Today's lectionary reading: Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-2; Mark 1:9-15
Selected passage for reflection: Genesis 9:8-17 (CEB)
8 God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “I am now setting up my covenant with you, with your descendants, 10 and with every living being with you—with the birds, with the large animals, and with all the animals of the earth, leaving the ark with you. 11 I will set up my covenant with you so that never again will all life be cut off by floodwaters. There will never again be a flood to destroy the earth.”
12 God said, “This is the symbol of the covenant that I am drawing up between me and you and every living thing with you, on behalf of every future generation. 13 I have placed my bow in the clouds; it will be the symbol of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember the covenant between me and you and every living being among all the creatures. Floodwaters will never again destroy all creatures. 16 The bow will be in the clouds, and upon seeing it I will remember the enduring covenant between God and every living being of all the earth’s creatures.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the symbol of the covenant that I have set up between me and all creatures on earth.”
I love rainbows. I have always loved them and I am privileged enough to live in the high desert, where double rainbows are not rare. I remember teaching children about the ark and the animals and Noah and the rainbow. But this story is anything but cute. There is mass destruction of all life inflicted by God. When I read the story and learned the gravity of this event, I had a hard time reconciling it with my faith in “God is love.” How could God be so mean? It would have been easy to say: “let’s ditch this mean, angry Old Testament God and choose happy Jesus.” But that is the easy way out and it won’t take us far or deep (also, Jesus was not a happy camper all the time). If we want to go far and deep, we need to wrestle with God, the way Jacob wrestled with God.
Maybe love is not an eternal hug and never hurting each other (which is fairly impossible, in my view). Maybe love is exactly what happens in this passage: God hurts life on Earth, repents, hangs God’s bow, and changes. This particular translation uses the word bow instead of rainbow, which is closer to the Hebrew term qeshet. God hanging the bow means God choosing to drop God’s weapons, making Godself vulnerable.
God is showing true repentance. Interestingly, God doesn’t ask for forgiveness but offers a complete change of paths, which is exactly what repentance is. God is showing us how complex love is. It doesn’t mean we are not going to hurt each other; it means we will acknowledge what we have done, drop our weapons (become vulnerable), and change our ways. That is what Lent is all about. And in this time in history, we need this kind of Lent more than ever.
I invite you to reflect on these questions as an individual and as a society. Take a deep breath after reading each question, write down your answers, pray about them. Act on them.
What are some hurts you have inflicted and need to acknowledge? What does it mean to hang our bows? What concrete actions are we taking to show our repentance?
Fountain of compassion, we come before you with our hopes and fears, with all the things we have done and all the things we have left undone. We know we have hurt your creation and one another. And we know that you know. And we ask that you lead us to true love, a love that acknowledges past and present hurts, a love humble enough to change our ways, a love like your love. In your precious name, Holy Love, we pray. Amen.
About the Author
Claudia Aguilar Rubalcava is pastor at First Mennonite Church of Denver, Colorado. Being bilingual, bicultural, and binational is part of her call to build bridges among different groups of people. She is a certified yoga instructor and loves music, dogs, cooking, and baking. She is interested in ecumenical and interfaith efforts to bring justice and peace to every being. When not working, she is spending time in her garden with her husband Doug and their dog Bruno. You may follow her on Instagram at clau.aguilar.rubalcava or read her rare blog posts at https://theawkwardswan.blog/