Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sermon: Whenever You See A Rainbow

Today, we’re gathered to celebrate the first 25 years of the Rainbow Pre-School, as we look back and see God’s faithfulness over these years. Who would have thought back in 1984 that we would be here now, rejoicing and giving thanks to God for the leaders and children who have been a part of the Rainbow.

I want to ask you a question. Whenever you see a rainbow, what do you think of? When I was asked to preach, I wasn’t sure what I was going to talk about, but I was drawn to the first mention of a rainbow in the Bible. We find it in Genesis 9, which was read for us earlier. As we look at the rainbow here, we’ll see a sign of grace, a reminder of a promise, and a covenant of life and love.

In Genesis 1, we read that God created all things, heaven and earth, animals and plants, birds and fish, and last of all, humans. Throughout the chapter, we read the constant chorus ‘And God saw that it was good.’ Then, having created Adam and Eve, our first parents, it was very good. Paradise.

Soon after, though, Adam and Eve messed things up. Doubting God’s word, they listened instead to the serpent and the desires of their heart, and broke God’s commandment. Paradise lost. Sin had entered the world, and it was on a downward slump. Cain kills Abel his brother, and sin increases and spreads like a virus.

Sin is now so widespread that God decides something has to be done - and prepares to send a flood on the earth to destroy all living creatures. Genesis 6:8 says ‘But Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD.’ Noah found grace, favour in God’s sight, and so Noah will be rescued from the watery judgement.

The ark is built, the animals gathered, and the floating zoo is launched. Forty days and nights the rains fell, then the waters begin to sink, and they land on top of a mountain. All in all, they had spent one year and ten days in the ark before God brings them out onto dry land again.

Noah sacrifices some of the animals as a thanksgiving, and God reveals the rainbow. The colourful rainbow in the sky is a sign of God’s grace, God’s favour towards Noah. Noah wasn’t saved because he was better than the rest; he was a sinner like everyone else. Yet Noah sees the rainbow because of God’s grace - his undeserved favour, because God has saved and rescued him.

As a sign, the rainbow points beyond itself to something else - just as the signpost points you towards Belfast, or towards the park. The rainbow points us to God himself, and God’s grace towards us, even though we don’t deserve it.

But more than that, the rainbow is also a visual reminder. I don’t know about you, but I can be very forgetful sometimes. I’ll say I’ll do something, but unless it’s written down in my diary, or I’ve set a reminder on my phone alarm, I’ll probably forget. The rainbow is there to help us to remember God’s promises to us.

Yet what Genesis 9 tells us, even more surprisingly, is that the rainbow is a reminder for God! ‘Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember.’ (9:14-15)

The Bible isn’t saying that God is forgetful. He knows all things, and yet, the rainbow is the confirmation of his good purposes towards us, a reminder for both God and us.

The rainbow is a sign of grace, but what is it pointing to? The rainbow is a reminder of a promise, but what is that promise? Verse 12: ‘This is the sign of the covenant’ and verse 15 ‘I will remember my covenant.’ A covenant is a promise, where two people or groups are bound together through the keeping of the promise. So, for example, my wedding ring is the sign, and also the reminder of the promises that Lynsey and myself shared last year.

So also here, the rainbow is the sign and reminder of the promise that God makes to all human, and all living creatures. What does he promise? That never again will a flood destroy all living things. It is a promise of life, a promise for life.

We may well see local flooding - who can forget the images of the Westlink as a swimming pool, or scenes of devastation where rivers burst their banks. But even though small floods occur, God promises that he will not destroy the earth by flood. We can be sure of God’s promise because it is based in his love.

We’ve been thinking about the rainbow as a sign of grace, as a reminder of the promise, and the covenant of life and love. In these three areas, the cross can also stand - a sign of God’s grace to sinners, so that as we turn to God, we find our sins forgiven, wiped clean, a fresh start; the cross is a reminder of the promise - that those who are in Christ Jesus, who trust in him are saved - there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus; the cross is the covenant of life and love - as we believe in Jesus, we are assured of eternal life, secure by the love of God in Jesus.

Whenever you see a rainbow - remember God is love.

This sermon was preached in Dromore Cathedral on Sunday 7th June 2009 at the Rainbow Pre-School's 25th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service.

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