And God 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: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I 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. 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.” Genesis 9:12-16
The photo at the head of this post was taken at Kibuye, Burundi, East Africa, April 26. The photo at the foot of this post was taken in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, USA, April 27. A (double) rainbow over the mission and medical compound that is Hope Kibuye. Twenty four hours later a rainbow arced over LPC on a cloudy spring evening.
We love rainbows.
Rainbows are a gift from God, their presence in our skies a reminder of the promises of our God. God’s promise to Noah and to all generations, including ours, is a promise not to destroy, in fact, a promise to redeem and restore. Rainbows are meant to point to Jesus, in whom all the promises of God find their yes (2 Corinthians 1:20). They are meant to point to the cross without which there is no resurrection. They are meant to point to a new heaven and a new earth, to that day when God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore.” Rainbows are meant to point to a day when the former things shall be no more (Revelation 21:1-4).
The photo of the rainbow over Kibuye in Burundi was shared with us by mission partner Jess Cropsey. Writing about the Kibuye team’s preparations for the unwelcome possibility that covid-19 might find its way to their remote village, Jess tells us team members have used imagination and innovation to provide what cannot be provided in the ways we provide for ourselves even during pandemic. She reminds us that they – and we – have more than intelligence and innovation on their side: “Most importantly, we have a God who is walking with us every step of the way. We don’t need to rely on our own intelligence, capabilities, energy, or ingenuity. He will give us what we need when we need it.” And then she added along with the photo, “And we’re thankful for the reminders that He gives of His presence, like this beautiful double rainbow on Sunday.”
Jess’ words about the Kibuye team apply to us, as well. Illness, even death. Job loss and anxiety. This season of pandemic is not to be taken lightly. But nor is it be taken alone. We, too, need reminders of his presence.
Rainbows are meant to be reminders of the presence of our promise-keeping God in our not-yet fully redeemed world. They remind us that we are not alone. They are a symbol of God’s strong presence in times of weakness.
The rainbow God promised to Noah and to us is not the rainbow of flimsy wishes and false hopes for which we too often long.
Who doesn’t love the song sung by Judy Garland, the young Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz?
Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true
Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me
But the rainbow over Kibuye two Sundays ago and then over LPC a spring evening later was not a sign of a land heard of once in a lullaby, a place where troubles melt like lemon drops. It was a sign of our promise keeping God’s presence even in a time such as this. We don’t need to wish upon a star. We’ve been given the joy of trusting the God we meet face to face in Jesus Christ.