After enduring pandemic, politics and a polar vortex, everyone could do with a rainbow, and we get it in Sunday’s first reading from Genesis.
God set a bow across the sky as a reminder of covenant and a sign of hope.
Most who have heard of Noah and the Flood remember that, but there is more to the story than a zoological cruise ship and a colorful crescent.
Look at the language: “Be fertile then, and multiply: abound on earth and subdue it.”
Sound familiar? It echoes the Creation story in the first chapter of Genesis.
The story of Noah is basically a reset, God saying, “Let’s try this again, shall we?”
But that is not new, either. At the beginning of the book, there is the creation, the fall and a reset.
The same might be said about what happens after Cain kills his brother Abel. But each time, it is more than a do over. The story is meant to teach something about God and about us.
The stories of the early chapters of Genesis are about what it means to be made in the image of God, particularly what it means to be a responsible person.
When confronted with noshing on the forbidden fruit, Adam pointed to the woman, while Eve nodded at the serpent.
They refused to take personal responsibility.
Questioned by God about his brother, Cain doesn’t deny what he has done. Rather, his reply is, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
He took no moral responsibility for his action.
When it comes to Noah, the picture was broadened. Noah acted to save humankind and all mortal beings.
It was a lesson of collective responsibility — an obligation to the welfare of others, the sanctity of life and the future of creation.
Noah is no full-time hero. In the following chapter, he gets drunk and condemns his son and his descendants to slavery.
Cain was a murderer. Adam and Eve were disobedient.
God recognized this, vowing never to destroy the earth because of man. However, acknowledging that “the desires of man’s heart are evil,” there is the intimation that man may.
Essentially, that rainbow says, “I promise not to lay waste to life again, but you, in your free will and selfish desires, are quite capable of doing this. You can avoid this through responsibility, but responsibility depends on relationships — you with Me, and you with the world.”
A sign of hope? That’s up to us.