November 29, 2016
“I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”
In the 1979 version of The Muppet Movie, Kermit the Frog opens the film singing, “The Rainbow Connection,” while strumming his banjo in the middle of his habitat – the swamp. Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher wrote this song for the movie and Williams says: “We looked at his [Kermit’s] environment, and his environment is water and air – and light. And it just seemed like it would be a place where he would see a rainbow. But we also wanted to show that he would be on this spiritual path, examining life, and the meaning of life.”
Our Old Testament reading for this Tuesday of the first week of Advent is the conclusion of the flood narrative in which God destroyed the earth but saved Noah and his family and two of every species of living creatures. After the waters receded, God made a promise with Noah that never again would there be a flood to destroy the earth. Three times God repeats the phrase, “never again,” as if to call attention to the importance of the promise. As a sign of that covenant, God placed the rainbow in the clouds.
God’s covenants with humankind are unique in that they require nothing of us in return. In a marriage covenant, for example, both the bride and groom promise to be faithful to each other and usually they exchange rings as a sign of those promises. In contrast, however, God’s covenant is unconditional. It is only what God does for us that matters.
Yet even though God promises to never again destroy the earth, there is always a clear and present danger that humankind itself, through sinfulness, corruption, greed, evil, and neglect, could achieve the same negative result. It is humanity – not God – that initiates war, contaminates the environment, and pays little notice to the health and well-being of other humans and living creatures.
Rainbows are vividly colorful, richly symbolic, and inspire a limitless spectrum of possibility. It is somewhat appropriate then, that as we begin our season of anticipation of the promised Christ child, the story of a rainbow – a reminder of God’s abiding promises – might also keep us mindful that we are stewards of God’s creation. The care of our world, the earth, the water, the air, is in our hands to protect – not to destroy. May that be our “Rainbow Connection.”