Then God said to the children of Noah, to His saints, His people gathered in Deloit, Iowa, to the congregations of Faith and Saint John’s: “My people, what do you think of when you see a rainbow? I have set this beautiful bow in the clouds from of old. It’s multitude of colors, its beauty, its glory reflects my own, and it appears in the clouds, the symbol of my presence with you. It is my gift to my people, as I first told Noah, ‘I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.’ The rainbow proclaims my promise of faithfulness, and that promise still endures; I haven’t revoked it, I haven’t abandoned it, I haven’t changed my mind. The rainbow declares that I am faithful. So I ask once again: my people, what do you think of when you see a rainbow? Do you think of my promises and my faithfulness, or do you think of leprechauns, gay pride, and rain? Has too much time passed for you to still see the rainbow as a testimony of my faithfulness? I know that many Christians have cute little pictures or displays with an ark, a rainbow, and a phrase like, ‘God keeps His promises.’ It’s true, I do keep my promises! But do you really believe it? Do you really trust me?
“I know your heart, and I know that so often you don’t. The rainbow doesn’t carry any real meaning for you because in a world gone so terribly wrong, that has fallen so far from the way I originally created it, you don’t trust me. You don’t trust me in the midst of suffering, as you struggle with sin. You don’t trust me as your crops dry up, as they wither in the field and the livelihood of families and communities are threatened. You don’t trust me as prices threaten to rise and wages stay the same. You don’t trust me as violence surrounds you, as the horrible things that you humans do to one another are shown live and in color on your television. You don’t trust me as immorality is endorsed by society and even the government I have given to you, as your religious liberty is threatened, as marriage is eroded, as my little ones continue to be killed in the womb. You don’t trust me when death threatens you, when you face disease or injury. No, instead you worry, you fret, you complain; you seek solutions to these problems in mere human means, putting your faith in an insurance company, in doctors, drugs, and presidential candidates. You put your faith in yourself. Now, those are all tools through which I work, good gifts from me to you. But you put your faith in the tool and not the One who wields it; you trust in man and not in me, your Creator, your God.
“You don’t trust me to be with you in the midst of suffering. You ask with the rest of the world, ‘Where was God in that Colorado movie theater? Where is God as my crops burn up? Where is God, as I face this disease, as I can’t pay my bills?’ You don’t trust me to provide for all of your needs, of both soul and body. You think that I’m only good to provide for spiritual things, not for your ‘real needs.’ You don’t trust me to protect you from harm and danger. When you hear of random acts of violence, you fear, you don’t trust. You don’t trust me to deliver you from any evil that this world throws at you. You pray, ‘Deliver us from evil,’ but you’re not sure if I will actually do it. Every single day you are faced with the ruin of sin, you are confronted with the stark declaration that this world is not as I created it, and you are called upon to trust me in the midst of it. And so often, you trust is placed in something, anything else than me.
“O my people, you can trust me! You can trust me to provide, to protect, to deliver; you can trust me to keep my promise that ‘I will be with you,’ even as you suffer. To prove that you can trust me, to demonstrate my faithfulness, I give you a sign, the sign of the rainbow. Noah and his family were like you; they had watched my wrath over sin rage upon this earth, as I scrubbed it clean through the waters of the Flood. They trembled with fear and anxiety; they needed the assurance that I would be with them, that I would not act in such wrath against them again. Like you, they would find it hard to trust, they needed a tangible reminder of my grace, and I was ready to give it: ‘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: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and all the earth.’
This sign reminds you of my wrath, that I acted in judgment against man’s sin and wickedness. But even more importantly, the rainbow, my gift to you and all creation, is a sermon, it is a proclamation of present and future grace. It declares to you and all creatures that I will never destroy the earth with a flood again. It is the marker of my promise, the declaration that I am faithful, I am trustworthy. The rainbow declares to you, as my Son said to His frightened disciples in the boat, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’ Every time you see a rainbow, I am telling you: ‘Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.’ Do not be afraid, for I keep my promises. Do not be afraid, for you can trust me. Do not be afraid, for I will provide, protect, deliver, ‘I will be with you,’ even as you suffer, even as you struggle in this world of sin. Do not be afraid, for the rainbow is the sign of my covenant with you, declaring that despite the sin and corruption that fills you and all humanity, I will act in love which ‘surpasses knowledge,’ as my servant Paul wrote.
“O my people, you can trust me! You can trust me to provide, to protect, to deliver; you can trust me to keep my promise that ‘I will be with you,’ even as you suffer. To prove that you can trust me, to demonstrate my faithfulness, I give you a sign, the sign of the cross. For upon the cross, my Son Jesus Christ hung as the demonstration of my love. I keep my promises! The rainbow proves it, it demonstrates that I can be trusted to keep my greatest promise, given moments after the first sin, that Satan would be crushed by the mighty food of my Son. I kept that promise as I kept all others, for you can trust me. The Flood was only a preview of my wrath over sin; it would be poured out fully upon my Son, my only Son, in your place. Upon the cross I would show my love which ‘surpasses knowledge,’ for I would forgive even you, even you who so often fail to trust, even you who have been corrupted with sin and rebellion since conception.
“This sign reminds you of my wrath, that it was poured out upon my Son for your sake; it shows how seriously I take sin, that the life of my only Son would be the required price. But more importantly, it shows the unfathomable depths of my love. When you see the cross, when you make the sign of the cross upon yourself in any time of danger or need, you hear the voice of my Son: ‘Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.’ The cross declares to you that despite all that happens in this world of sin, you have been forgiven by the blood of Jesus, nothing can touch your eternally. Even death itself is not match for you, for it too has been triumphed over by the One who emerged alive from the tomb. Your sin will not destroy you, for it has been forgiven; your struggles to trust are confessed and forgiven through the redemption of Jesus Christ. I provide, I protect, I deliver, I am with you always, even to the end of the age only because of the cross. Every good gift I give, from forgiveness and salvation to the fruits of this earth are only given because I have been reconciled to you by the blood of my Son. ‘Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.’ That is the promise of the cross, and I keep my promises. Do not be afraid, for the cross is the sign of my new covenant with you, my covenant which declares that your sin has been atoned for by Christ’s blood, that even death is now simply the gateway to eternal life.
“O my people, you can trust me! You can trust me to provide, to protect, to deliver; you can trust me to keep my promise that ‘I will be with you,’ even as you suffer. To prove that you can trust me, to demonstrate my faithfulness, I give you a sign, the sign of your Baptism. The washing of the water with the Word, the great promise of my Son, makes you my child, it is the sign that you cling to in this world of sin, the sign that declares that you are my own beloved child. This sign reminds you of my wrath, that I drowned your sin in the font, that I put to death your old sinful Adam in those waters. But more importantly, it shows you my love, that I have marked you as one of my own, redeemed by the blood of my Son Jesus Christ. Whenever you remember your baptism, you hear the voice of my Son: ‘Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.’ Do not be afraid, for I have established my covenant with you in those blessed waters. Do not be afraid, for your baptism is the tangible sign that you have been claimed as my own, that Christ’s redemption has been applied to you. Baptism is the reminder of my covenant with you: I will preserve you in this dangerous world of sin and will bring you to myself for eternity.
“My people, what do you see when you see a rainbow? You see a marker of my faithfulness, a sign that you can trust me to keep all of my promises, especially the promise that I made to you at the cross and through your baptism. My people, what do you hear when you see a rainbow? You hear the voice of my Son, saying, ‘Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.’ Do not be afraid, for the sign of my love and care for you isn’t the drought that destroys your crops, the violence that frightens you, or the disease that threatens you; it is my Son and His cross. It is your baptism into my Son. These are the signs, the sure and certain guarantees that I keep my promises, and I have promised to guard and protect you, to preserve and provide, to deliver you from evil, ultimately by taking you out of this evil world to myself in heavenly glory. Do not look to this world to know if I love you or not, if I care, or where I am in the midst of suffering; look to the cross, look to your baptism, look to the rainbow. There you know what I think of you, there you know that I am faithful, for the promise I made to Noah still endures, and the promise I made you at the cross and the baptismal font will endure just the same. You can trust me, for I keep my promises, and I will keep them forever.” Amen.