“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.” (Genesis 9:16)
The rains came. The waters rose. The ark floated. The sun appeared. The dove flew. The ark landed. Noah worshiped.
The rainbow appeared.
The story of Noah’s Ark is well known and familiar to us. I imagine the flood as a massive time-out for humanity. God the Parent had had enough. As an educator, whenever time-out is used, the general rule of thumb has always been one minute for each year of life. So a three-year-old, for example, would sit in time-out for three minutes.
It shouldn’t take us long to think of reasons why humanity needs a time-out today.
Extreme religious groups.
Voting rights being ignored.
Mentally ill being imprisoned instead of being treated.
Lack of respect for other religions, genders, or orientations.
It seems that the general rule of thumb is to extend love and grace to those who think like us, look like us, and believe like us. When a parent puts a child in time-out, the parent hurts for the child. Perhaps this is the third or fourteenth time that you have explained to him why hitting his sister is not okay. Or maybe she took a toy from a younger sibling . . . . . again.
The parent grieves for his or her children in these moments.
In the Noah narrative, God grieves for humanity. As Walter Brueggemann has pointed out:
“The story is not about the world assaulted and a God who stands remote. It is about the hurt God endures because of and for the sake of his wayward creation.”
So, God places a rainbow in the sky as a reminder to God that humanity’s time-out would never again be so massive. The rainbow is a sign pointing to the covenant, one of many, between God and humanity. It is a sign of grace and new beginnings.
Life begins again after a time-out.
Lent begs us in our time of reflection and fasting to go in time-out. We need to think about the things we have done. How we have not loved as we should. We need to consider how we have not extended grace as we should. Or how we have remained silent while injustice rolls around us.
And when we come out of our time-out, there is new life and new beginnings where we can love more and extend grace to all.
Lord, guide us to our time-out so that we may see the rainbows you place among us. May these signs be a reminder of the promises you made to us. Amen.