The Rainbow and Its Promises

It’s a weird juxtaposition to see all the Pride Month rainbow flags flying at the same time much of the world around me is being consumed by flood water. For those of you who didn’t go to Sunday school: before the rainbow was the symbol of LGBTQ pride, it was the sign at the end of the story of Noah’s Ark that God would never flood the world again. (Okay, technically, the pride flag is not a “rainbow” flag, as rainbows have seven colors and the traditional pride flag only has six, but people fleeing from floods aren’t likely to make that distinction.)

Of course the whole world isn’t being flooded, but when it’s your home, it feels like the whole world. (Just to clarify: so far, I am not in a flood zone, but many folks all around me are…plus many more are in imminent threat as the waters are still rising.)

The Bible is full of water imagery. But it was written in a part of the world where water is scarce, so drought was much more of a threat than floods. Elijah, Jeremiah and Haggai all predicted drought as punishment for people who had turned against God. Rain was generally considered a blessing and a sign of God’s favor. I’m pretty sure that those evacuating or frantically filling sandbags are not feeling particularly favored right now.

There are, of course, times in the Bible when water is deadly. The aforementioned story of Noah’s ark (which has become a bizarrely popular nursery theme). The rest of the story of the parting of the Red Sea in which all of Pharaoh’s army is drowned. But those were all “bad” people who were being punished.  And, there will be those who wrongly say (and have said) that this is why the flooding is happening in Kansas and Oklahoma and Arkansas–although I think there’s disagreement about what the people are being punished for. Is it because we’ve eliminated prayer in schools, allowed gay people to have rights or laughed at all late-night talk show jokes about our President? Who knows? But it for sure has nothing to do with science or climate change.

Water is a weird and wonderful thing. No matter how destructive water can be, we still need it to survive. Water is life-sustaining and life-destroying. It is critical to our physical and spiritual health, but it’s also something we can drown in.

As the waters rise and as the waters recede, may those who have been flooded out still find sustenance and strength in the living water that is the Holy Spirit

May the pain and sorrow of those who lose everything to water be washed away on the waves of God’s mercy

May those of us who remain on dry land be willing to dive into the deep with our waterlogged brothers and sisters and help to rebuild with whatever resources we have to offer.

And may the rainbows that surround us this season be a reminder that, in the midst of all the chaos and calamity that water is causing, God will not let us be destroyed.

Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer provides tools and encouragement for the rollercoaster ride of your faith journey. Follow me on Facebook , Instagram and YouTube. You can also follow on TikTok. Get emails to keep up with all that is happening.

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