETWEEN
GENESIS 9:8-17, PSALM 25, MARK 1:9-15
February 16, 1997 by Tad Mitsui
After the devastating flood that killed practically every living thing on earth, God vowed to the survivors that there would never be another punishment as terrible as the one they had just survived. A rainbow was displayed as a sign of that promise. A rainbow appears in an in-between time, as the sun comes out when the rain is not quite finished. It is an effect of two elements intermingling in the sky. And it is beautiful, because that interaction brings out all colours of the sun separately. We live in between times. We are still living partly in the past, though, that is definitely passing. And the world is moving into a time zone we have never seen. This is not an easy time. However, the message of the rainbow is that the time in between times can be beautiful, bringing out the grace and lessons of the past and the anticipation and hope of the future. It is a time to remember and appreciate the old times and hope for the better times in future.
No one denies that we live in a difficult time today. However, we must realize that the nature of the difficulty comes from the fact that we live in a time between times. Old ways do not work any more and new ways are so new that we are not quite comfortable with them. Often we hate the new ways or are scared of them. Religion seem to be on the way out and the church seems to be on the decline. Families do not look the same any more, yet many people demand a return to old family values. We are not sure about the future of Quebec, the prospect of which is unsettling to many of us. And the economy seems to be changing too drastically and too fast, and this is making mature people feel redundant, and young people feel unwanted even before they go out into the society.
However, we must realize that the notion of the "good old days" is a myth. The old days were not always so wonderful. If we remember how we used to live and work, we are living better today and enjoying things that we had never believed possible even a few decades ago. We canned and pickled vegetables because fresh food was not available during winter and spring. But they are available now in supermarkets any time. Tomatoes in winter? Never! Combines were not air-conditioned. And none of us could afford winter holidays or travels abroad, ever. Tuberculosis killed most of the people who had contracted the disease, and many people did not live long enough to suffer from cancer. Landlords felt free to kick tenants off the land, and caused a mass migration of people from Scotland. People were sold like cows and horses simply because their skins were dark. Times are definitely better today in many ways. We suffer today because we live in a time between times, and not so much because the good old days were wonderful but no more. The good old days were not as good as we want to boast to our young people.
Yes, the flood was terrible. Everybody and everything Noah and his family had known perished. But eventually the rains stopped and land became dry. Standing in the middle of vast devastation, Noah and his family were lost and asked themselves, "What now?" They did not see the immense possibility that lay before them. The whole world was theirs to take, but they did not see it. All they saw was enormous uncertainty. Strange as it may sound, it is possible for us to get used to crisis situations, and to find it difficult to adjust to normal life. It is a common experience of many soldiers who have seen the worst to experience difficulty going back to civilian life of the peaceful society. People who spent many years in ugly conflict situations like in Bosnia, in the Middle East, South Africa, Viet Nam, go through the same difficulty. They have a problem coping with peace. They can see only the vast wilderness of chaos and wrecked humanity, and can not look up to see a beautiful rainbow of hope and possibilities of the future. As soon as Noah harvested the first crop from the vineyard, he drank too much fresh wine from the first harvest and became uncontrollably drunk. He lay naked on the ground and fell asleep. His sons were so ashamed of their father and walked backward towards him trying not to see their father”s nakedness in order to cover him. Noah was a good and righteous man. But he had difficulty coping with a normal life after the experience of terrible calamity and trials.
Of course, it is important to remember both good times and bad from the past, appreciate it and learn from it. But also it is equally important to let go of the past and move forward into the future courageously, hopefully, and joyfully. It is important to stand consciously on the spot where the past and future meet. Neglecting either of those times will cause disasters. When the past is good, one wants to remain in the past, basking in nostalgia, and does not want to look into the future. This situation creates a person who refuses to grow up. On the other hand, when the past is bad, one may want to forget it as fast as possible and run as quickly as one can into the future. Such a person is condemned to repeat the mistakes that caused the disastrous past, because this person has not learned from them.
When Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist, he heard a voice from heaven affirming his status as the son of God and that he was in God”s favour. But Mark says that Jesus immediately went into the desert and was tempted by Satan. In other words, he did not waste time basking in the glow of knowing he had God”s favour. He faced the future immediately, in solitude, and pondered all kinds of options for his ministry. He did not advertise the fact that he had heard a voice from heaven, neither did he dwell in the euphoria of being declared the favourite son of God. This takes discipline. When honours and kudos are lavished, one is tempted to bask in the glow as long as possible and forget that responsibility comes with honour. Jesus did not tell anybody about his extraordinary experience, but started to think things through alone. He was tempted to choose the seductive ways of magic, money and power to further his ministry, as the billionaires and politicians and other powerful people would likely do. But Jesus rejected all those self-serving options.
Instead, Jesus saw the rainbow of the covenant of God. The covenant God offered was a promise of care and love forever. And Jesus fulfilled the promise by living the life dedicated to others. The other end of the bargain for us in this covenant was our pledge to take care of God”s creation by loving our neighbours and taking care of this world. The Annual Congregational Meeting is the time to see the rainbow. This evening, we will gather to celebrate the past year of our community of faith and look forward to the coming year. Let us come together to renew our promise to build and maintain the community of caring and sharing. Let us see a rainbow and celebrate it.