1st Sunday of Lent Reflection by Lisa Friedlander
A few weeks ago as I pulled out the readings for today in order to begin thinking about this reflection, my mind was not on Lent but on my newly determined New Year’s resolution. As I reflected on 2017 and what I wanted to change going forward, I realized that I spent too much of 2017 angry or appalled by other people’s words and actions. It kept me up at night; it consumed entire conversations with friends and family members and left me angry more often than happy. What a depressing way to live! I was determined to change that for 2018. Since I cannot change other people’s words and actions, I decided to change my response to them. I am changing what I can change and not lingering on what I cannot. I am also trying to follow the advice I give my kids, “You never know what is going on in someone else’s life so don’t judge. Be kind.” I am reminding myself that those actions or decisions I think are thoughtless or ridiculous or just plain wrong could very possibly be the response to something I know nothing about. My mantra this year is “sunshine and rainbows” and I am going to say that over and over in my head when I get angry about something I cannot control. It reminds me not to wallow in the anger! Focus on the positive, on the good.
With this New Year’s resolution fresh in my mind, I read the first reading for today and there was the rainbow! “I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.” The entire flood narrative is the culmination of a story of increasing human sinfulness that begins earlier in Genesis. God used the rainbow as the sign of the newly restored relationship between God and God’s creatures. Amazingly, this is entirely God’s doing. God enters into an eternal covenant with all creation without requiring anything in return. What a perfect reminder to me that I can be positive without requiring anything in return!
In Hebrew, this word for rainbow is also used for a weapon, like a crossbow that often deities would use. With this lethal weapon, the deity eliminated his foes. This is not the first rainbow to appear, God is just using it in a different way to mark this covenant. The rainbow reminds the Israelites that God has hung up his bow. The symbol of combat and hostility is now a picture of grace and peace.
What do you think of when you see a rainbow? Do you see a multicolored arc caused by the refraction of sunlight through droplets of water? Or do you see a wonder of nature that causes you to stop and stare in awe? Something as remarkable as a rainbow can never be reduced to a scientific explanation. It is no wonder that the writer of Genesis used it as a symbol of God’s covenant promise. When God and the Israelites saw the rainbow in the clouds, they recall their covenant together. When I see a rainbow, I will remember to focus on the good! What will the rainbow mean to you?