8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 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: 13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 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. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
1 Peter 3:18-22
18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Sermon. February 21, 2021
Rev. John Steitz
Today is the First Sunday in Lent. During Lent we are especially mindful of the gift of life. That we are creatures with bodies that are vulnerable and limited. Surely the pandemic has reminded us all of the vulnerability of our bodies.
We are made of star dust and to star dust we will return. We depend on God for the breath of life. We blessed with everlasting life by God’s love through Jesus Christ.
In the Genesis story the flood waters have subsided and God establishes a covenant with Noah. A rainbow is given as the sign of this covenant between God, humanity, and all living creatures.
How might we be a People of the Rainbow Covenant? How might we live and act in ways that lift up the Rainbow Sign as a symbol of who we are as God’s people?
In our families, in our congregation, and in our community we can bear witness to the sign of God’s Rainbow Covenant.
Yes, we can wear something rainbow on #RainbowMondays. Showing support and solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer folx is one important way we can bear witness to the sign of God’s Rainbow Covenant.
The call to bear witness to the Rainbow Covenant includes LGBTQ+ people as it includes all of God’s creation. Many local churches who fully embrace being Open and Affirming congregation find that the work done to be radically inclusive of LGBTQ+ people extends to be fundamentally inclusive of everyone.
Rush Limbaugh died on Ash Wednesday. His net worth when he died was reported to be $600 million. Limbaugh grew very wealthy by attacking and degrading LGBTQ+ people, people of color, and women. Many found his bashing vulnerable people entertaining.
Limbaugh’s death on Ash Wednesday reminds us that regardless of wealth we are all ashes to ashes, dust to dust. It also highlights the wisdom of words the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote will in the Birmingham jail in 1963:
“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
God’s Rainbow Covenant calls us to break our silence whenever any of God’s creatures is being harmed. One of the slogans of the gay liberation movement has been the truth that “silence equals death.” As Dr. King reminds us, even more than the words and actions of “bad people” who do harm, it is the silence of “good people” that truly brings death.
My Lenten prayer: “May I repent for my silence in the face of injustice. May I give voice to revolutionary love and radical inclusion. May I embrace deep compassion and offer intentional acts of kindness.”
“While God gives me life my hope is that I breathe nonviolence, and that while I give form to star dust, my prayer is that I embody justice.”
There have been times that I have been silent in the face of injustice. Across twenty-six years as a pastor in fifteen congregations I served the first 24 years at thirteen local churches unwilling to consider Open and Affirming, often even hostile to LGBTQ+ people. In most of these congregations there was no openness or space to discuss racial justice either.
I have however been in one congregation deeply conflicted about whether the new carpet in the church should be red or green.
God called Noah to build an ark. We are called to create Brave Space in the church where we give voice to revolutionary love and radical inclusion. From God’s Rainbow Covenant to the life, ministry, death on a cross, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God gifts us with revolutionary love. Let us give voice to this revolutionary love. Let us proclaim this revolutionary love in the world.
As an Open and Affirming congregation we are committed to extravagant welcoming and being an LGBTQ+ inclusive church. God’s Rainbow Covenant includes and goes beyond this. It embraces all of God’s creation.
For example, being Accessible to All. Being deeply committed to include people with differing abilities of mobility, sight, hearing, and mental capacity. Being fully committed to include people exactly the way God created them.
Creating brave space for radical inclusion is an act of “Calling In” that moves us as a congregation to express revolutionary love in ways we might not have imagined before.
When we as a congregation embrace the brave space of revolutionary love and radical inclusion we become people of God’s Rainbow Sign. Our world needs local churches willing to be brave spaces for revolutionary love and radical inclusion.
Our congregation can become an anchor in our local community that proclaims God’s Rainbow Sign through the brave space we create together. This brave space is filled with deep compassion and intentional acts of kindness.
We are a Loving Church Family that seeks to be a place where others will look and say, “see how they love one another.” We express compassion and kindness toward one another. And in this we share God’s Rainbow Sign.
God gives each of us the gift of life and the promise of everlasting life through Christ. As I acknowledge God’s gift of life during this Lenten season it is my hope that I might breathe nonviolence and my prayer that I might embody justice.
Nonviolence involves actions that resist violence and construct a more loving and just world. We see nonviolent protests and think of nonviolence mainly in this form of resistance. But there is a constructive side to nonviolence that is like the joy that radiates outward like the song of a choir or the beat of a drum circle.
As Dr. King shows, nonviolence does involve refusing to be silent in the face of injustice. Nonviolence however flowers when friends break through the loneliness and isolation of the pandemic in simple ways of connection. Nonviolence blooms when people create the brave space for God’s Rainbow Sign to flourish.
Science tells us that we are made of star dust. Lent reminds us that we come from dust and to dust we will return. While we take human form as God’s children on God’s earth we can embody justice as a sign of God’s covenant. We can become Rainbow Signs in the way we live, in the way we love one another and in the way we treat God’s creation. Let us become people of God’s Rainbow Covenant, Rainbow Signs of God’s love.