Scripture Text: Genesis 9:12-17
12God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When 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.” 17God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
This is actually the tale-end of the story of Noah and the famous ark filled to the brim with the remnants of Creation. And here…after all this time of pounding rains, all this time cooped up with animals of all kinds, all this time rocking and swaying with the boat…here, God speaks. The familiar bow of color is set in the clouds as a sign of the promise that God has made. We usually take it as a sign that God will take care of us, that God will right the wrongs of the world and order them yet again, that God will somehow assuage our pain and grief and put things back the way they were. Really? THAT’S not what that says.
Now we can either look at this story as a sort of children’s story, complete with rainbows and pairs of elephants and zebras and orangutans or we can look at this story as one depicting a deity who was so angered by the rebellion of the Creation that God wiped it off the face of the earth. Truthfully, neither one works. Indeed, this is a story about rebellion and human sinfulness. (And to be honest, what story is NOT?) But the whole point is that no matter how far the human creation wandered from the Creator, there was a calling back, a return, an offering of love and forgiveness and a chance to begin again. Now, that’s hard for us to fathom too, possibly because we are not good at offering each other “do-overs”. We are not good at understanding a God who would dispense with all means of justified destruction and just offer Presence and Grace and a future filled with hope. It is hard for us to imagine that no matter what we do, no matter what we screw up or blow up or make up, God is offering a chance to return, a chance to be recreated into something that only God can imagine.
You see, the Celtic tradition would look upon the rainbow not as a promise that God would “fix” the world or “fix” us, but as a threshold, a point between what is and what will be. So, the promise is not that God will fix everything, but that, always, there is a chance to begin again. We always and forever, no matter what we’ve done or thought or how many times we’ve flaked out in life, have the chance to return to the beginning. God does not wipe what has happened. God does not forget what we have done. Rather God, knowing and remembering full well what the creatures have done in Creation, STILL God offers a threshold through which we can return to Grace–if we will only step through.
The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us…There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too. (Frederick Buechner)
FOR TODAY: What does it mean to return to grace? What does it mean not to forget what has happened, not to forget what you have done, but to allow yourself to step through the threshold that God has opened wide, to allow yourself to begin again?
Grace and Peace,
2 thoughts on “Return to Grace”
I am happy to be traveling the road to Jerusalem with you again, following the man on donkey.
This is one way to look on death also, not as the end, But the beginning of a new existence unbound by our mortal conception.