As I take my exercise walk around the almost deserted streets of Haddington I cannot help but notice the pictures of rainbows, often drawn by children, and put up in the windows of people’s houses. The sight of them makes me smile. The drawings are cheery and they remind me of the wonders of the world… of its colours, variety and diversity. It also makes me thankful of the blessings I have received and continue to receive every day (as long as I remember to look for them!).
The rainbow plays a crucial part in the story of Noah in the Old Testament. Noah is in the ark because of the continual rains… he has been afloat for days and days and he can’t get out and about… he is stuck, cooped up, just him and his immediate family. He is not sure how long the flood will last or what will happen after it has abated. As the days pass I expect his fear and uncertainty increase.
After 150 days (5 months!) the ark comes to rest on the top of a mountain and the waters begin to recede. Noah has to wait patiently but is eventually able to come out of the ark and release the animals and begin again. His knows that his life will now be different. He realises he will have learned much about himself, his loved ones and his relationship with God. And as Noah gives thanks for his safe arrival on the other side of the crisis, God places a rainbow in the sky: a rainbow as a symbol of covenant and hope. It is a sign that whatever disaster may come… whatever darkness may befall… God is there. God is and always will be faithful.
What a message for us today. We are in the middle of a crisis like no other. Our world has changed so quickly. And we are cooped up, isolated and afraid. We are uncertain and anxious about the future. With the help of the phone and whatever computer skills we have, we continue to connect with each other and build community. It is good – but it is not the same. It cannot completely replace physical interaction and personal relationship.
But the story of Noah and the rainbow tells us that in the midst of all this there is hope. There is hope for a better world because of what has happened. There is hope that we will get through this crisis and will have learned valuable lessons because of it. There is hope because God remains faithful to us and is with us whether we acknowledge God or not. There is hope because even through the darkness of these days, the brightness of goodness and love has continued to shine through. We see this in the dedication of the caring and nursing professions, in the self sacrificial giving of time by so many volunteers; we see it in the increased contact with family and friends, in the smiles of strangers in the queue for the supermarket and in the feeling that we are all in this together.
As the days pass, continue to look at the pictures of rainbows – and perhaps place one in your own window if you wish. And remember God’s promise that God is with us always, and stands beside and with those who suffer. There is hope. Look for the rainbow.
Rev Liz O’Ryan
Rector, Holy Trinity, Haddington
30 March 2020