Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

I spoke Sunday at Waverly United Methodist.  I love speaking and I love speaking there because that was Frank's first charge.  My lesson was called "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and I started out by singing the Judy Garland song acapella.  I love singing that reminds me of my mom.  My scripture text came from 1 Peter 3:18-22 and my speech went something like this:  "I remember a summer day that began bright and sunny, but muggy and uncomfortable. The weatherman predicted storms, but when one looked outside, it was hard to believe it would happen. But that was the way weather was in South Florida…..glorious one minute and storming the next.  By 3o’clock in the afternoon things had changed drastically. The air was so humid you felt you would drown just walking through it. The sky in the West was turning ugly. Huge dark clouds were rolling in and soon the sun was totally obliterated. It was almost as dark as night, but it was late afternoon. Suddenly the clouds burst and huge drops of rain began to fall. Lightening flashed through the heavens and the house seemed to vibrate with each crash of thunder. The rain was so heavy you couldn’t see the house across the road. Rivers of water ran down our driveway into the street causing the storm drains to back up. There was a loud crack and our power went off. Oh well, no more electricity for awhile. We sat in darkness waiting for the storm to pass over. Little by little the rain began to let up, the clouds lightened and the sun came out, it’s rays glistening in the light rain that still fell. “Look! Over the house across the street. Do you see it?” Sure enough, there it was…a rainbow. We went outside, standing in the drizzle to see it better. As we watched the colors became brighter and brighter. It was beautiful. Then just as we thought it couldn’t get any better, a second rainbow appeared over the first gradually darkening in color like the first. I remember a sense of well being flooding over me. Everything was going to be alright now. We had God’s promise and it was good.  I am sure each of them probably had a similar story somewhere in their memories....just as I am sure each of you does. To this day I look for a rainbow whenever it is raining and the sun is shining. There is a sense of comfort just in seeing it. I get so excited when there it is, that beautiful arch across the sky. It seems to have no beginning, no end. It just is. I know for a fact that if you try to go find the end of the rainbow, no matter how far you travel, you will have to keep going. The end will never appear.  The rainbow for me will forever be a sign of hope. We see them everywhere and always in conjunction with a promise. That’s what the rainbow is, a promise, a reminder between God and man forever!  You know, if anyone needed a promise or two, it was Noah! Can you imagine being told by God to build an ark, gather your family and two of every kind of living creature, get in and close the doors and wait. Then it starts to rain and it keeps it up for 40 days and 40 nights. That would be like if it started to rain on March 5th and didn’t stop until April 15. You think tax day is bad!! That’s a long time to never see the sun shine. But that’s exactly what Noah endured. He obeyed God’s commands. He built the ark(even when everyone thought he had lost his mind), he gathered his family and all the creatures and he floated around aimlessly over the waters as they rose high above the earth. You have to wonder if he ever gave it a thought that he might die on this boat.  Can't you just hear him?  God is a god of promises. We know that because we have the Bible to tell us. Noah learned that by living it. That rain did stop and the sun did reappear and the water subsided so that eventually the doors of the ark could be opened and Noah, his family, and all the creatures could step out on solid ground. If that were the end of the story, man would forever live in fear that God would do this again to get rid of all the evil in the world. Considering the state our world is in today, this would be a good time for a flood don’t you think? But that’s not what will happen. I am not a predictor of the future. I am a reader of the Word of God and in it I find this promise: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you – the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you – every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth. This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come; I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” How many more ways does God have to say it? That rainbow in the sky that we see today is a sign of God’s promise to us never to destroy all of life again. BUT, there is more. There is yet another reason why the rainbow is a sign of God’s grace to us.  Look at I Peter 3:18-22. Peter sums it all up rather nicely as he talks about Noah and his family being SAVED from a sure death. You and I too have been SAVED from a sure death in this way: Christ died for our sins. He did it once and he did it for ALL mankind. That’s each of us there today. Christ is the perfect one, the perfect sacrifice. Only an exchange of the righteous for the unrighteous would suffice. So Jesus did what he had to do. He went to the cross in his perfection to pay for us in our imperfection. Peter explains it further this way:   “[…in the days of Noah], only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” 
That rainbow in the sky is more than a promise that God will never send a flood again. More importantly, it is the reminder of our baptism through water, our salvation in Jesus Christ, AND our promise of eternal life.  Oh, and one more thing about a rainbow! Have you ever seen one on a bright sunny day picture perfect day? No? You haven’t and you won’t either. Do you know why? It’s because a rainbow appears in the sky at the end of a storm. It’s after the thunder and the lightening are all over and the rain is beginning to subside and the sun comes out. That’s when you see a rainbow. You have to weather the storm first. It’s not much different in our walk with Christ. We see the greatest riches of our God after we have weathered the storms of life. When things are going good and life is easy, the rainbows just don’t appear. BUT, when we go through difficult times, when our faith is tested and we keep our trust in God, that’s when we really see the full effect of his grace, mercy, and love. That’s when we see and experience the riches of living a life founded in him. That’s when we see our rainbow.What’s at the end of the rainbow? When I was a child I always believed that there was a real black pot with gold coins in it…..and that there was always a leprechaun looking for this pot of gold….and you may laugh…..but at the end of the rainbow there really is a pot of gold.  Not the black cauldron I imagined as a child…but yes, it exists all the same and is symbolized in the riches we have in Jesus Christ! The only flood you and I will ever see is the flood of God’s grace and the riches of his kingdom bestowed upon us forever! You may never look at a rainbow in quite the same way again! I know I didn’t.


Mid-Atlantic Martha said...

What a lovely sermon. I'm sure that your congregation loves your lessons. Thanks for your visit!

Debby@Just Breathe said...

I love rainbows, always have. I also think of my mother, her name was Dorothy and we played that song at her memorial service almost 30 years ago.