By The Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
June 1, 2008
Read: Genesis 6:9-22;7:24;8:14-19, Matthew 7:21-29
Noah and his family stepped out from the ark into the first sunshine they had seen in [many, many] days and stood upon land. When they saw the clean new Earth, Noah and his family wept for joy. God wept with them. God spoke to Noah and his family, saying: “I am your God who brought you forth into this new land. Look around you and see the cleansed Earth. Listen and hear the sounds of animals and see the wind moving through the trees. The world is once again new. I know the world cannot always be this way: it does not seem to be human nature to always be good. But you and the generations to come after you can try.” Noah was willing to do whatever God asked of him.
God continued, “I will make a covenant with you., the first of the world’s new people. I will give you a sign that I am with you, one that will remind you that the world was created in peace and then re-created in peace, to remain so for all time. The sign will be a bow, that fills the heavens, an arc of light. But this will be a new light, one that shines through the waters of a flood or a rain of tears. This light will show all the colors of beauty that can fill your lives as you live in peace.”
Then God bent toward the Earth with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and made an arc across the sky. And just where the hand of God had been, there was a sheltering band of every color spread out across the clear blue sky.
First, red for the blood that gives people life.
Then orange, for the flames of warmth that bring comfort, and for the fire of the soul.
Yellow, for the sun which helps all things grow, in the full light of day.
Green, for grass and trees, and the plant’s new life.
Blue, for the sky and the sea, connecting heaven and earth.
Indigo, for the dawn and the dusk, at the beginning of the day and of the night.
And violet, for the deep night, when the world rests and renews itself.
Noah and his family gazed at the beautiful arc of light, watching the rainbow flow from one end to the other. They saw it touching near and far, bridging sky and ground.
And then Japheth, Noah’s youngest son, asked his father, “We came full circle in our journey on the ark, from dry land to water and once again to dry land. Why doesn’t the rainbow come full circle?”
Noah puzzled over his son’s question. He looked up to study the arc of colors in the sky. Then he answered: “Perhaps the rainbow is a sign. Not all things are yet full circles. God has begun the work by making the arc in the heavens. Making the arc come full circle here on earth will be our work.” And so it remains. (A midrash by Cherie Karo Schwartz, from Reading Between the Lines: New Stories from the Bible, edited by David Katz and Peter Lovenheim).
So, how do we make the arc come full circle here on earth? How do we fulfill our covenant? How do we fulfill our purpose in life? What is our purpose in life? Who am I?
There is a pivotal scene in the film Lawrence of Arabia that occurs when Lawrence crawls out of the desert (the one they said could not be crossed). Standing along the Suez Canal, he is spotted by a lone motorcyclist who, seeing this figure encrusted in sand, calls out, “Who are you?” This is, of course, the question: Who is Lawrence of Arabia?
His story is one of many examples that demonstrates our fascination with this question “Who are you?” The lives of the rich and famous, fictional characters such as Harry Potter, and even our own selves all fall under its scrutiny. It is, in many respects, the question that the Gospel story for the day poses to us as well.
It is Jesus’ words, interpreting the word of God as expressed in Torah (the first five books of Hebrew scripture, the Old Testament), that form the foundation on which the house is to be built. To say, perhaps the obvious, the foundation is not us. But, in a culture that prizes self-sufficiency, this is counterintuitive. In our world, it all depends on us; in the realm of God, it depends on the word of God that called us into being.
This brings us back to the question: “Who are you?” How we answer this question will also answer another important question: What is it that sustains us, that anchors us in a storm? And will we simply rest on this foundation, or, living out the word of God in action, will we build a life that does not crumble, but, like a house, is able to offer shelter and hospitality to others? Will we help bring the arc full circle here on earth?
There’s a HUGE difference between being religious and being spiritual in how we go about building our lives. Knowing all the right buzz words and catch phrases does not a faithful follower make. Jesus describes the religious drum-beaters as saying, “Lord, Lord, don’t we prophecy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Don’t we do all the right things, say all the right words, Lord? Jesus’ response is startling: “Yuck! You do all that really cool stuff, but there’s only one thing missing… love. You use your religion to build up your own egos and conveniently label others as sinful and unworthy, all the while thinking that you are doing your Heavenly Father’s will and doing me a favor. But I’m not interested in your pious activities. They reek of hypocrisy. I’m not impressed. Go away.”
Wow. I guess Jesus is telling us it all starts with what’s under the surface. If our belief system is not fundamentally grounded in love, even the most elaborate, ornate religious house won’t withstand the storm.
The trouble with foundations is that nobody sees them. Trouble with roots is that nobody sees them. And in our “show time” society most people are not interested in foundations and roots. Most people want the skin deep, the show me foundationless.
Randy Quinn tells a story about someone who wanted to start his own house-moving business, but Mark’s business didn’t survive an early mishap.
It was his very first house and so he very carefully measured the house and poured a new foundation to match. He was careful to make the new foundation walls as thick as the old ones were. And he made sure they were level and smooth.
Then he jacked up the old house little by little before putting it on wheels and rolling it down the street to its new location. But as he lowered it onto the new foundation, one of the walls of the house fell and the house collapsed.
Mark learned a hard lesson that day. The old foundation was crooked and the house was suited for the old foundation, not for the new one.
Many people will acknowledge that the life of a Christian is to be built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. But not everyone remembers that the house needs to match the foundation, too.
Jesus Christ is our solid foundation. Deepening our relationship with Christ is bringing the arc full circle. Amen
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