(This article originally appeared at Independent Catholic News and is cross-posted here with permission from ICN.)
First Sunday of Lent year B – 22 February 2015
When I was a child (as St Paul would say!) I never lost a sense of wonder and excitement of seeing a rainbow and trying hard to find where it touched the ground! I never did manage to be in that magical place which I imagined would be filled with all those colours. I never thought much of the crock of gold story; I just wanted to find the end of a rainbow. Later on, of course, as I did my theology in the story of God’s covenant with Noah, the sign of the bow took on a different meaning, but I’m afraid I didn’t really think much about it until much later on. At a time when I began to really question what God’s promises really were all about.
I’ve found that questioning has been part of my faith journey as I’m sure it has yours, but I was never quite happy with the biblical images of a God who seemed very capricious in dealing with us earthlings. Yet as I’ve grown older the presence of the Spirit in those biblical texts has hinted at much deeper mysteries. I have learnt to be quiet, and hear the Word of God speaking to me within: yes that’s my monastic training bearing fruit, lectio divina, but it works! So Noah?
What a story and not a very pleasant one either: yet if we sail in the ark of our faith, especially in the storms and floods of life, straining to see land, wanting stability, help, looking for an anchor in our own lives, then suddenly the dove, the Holy Spirit comes to us with a promise of peace. That’s the moment when we realize God is not absent from life, nor is a magician weaving spells to turn everything into order, but keeps promise to stay with us on that boat of life!
God’s mercy, like the rainbow, colours and covers our human landscape after those fierce storms. As with Noah, God keeps promises, covenants with us, even if like Noah, we fail through sin.
The letter of Peter gently reminds us that in the resurrection of Christ this promise is ratified and sealed. Mark points out through Jesus that our part of the covenant is to repent and believe in the Good News. So, if this Lent you see a rainbow, remember that God keeps his promises!
The Revd Canon Dr. Robin Gibbons is Fellow, Alexander Schmemann Professor of Eastern Christianity, and Dean of Studies of Foundation House/Oxford with the Graduate Theological Foundation. He is Director of Studies for Theology and Religion in the Oxford Department for Continuing Education and Pastoral Director of the Oxford Theology Summer School. Read more about Canon Gibbons on his GTF faculty profile.