Rainbow Remembrance

    Feb 26, 2015

    Preacher: William (Tex) Culton

    Detail:

    I Believe in God because of rainbows…..

    Genesis 9: 8-17; Psalm 25: 1-10; 1 Peter3: 18-22; Mark 1: 9-15

    A father of a little leaguer arrived late to a game and asked a player on his son’s team the score. “We’re behind 14 to nothing,” he answered with a smile. “Really,” the father responded. “I have to say you don’t look very discouraged.” “Discouraged?” the boy asked with a puzzled look on his face. “Why should we be discouraged? We haven’t been up to bat yet.”

    It reminds me of that Monty Python Ditty, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” But more than that, this Lenten season when we focus so much on the temptations that lead us away from worship and being the Men and Women god created us to be, I think of how tempting it would be to just give up and accept that you are a loser!

    The most difficult time of my life in Seminary was the year I worked in Newark trying to minister to the kids in the Baxter Terrace area. I was deeply affected by the poverty, the absence of fathers, the presence of drugs, the loss of childhood for most of young people with whom I dealt and the way they treated one another. I became depressed and disconnected with my faith in God. It was 14 to nothing and I was never going to get up to bat!

    Have you ever been facing a seemingly impossible situation feeling discouragement coming on? Or have you ever been in the midst of a struggle and suddenly saw the enormity and complexity of it all and felt the fight go out of you? Have you ever come through a really tough time successfully, but after the last hurrah, wondered if you could survive another such experience?

    Here’s Noah before during and after the flood. Here’s Jesus before during and after his wilderness experience!

    In these two stories we have God reassuring Noah and Jesus that God would remember what they had been through and how they had done so well. Each understanding their reason for living, having faith and courage, and resisting temptation. God put a bow in the clouds for Noah and for all of us and to remind Him that he would never again allow such a flood to occur. God sent angels to wait on Jesus after the temptations.

    God is telling us that He will never forget us, who or why we are, and will provide for us before, during, and after the most trying of times.

    Preparation for the future

    Weathering the storm/temptation

    Moving beyond the fear

    One wonders, since it doesn’t say, what Noah was doing when he heard the voice of God tell him to build an ark. I guess it doesn’t matter. What matters is Noah recognized the voice as that of God and obeyed. He built an ark and saved his family and every animal. As Jesus is responsible for the salvation of our souls, Noah was responsible for the continuation (salvation) of life on earth. Jesus had God’s affirmation when he came up out of the Jordan at his baptism (the same as we do when we are baptized) and was driven by the spirit into the wilderness…Like God closing the door of the ark before the flood.

    Do you know that God will prepare you for every test that life can present to you? But we have to be aware that tests are coming and we can either prepare for them spiritually or see them as physical tests or intellectual problems or financial challenges. And they are that, but they are also spiritual challenges. Because with each test comes the opportunity to define ourselves as the children of God in Jesus Christ. There is a spiritual preparation that we must have and in today’s world it is accomplished in worship, Bible study, fellowship and prayer and meditation.

    So many people fold when they face difficulties in their lives. (My daughter was filming a movie on Staten Island on 9/11. The star of the film ran away and couldn’t be located for days. The film was cancelled! Fear is a powerful feeling and it ruled this young actress.) I believe if you know in your heart that you are of ultimate worth to God (this was proven by God sending Jesus to die for YOU so that you would be assured of God’s love for you), you will be able to accept your fear and not let it dictate your behavior. You will be able to function in the face of adversity!

    I cannot overemphasize the importance of worship in your preparation to weather the storms of life. We are some of the most blessed people in the world here in Madison. But death and disease do not respect wealth. Addiction has no educational boundaries nor does it respect age or social position. We can afford the best medical attention and the finest intellectual advice but we can depend on our financial advisors, wellness coaches, or doctors to provide the inner strength to see us through to the end.

    Worship…the act of coming together with others to praise God and listen to God and seek forgiveness and understanding of the truth.

    Worship…the act of subjecting yourself to a power greater than yourself and seeking guidance and advice.

    Worship…the act of renewing your relationship with God and deepening your knowledge of yourself.

    Worship…the opportunity to empty yourself of the cares of the world and be filled with the spirit of God which brings with it wisdom, patience, courage, joy, vision and acceptance.

    Worship…the opportunity to share prayer, opinion, concern, love and praise, with others.

    Worship…the opportunity for your family to be together sharing a common understanding of your faith

    Moving beyond the fear:

    Can you imagine coming off the ark to a world that had been under water for over half a year? Try thinking of your first day at a new job. Your walk up the aisle to get married? My first Sunday at The Presbyterian Church of Madison. How to move beyond the fear and carry on with the life as God would have me?

    What assurance do we have that something bad might not occur? Noah had been through a great flood and survived because he had heeded God’s warnings and been prepared, but was there any assurance that he would not have to face another flood?

    We prepare for life, school, marriage, work, but not without a certain amount of anxiety and failures (some of us flunk out and have to start again. Some of us are let go from former employment. Some of us have been previously married….in other words, we are human and subject to mistakes and failures as well as great and wonderful achievements.

    God set a bow in the clouds and promised, made a covenant with “all flesh,” that never again would there be a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow was so that God would remember! It would remind our creator of his everlasting covenant.

    It allowed Noah and his family to move beyond the fear and be fruitful and multiply!

    Jesus had the story of the rainbow and the intimate knowledge of God’s love for him and all humankind and an understanding of GRACE with which the world was familiar but failed to understand. The rainbow was not dependent on humans not sinning. God knew that we would sin, but something about the horror of the flood moved God to reveal an everlasting love for all of creation. I cannot anthropomorphize God any more than has already been done. I can only say that the God I worship has a heart that changes, and with each change there is a new revelation that takes generations to understand and accept. This God who could destroy all flesh seems to reverse his decision. Noah would plant a vineyard, make wine and immediately get drunk and when he was discovered by his son Ham, would curse him! We waste little time getting back to our Adam and Eve basics. God made the covenant for himself and we are the recipients of his grace.

    God’s grace is greater than our sin. God’s love is stronger than our hate. God’s goodness is greater than our evil. God’s life in us is stronger than sin’s death in us. God’s rainbow was and is a sign of God’s love. The cross of Jesus Christ was and is a sign of God’s love. Both denote destruction with salvation following. Both remind God of his covenant with all flesh and his promise to bring heaven to earth!

    This was the message Jesus declared after his wilderness experience and after John was arrested. Moving beyond the fear of rejection, arrest Jesus declared, “The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

    I believe in God because of rainbows, and I believe in God because of Jesus Christ, and I believe in facing life without fear because I am created in God’s image and have allowed Jesus to enter my heart so that I have the heart of God in me and the everlasting covenant and live in God’s kingdom that has come to earth.