Friday, March 03, 2006

Rainbows in the sky

Genesis 9:8-17

1 Peter 3:18-22

Mark 1:9-15

It is sometimes a hair-raising experience to stop what you are doing
and to listen to what you say in the course of general conversation. I
was extremely surprised and ashamed to find how my conversations with
my son tend to include words of condition. My son, Matthew, would ask
for a sweet and I would respond with the words: “Only if you eat all
your food”. He would ask to jump on his baby trampoline and I would
respond with “Only when you have finished putting away all your other
toys.” Of course Matthew needs to learn that sweets come after a meal
and that personal tidiness is essential in the running of a household,
but as I reflected on these passages I could only but thank God for
not being as conditional is His conversation with me (us) as what I am
when in conversation with others. Let us look at a couple of things
that God says in these passages:

“This is my Beloved Son whom I love, listen to him”

Wouldn’t it be nice to hear these words spoken about you? Perhaps it
needs to be rephrased to mention “Daughters” as well. A word of
affirmation is always welcome. It tells you that there is someone
besides yourself that recognises you as a person. The Zulu greeting
“Sawubona” is exactly that – it means “I see you”. Can God ever say
that about you and me, that we are God’s beloved children? Peter makes
it known that Jesus didn’t live aimlessly, but that through Jesus we
are drawn into this kind of relationship with God. Can you remember
your baptism or confirmation? Can you remember the last time you took
part in a service celebrating the sacrament of Holy Communion? Did you
feel close to God then? These are all wonderful opportunities where
through symbolism we are reminded that even before we can impress God
or people around us, God had already acted displaying God’s love for
us.

“Repent and believe”

There is a great temptation in the Christian life to live under the
banner of either one of these commands. If we live under the shadow of
continuous repentance, we may loose out on the joys of life, which God
blesses us with. Yes, we need to recognize our sin and we need to turn
around from our evil ways, but the statement does not end with
“Repent”. There is the invitation to be convinced of forgiveness and
of healing. “Believe” shares the idea that we can be convinced of a
restored relationship with God. “Believe” without “Repent” is also a
common mistake in Christian walks. This is the place where we are so
convinced that we are right with God, that we do not need to repent
from anything. Get the balance right.

“I have set my rainbow in the clouds”

The Covenant that God shares with Noah and the rest of the survivors
is totally unconditional. It is not dependant upon human initiative,
or even human obedience! So, God does not say to Noah “I promise not
to destroy the earth if….”, but in the Covenant, the foundation is
laid for a free response of faith to this gracious word.

Whether this story happened as told in Genesis is up for debate, but
this picture helps me a lot (taken from The Interpreter’s Bible): The
Hebrew word for bow was always associated with the use of a weapon. It
was understood that lightning is God’s arrows shot from God’s bow.
When God is satisfied with human behaviour, God will lay His bow
aside. It may be interpreted that the rainbow is God’s bow laid aside.
It is a token, a sign of peace. It proclaims the message of God’s
willingness to be in a reconciled relationship with us. God does not
want war, nor does God want to punish or enter into the realm of
revenge. The message, even in this symbolism is clear: God takes the
first steps to love.

So I am challenged again. God loves my and makes that known. God
yearns for my life to be filled with righteousness and therefore I
have to repent. I have the assurance that God hears my prayers and
that God truly forgives and restores. The Covenant is not only in
place, it is functional.

Now I need to get back to my son and hope that I can show the same
amount of grace.</fontfamily>

1 comment:

digitaldion said...

Hi Wes,

Thank you for this wonderful reminder of God's gracious love! It is wonderful to be reminded of that unconditional love.

I was just thinking though, that there is something of a difference between grace and cost. One of the problems with many modern churches is that we cheapen grace. Although God presents God's love to us freely, there is a great cost on the part of the giver. And, of course, when we accept the gift of grace we begin to accept something of the cost ourselves.

It can be likened to your illustration of family life. As I grow in maturity and understanding I realise what will bless those who have selflessly loved me (parents, siblings etc.) In return I seek to find ways of expressing a love that will display the same acceptance, blessing, and love. Often this is costly, as parents become older they become more difficult, as children grow up they become more wilful and independent. So, my gracious love costs me more - however, it should never cost them more.

Perhaps we could learn a few lessons from this in the Church. As we minister to a world that sees the Church increasingly as an archaic, out of touch, corrupt, social institution, we could love them more, even if it costs us more?