In the beginning- that's how it goes, right? In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And in the beginning there was nothingness and chaos. Out of nothingness God created. Out of chaos God brought order. From creation God made a covenant with humanity. You shall have dominion and you shall be fruitful and multiply. We lived in this created order for a time, but time is a cruel mistress. The entire creation turned from it's purpose. Herbivores became carnivores. Humanity fought one another. The order began to revert to chaos again.
God couldn't take it. All that hard work and the hard work was destroying itself. That could have been the end of the story. God could have wiped the slate completely clean and started over. Instead, a holy remnant was chosen. One family of every kind. A new beginning for humans and creatures. So it was an ark was built and filled with a family of humans and a male and female of every animal. The rains came and flooded the earth.
When it was all done God was not pleased with the outcome. The earth had been destroyed in the most tragic way possible. The sea was considered the place where chaos lived. Not hard to imagine when you think of those winds and waves during a hurricane. Chaos called to obliterate chaos. If you think about just how angry and hurt God was, you might realize the implication of sending chaos to destroy chaos. It was the divine version of an eye for an eytes. Perhaps Jesus recalled that event as he said, “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well.... You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven.”
God saw all that destruction and made a new covenant. This would be a covenant that would not have any restrictions or rules placed on creation. Instead, God would make a covenant that would limit God's power. The covenant would be the rainbow. God's mighty battle bow placed on the horizon and facing away from the earth. It sits unstrung as a promise. That promise of not destroying the world in a flood and it can be understood in two different ways.
If could be a promise God will never use an eye for an eye ever again. Even though we, the entire creation, want to naturally hurt and anger each other and God, God will be the one to turn the other cheek. The rainbow could be our first salvation covenant. The rainbow could be God's unlimitless grace.
Or... something else. Before the flood God was very hands one: walking alongside humans and heavily regulating life span, knowledge, and overall human progress. As parents, you know there comes a time when you have to deregulate, so to speak, your child. They move out, move on, grow up. Or, maybe they need to grow up so they are pushed out of the nest to learn the lessons they need to learn.
That war bow in the sky could be a statement of letting go. God is not going to Nanny us anymore. We are big kids, if we want to move towards chaos and nothingness, God isn't going to stop us. It could be such a beautiful reminder of how precarious our situation really is.
Just realize in either of these situations God still loves us. Maybe God isn't walking the earth anymore but we still received help. When we strayed God sent prophets. When we needed relationship and salvation there came Jesus. When we needed help acting there was the Holy Spirit. Either way it goes God still love us. But what way does it go? What does the bow mean after the storms of war, hate, ignorance, and greed. When the wounds are still fresh and the bow of light shines up in the sky- is it God telling us “I am not going to hurt you the way you are hurting me, I love you.” Or is it God saying, “I will not step in and stop you from doing this anymore, but I still love you.”
The answer is on the other side of Lent. The answer follows Jesus into the wilderness where he confronts the chaos. Lent is not about getting rid of the chaos that has seeped into the primordial creation. Lent is about dealing with that chaos. It is a journey that doesn't end in the wilderness. There are those that believe Jesus left the chaos of the wilderness to bring the chaos to the order. Chaos to the priests. Chaos to the government. Chaos to the status quo. That would make sense if that glorious bow didn't hang there reminding us. No matter what we think the bow means, it does show us how God seeks order and harmony. God seeks peace. The truth is, Jesus walked out of the chaos of the wilderness into the chaos of life. Lent is about the chaos of the entire journey and we need to walk that entire path from baptism to wilderness, to the cross, to resurrection. Only after we take that journey with Christ will we be able to answer the question about the rainbow.
I believe we will ultimately find out both answers are correct. At some point in the Lenten journey we will have to understand Jesus on the cross. As Jesus suffers can't you hear him whisper, “I am not going to hurt you the way you are hurting me. I am not going to step in and stop you anymore, because I love you.”
Breath that in for a moment. “Because I love you.” Because God loves us we are sent to deal with our chaos. We don't deserve such patience and love. That is made clear when our chaos ends up taking us to the darkest depths of our own being: the cross. Because God loves us we have Jesus to bring back order. Jesus, to reintroduce what a gift creation really is. We have Jesus to remember, in our self inflicted chaos, we were not forgotten. We were not lost. After the storm is over love survives. Somehow or other, loves survives.