A reflection for Lent I Sunday 18th February 2024 by Canon Dean Fostekew

I wonder how many of us remember God’s Covenant, with us, his people, every time we look at a rainbow? I have to admit that I don’t always think of it. Quite often I am more interested to trying to see the second, shadowy rainbow that always accompanies the bright one. Yet the significance of the rainbow in both Jewish and Christian theology is very important as it reminds us not only of God’s Covenant with us but also his protection of us. 

After the flood, when only eight human beings were left, so the Book of Genesis tells us, God placed the rainbow in the sky as a sign to Noah and his family that he would never again visit his vengeance on the human race. It makes me wonder if God was surprised at his anger and how he treated the us and that the rainbow was as much to remind him of his covenant with us as to remind us? 

It’s worth pondering on, especially as we believe that we have a loving and open armed God. It is that loving God that we see reflected in the life of Jesus as indicated in the epistle and Gospel readings we’ve just heard. 

Peter tells us that although God was angry once again, with his people for our disobedient ways he did not seek to destroy us all as he did in the flood but sought to make us see sense in the ministry of his Son. Even is that meant his Son dying on the Cross to prove how much he loves us. God was prepared to die himself rather than to smite us! It is the Gospel, account that tells us that Jesus was of God; again reinforcing the extremes that God would go to, to tell us he loves us and to encourage us to change our disobedient ways. 

In the three readings today we are reminded that we are at times re-born to new life. Noah and family came though the waters of the flood to new life in a new land. Jesus was clearly identified through the Waters of Baptism and the descent of the dove as God’s Son (God incarnate) and we are reminded that in our Baptism we die to our old selves and are re-born to new life. Water links the three readings and God’s covenant with us is re-affirmed. 

Firstly in the rainbow we are reminded that God will never again take such drastic measures in punishing our bad behaviour (although we might through our own stupid behaviour annihilate ourselves by destroying the Creation we are called to care for). In our Baptism we are a new creation born in the light of Christ and washed by the waters that cover the Earth and sealed by the Holy Spirit as God’s own. Just as the Holy Spirit as a dove showed the gathered onlookers at Jesus’ Baptism by John that he too was marked by God as his chosen one. All these events are covenant reminders to us of the covenant God established in the first place with Noah and his family. 

But, why a covenant? A covenant is not a simple agreement between two parties. It does not simply say that if we are good then God will not smite us. It is much deeper and much more complicated. A covenant suggests that both parties have an active agreement to do something for the mutual benefit of each other. 

In the Covenant God has with us, the Human Race, we are called to care for Creation as good stewards and to care for each other and God. In return God will care for and love and bless us beyond measure. This Covenant is life-affirming and everlasting and we have to work hard to keep our side of it. God will always keep his side as proved in the sacrifice of his Son. And, we have to prove that we will no longer ravage Creation for our own selfish ends. Words we all need to heed in this time of climate change and emergency. 

Under the Covenant, however, it is never too late for us to change our ways and try to do better in the ways we stewardship Creation or live our lives. That’s what the Covenant is about; it is an active and living agreement that reminds us that we should always try to do the best for God and that which comes from God and that God will in turn do the best for us as well. 

We need, I believe, for a start to give thanks regularly for all the many blessings we are given and not to take them for granted. For in doing so I would hope that we might open our eyes to how we are living our lives and open our hearts and minds to how we might have to change to benefit each other and to respect the God we love. 

This Lent, I encourage you do just that; ponder on the blessings you receive from God; give thanks for them and try to work out how you might be able to share them with others. Pray too that if each of us can do this, then perhaps our small positive steps might enable and encourage others to do the same. Together we might set about changing the world, one small step at a time. So long as we can each try to make that first small step in our lives. 

As Neil Armstrong once said: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”