Covenants and Rainbows

Reading: Genesis 9:8-15

In Ignatian circles you’ll often hear someone say that, sure, it’s easy to find God in a sunset or from a mountaintop or in a beautiful vista, but we must find God in the small everyday things! Yet in this Sunday’s first reading from Genesis we have a marvellous natural sign of God: a rainbow.

“I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” (Genesis 9:13)

The rainbow is a reminder of God’s promise that he will never destroy the earth with a flood again. In the story of Noah we find a world of people who have forgotten about their Creator, choosing to live selfishly and without regard for one another or God. The flood waters cleanse and purify the earth. Those who choose to board God’s rescue ark are saved. And so the waters we see in the creation story are returned in a sort of second-chance creation, a re-creation and new chance for the world.

But God’s covenant was more than just a promise never to flood the earth. The rainbow also symbolises God’s goodness in allowing those who trust in him to be saved. It gives us hope. This covenant with humankind allowed us to sail into a new world where we could start over and rebuild our hearts. “This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come,” said God. We are asked to look at that rainbow and allow it to remind us of all the cleansing floods in our lives that God brought us through. Floods literally sweep us off our feet. They can plunge us into fear, uneasiness, and disquiet. We may struggle to stay afloat, but with still patience God gives us his boat that we can choose to board, safely and securely. When the waters recede we find a new chance for our lives and our hearts.

Every moment of struggle in our lives is passing. That means that each time God is there to rescue us with his goodness. And he promises to do this always; it’s his covenant with us. The best part of the Noah story is this: God not only made the covenant with Noah and his descendants, but even with the animals!

“See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you.” (Genesis 9:9-10)

Are we not worthy of God’s promises? Of course we are. One wonders if Jesus had the Noah story in mind when he said, “Look at the birds: they do not plant seeds, gather a harvest and put it in barns; yet your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren’t you worth much more than birds?” (Matthew 6:26) If God cares for the small creatures, God no doubt cares to make a covenant with us. The rainbow is a beautiful sign of that. What are your rainbows? What are the signs of God’s covenant in your life?

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