Here is this week’s reflection from Rev Janet Park. Thank you, Janet.
‘I have set my bow in the clouds
And it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.’
A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon that is caused by reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky: or so says Mr Wikipedia when I last checked. But back in Genesis, a mere eight chapters after God created the world as we know it, the rainbow was a sign confirming God’s promise to each of us; a covenant between God and earth.
Apparently no one person sees exactly the same rainbow as anybody else looking at it. The particular angle of sight is specific to each individual, and as this changes from person to person, so the rainbow alters too. Walking though the local streets, during these past 12 months, numerous rainbows have appeared- created, coloured and cared for by residents, becoming a symbol of hope that the pandemic will end. At the same time, it’s seen as a symbol of public gratitude to those in the NHS who work to care for us and our community when we become sick.
I’ve yet to discover a pot of gold at the end of any rainbow, but then I’ve never managed to reach the end of a rainbow since it’s always moving- transient and transparent. Throughout history, rainbows have held meaning to many groups of people:
of faith & hope during the German Peasants War,
of an ongoing desire for peace in demonstrations against nuclear weapons,
of identity & pride as the LGBT community adopted it as their logo,
of reconciliation and unity in South Africa, during the 1990s.
Yet all these understandings have their origins in the foundations of our Christian faith: the story of Noah’s Ark, remaining & retained amongst the narratives familiar to many in this country, whether or not considering themselves part of a local Christian community. For this we should be thankful.
We can recognise all these facets of meaning, found in a rainbow, as part of the original covenant promise God made with Noah, when his sea-legs steadied and God spoke again. It is a new creation- the story of which begins our journey through Lent this week.
The Gospel passage tells of the baptism of Jesus, his time in the wilderness, the arrest of John the Baptist and the start of Christ’s ministry- all in seven verses! There’s no standing still in Mark’s Gospel- always moving forward, travelling, learning, inspiring & narrating God at work in this world. The baptism of Jesus is confirmed with a sign that makes the whole thing a reality, reaffirming the promise, commitment of God to His people. A rainbow in practice, in action.
Mr Wikipedia tells me that:
Rainbows can be full circles. However, the observer normally sees only an arc formed by illuminated droplets above the ground, and centred on a line from the sun to the observer’s eye. In a primary rainbow, the arc shows red on the outer part and violet on the inner side. This rainbow is caused by light being refracted when entering a droplet of water, then reflected inside on the back of the droplet and refracted again when leaving it. In a double rainbow, a second arc is seen outside the primary arc, and has the order of its colours reversed, with red on the inner side of the arc. This is caused by the light being reflected twice on the inside of the droplet before leaving it.
I seem to recall a certain Prince recently hypothesising that if individuals could conceive of themselves as separate drops of rain, then together we could help the parched earth recover from climate change. Well, I couldn’t possibly comment on this theory, but I would suggest that if we are able to act as droplets of water, with the light of Christ flowing through us- reflected and refracted to others- then the colour, care, creation and covenant from God will remain. Our rainbow of faith will become clear to everyone- not faded in a window display from last Spring, but vibrant and valid as we travel towards Holy Week.
‘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.‘
A Personal Prayer
Rainbow God, creator of the diversity
which enables the world to flourish,
help me to marvel at all you have made, and to treasure it.
Step by step, and day by day,
make your ways shine as a path of hope before us,
lighting up our lives and those of the people around us.
Help us to walk confidently in the warmth of your love.