The Divine Rainbow

240107 Epiphany 3
Genesis 9:8-17– Ps 25.1-9 – 1 Peter 3:18-22– Marc 1:9-15

“This (rainbow) is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” (Gen 9.17)

Rainbows have a powerful effect on us. Even though we know that they result from the diffraction of light through the prism of the waters of a receding rain, when we encounter one, we feel like we have uncountered the supernatural, the poetic, even grace in our midst. And when we have the joy of seeing it in its full glory of the double rainbow, it stops us in our track, in awe at the glory of creation. An Instagram moment. Better, still, a moment of connectedness with the universe.

As the old wives’ tale goes, the end of the rainbow is where you will find a pot of gold – although of course the end keeps moving with us until the rainbow disappears altogether. We can’t chase rainbows. We see them when we are at the right place, at the right time, in the here and now.

For Noah and all those who survived the great flood, the rainbow was a sign given by God of an everlasting covenant between God and all his earthly creation, including humanity – a sacred sign of peace and protection and delight – a promise that God would no longer act against what God had made, that no flood would again cover the earth. No further wrath, no further death.

A promise which allowed Noah and his flock to settle and build afresh the divine Kingdom.
And over time, the rainbow has continued to be a symbol of peace and hope – we saw rainbows drawn by children stuck to many doors here in Montreal and beyond during the Covid 19 pandemic, with the words: ‘Ca va bien aller’. All will be well. Faith that somehow the universe was not there to get us, that somehow a solution would be found, that a new safe normality would be found.

Of course, the rainbow has also been a symbol of inclusivity and pride for members of the LGBTQ2S+ communities, a reminder that God’s creation is diverse, that God’s covenant is for all, that everyone is part of the rainbow.

When I came to take the first service of Ash Wednesday this past week, I was greeted with the news that the rainbow which the Cathedral displays to signify God’s inclusive love for all had been stolen. It is sadly not the first time, it probably will not be the last.
It was for me a painful reminder that in the world today, there are many who believe that God’s covenant applies only to themselves and those who look and are like them. Yet, it is quite clear in scripture from the book of Genesis onwards that God is at pains to remind human beings of our intrinsic worth and belovedness in God’s eyes – whoever we are, whatever colour we may be, and regardless of who we love.

We are God’s people, and God made a promise with us to nurture us into a way of life that gives joy and fulfilment and give God pleasure. And over and over, God appointed prophets to remind humanity of his unconditional love. In our ongoing deafness, God even sent us his Son.
Today, we hear again the story of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the river Jordan. It is a story we hear in the lead up to Christmas as we focus on John the Baptist as the one who recognises Jesus and heralds therefore the new covenant. We hear it in the season of Epiphany after Christmas because – like the assembled crowds awaiting baptism by John – we who read the story are also part of this revelation of the Son of God. And we hear it today on the first Sunday in Lent, because it gives us a clue – to us who seek to follow Jesus – as to what we are called to do when we finally meet God and realise that we too are children of God.

For Jesus, despite the voice coming from the cloud when he rose up from the water of the Jordan, the next task is clear. It is a task of deep soul searching and discernment, a task to confront his inner demons, a task to surmount all that could get in the way in his relationship with God his and a task to ponder on his true vocation as the Christ, the anointed of God – a vocation through which he used scriptures to show love, forgiveness and to heal.

The Church universal calls us annually to this time of deep soul searching and, should we ever think that we are above God, the signing with Ashes on Ash Wednesday reminds us of our transient humanity. Whatever we may think we are, we are dust and to dust we will return.
Some of the religious jargon language used in translation from the Greek is not necessarily helpful – in particular the word repent, which to us may seem like an invitation to dwell on past wrongs and grovel before God for forgiveness.

This is not what God seeks from us. God invites us to examine our lives, acknowledge our wrong, but most importantly God invites us to what the Greeks call ‘metanoia’ – a transformational conversion of our hearts, minds and souls, that we may continue to grow more into the likeness of Christ, that we may embody the divine as part of God’s family in the world today.

Just like the seeds or bulbs in spring, planted in the darkness of the earth, we are to listen to the tiny movements of our soul, until we are ready to burst forth into the world, shining God’s glory.

This Lenten season into which we are invited is thus a time of reflection, nurture and growth, that we may rise anew with the Christ at Easter, that we too may live the resurrected life.

Here at the Cathedral, we have a programme of activities for this coming season available here and online, and the clergy team is always happy to meet to help you in discernment and next steps, as you consider your spiritual life journey.

As we start Lent, the Cathedral is today holding its Annual General Meeting, a time to review our past year and give thanks for all that God in Christ has done through our collective witness and through those many volunteers who have contributed to our life, liturgies, pastoral care, mission and outreach.

And a time to pause and ponder at those things which have done their time, those things which we could do better, and those new things which we might feel called by God to take up individually and together in the year to come.

Whatever it might be, we are a rainbow people and are proud that this Cathedral community is a reflection of the whole diversity of God’s creation. As we come here, we gather as siblings of the family of God, from many places near and far, of many colours, languages, backgrounds, gender and sexual orientations, all seeking to worship the God who unites us and loves us, and to continue to be strengthened as we strive to be God’s hands, feet and heart in the world today.

May I wish you a blessed Lent.



  1. Reply
    Tor Haines says:

    as we strive to be God’s hands, feet, heart, and MIND in the world today.

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