Readings and reflection from Sunshine Cathedral in Second Life on Sunday, February 22, 2015 Lent I
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The Call to Worship
Come, all you people, come and worship.
All: God has made a covenant with us.
Come, all creatures of the earth, come and worship.
All: God has made a covenant with all creatures.
Remember the covenant and be thankful.
All: God remembers the covenant and God will save us.
Faithful God, you called all creatures into being, and you care for each one. Send your grace upon your people gathered here, that we may follow your ways of truth, and walk in the paths of steadfast love, proclaiming the good news of the Christ. Amen.
The Wisdom of Aberjhani
“Rainbows introduce us to reflections of different beautiful possibilities so we never forget that pain and grief are not the final options in life.”
An Irish Blessing
“May God give you…For every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile, for every care a promise and a blessing in each trial; for every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share, for every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer.”
The Wisdom of the Torah (Genesis 9.8-10, 12-16)
God said to Noah…”As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you…” 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 clouds, 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 my everlasting covenant with every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
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“Over the Rainbow”
Welcome to the season of Lent. This season of self-reflection and prayer. Lent occurs between Ash Wednesday and Easter. It is the in between time, a time for considering what is really important in our lives, a time for coming to terms with our shortcomings as well as our strengths. In many denominations of Christianity over the millennia it was considered to be a time of fasting and repentance often marked by “giving up” something. This practice was designed to reinforce theologies of unworthiness and sinfulness. I have friends who have given up Facebook, or chocolate, or wheat for Lent. Giving up something that we love was and sometimes still is, considered to be penance for our sins.
These are ideas that I reject. But I consider Lent to be one of the most spiritually rich times in the Christian year. Pope Frances of the Roman Catholic tradition suggested a different look at giving up something. He urged the world’s Catholics to give up indifference to suffering for Lent. If we give up indifference we will, by default, be moved to do something about the suffering that we witness.
My colleague Rev Dr Kharma Amos suggested that we consider “giving up” certainty, Inflexibility, stagnation, resistance to change, outworn habits and coping mechanisms that have outlived their usefulness. Another colleague Rev DeWayne Davis related how his congregation covenanted together last year to “give up” negativity, gossip, and apathy.
Many of my friends have related their positive experiences taking on a spiritual practice rather than giving something up. Taking time for prayer and meditation each day, committing to acts of service and generosity, study of the scriptures, reading other spiritually uplifting material in this in between time, this 40 days of preparing for the dawn of Easter Sunday after the terrible loneliness and grief of Good Friday.
But our readings today, all three of them, talk about rainbows. What in the world do rainbows have to do with Lent? Well rainbows are good symbols for this “in between” time. Rainbows can only occur when the sun shines through rain often splashed against dark storm clouds that have just past, just before the sun comes out again. Rainbows hold the place between the storm and the sunlight.
The rainbow connects us to the covenant God made with all of creation in the story of the flood. God set the bow in the heavens not only to remind us but to remind God that we are bound together in this covenant, forever connected.
The rainbow flag has long been a symbol of connection between LGBT people and allies in the between times when none of us had equal protections and rights under the law. We are reminded that many of us are still in the between times living in places where LGBT people are not allowed to legally marry and are regularly fired from jobs, denied housing, and other things that heterosexual people take for granted. It is a symbol of hope and possibility that reminds us in dark days that we are not alone, that there are others like us and allies who are willing to give up their own heterosexual privilege to stand in solidarity with us.
This is a mirror of the loyalty God shows to us in the covenant symbolized by the rainbow.God’s promise in the rainbow is that we are never again going to be the brunt of God’s anger. The focus in this reading is not on punishment or self-denial. Rather the story in Genesis is the story of starting over, beginning again, and recognizing our connection to each other and to God.
The metaphor of weathering the storm is important for oppressed people. And the image of the rainbow is the beautiful assurance of life even while the storm continues, even while the rain still falls. It is the ultimate image of hope.
So this year let us drink deeply from the well of God’s covenant with us. Let us stop and look at the beauty of the assurance of companionship and the promise never to leave us alone. Let’s just take time to revel in the beauty of the rainbow and relax into the oneness of the whole of creation. Let’s find a way to honor the covenant God made with us by extending that love to those around us.
These forty days can change the world and that happens one person at a time, one day at a time. As we journey together through this season of Lent my sincere with for all of us is the blessing of a holy Lent. Amen