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Pentecost 9, 2021 Proper 12
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
July 25, 2021
Genesis 9:8-17, Ephesians 3:18-21, Mark 6:45-56
Text and Audio: immanuelhamiltonchurch.com click “sermons”
Full Service Audio: bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship
Rainbows are kind of magical. When you see one you want to share it with others. “Look! A rainbow!” You run inside and tell your family to come out and see it before it goes away. You want to celebrate a rainbow. When I was growing up when we would see a rainbow my mother would get all us kids popsicles. Rainbows conjure up many thoughts and memories. Leprechauns and legends of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow,” where troubles melt like lemon drops. Kermit singing Rainbow connection. Rainbows are amazing.
If you look it up, A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon that is caused by reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky. It takes the form of a multicoloured circular arc. Sometimes definitions can kind of burst the magical bubble. “Wow! Look at the light reflected, refracted and dispersed.”
But a rainbow is not just reflection, refraction and dispersion of light. The rainbow is a powerful sign; the rainbow hold great significance. The rainbow is the sign of the covenant that God established between Himself and all flesh that is on the earth. Genesis 9:14–15 (ESV) 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.
You see a rainbow and it is the sign of God’s covenant with all flesh, and His covenant with you, that He will never again destroy the earth with a flood. A rainbow reminds God of His promise and reminds you of His promise. This is good news for you. It was very good news for Noah and His family.
Traumatic events can have a lingering effect on people. Noah and his family have been through the wringer. For decades they must have endured ridicule for building a huge boat where there was no water all the while knowing what was coming for anyone who was not on the ark when the rains came. As they entered the 450 foot long, 75 foot wide, 45 foot tall casket-shaped ark they knew life would never be the same. For the Lord had promised, Genesis 6:7 (ESV) 7 … “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” Seven days after entering the ark, the rains began, and the waters rose, and the ark floated up off the ground. Noah and his family knew that all the other people and animals with the breath of life in them were drowning. Once in the ark, Noah and his family endured a year of isolation and little sunlight while they cared for the animals that would repopulate the earth. This whole experience must have been terribly hard on the eight souls on the ark. So much death. So much uncertainty. Not to mention the smell of their floating zoo. Such a long year sealed in the floating casket. You’ve got to imagine that after getting off the Ark they may have gotten a bit twitchy when it next started to rain. In our Old Testament reading from Genesis God repeats His promise over and over because, as Martin Luther writes, “Therefore they could not be talked out of their fear and terror by a word or two; a great abundance of words was needed to drive back their tears and to soften their grief.”
With the promise of the rainbow they do not need to fear the rain. God will never again destroy the world with water.
The rainbow is a great comfort to Noah and his family and also to you, but there is more. There is more depth to the meaning of the rainbow. A rainbow is also a warning. God made His covenant with Noah to never again destroy the world with water because — God did destroy the world. God is capable of judgment and destruction and He will destroy the world again, only this time with fire. The rainbow’s colors progress from violet, indigo and blue, the colors of water, to yellow, orange and red, the colors of fire. The rainbow is a comfort and a warning.
God is a God of mercy but also a God of judgement and judgement day is coming, a rainbow reminds you of this. Judgement day is coming. Matthew 3:10 (ESV)
10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Matthew 3:12 (ESV) 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Judgment is coming. The wages of sin is death. You are a sinner and you deserve God’s punishment now and forever. The rainbow reminds you of God’s past and future judgment. The thought of God’s judgment can bring fear. But when there is a rainbow there is also rain. The rain reminds you of another of God’s signs. The rain reminds you of God’s new covenant with you in water and the Word in Holy Baptism. God has a covenant with you; a promise sealed in the waters of baptism that you are His…forever. God has promised to forgive you all your sins and has given you eternal life in the blood of Jesus.
1 Peter 3:20–21 (ESV) 20 … God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, 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,
Noah and His family, eight souls in all, were preserved safely through the water. The children of Israel came safely through the water of the Red Sea. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River. You have come safely into the Kingdom of God through the waters of baptism.
Eight in the Bible is a number of new beginnings. The eighth day was the first day of the new creation. Eight people came through the waters of the flood on the Ark. Jewish boys were marked with the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham on the eighth day of their lives. Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday, the eighth day. And so, baptismal fonts often are constructed with eight sides to remind you of your new beginning, baptized into Christ. The number eight and the rainbow are reminders of your new birth in Christ.
Jesus suffered and died to pay for the sins of the world, including your sins. Jesus rose from the dead and death has lost its victory. Jesus has given you these gifts in baptism and continues to pour out His gifts in His words of forgiveness and in giving you His very Body and Blood in Holy Communion. God’s promise to you is sealed with water, and water is a great reminder of His promise. Let the sight or feel of water in rivers and lakes, in the pool, in the shower, in the sink, falling from the sky remind you to confess, “I am baptized into Christ.” Each morning when you rise and each evening before you go to sleep remember your baptism by making the sign of the cross, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
When you see a rainbow, an arc of refracted light, remember Noah and his Ark of refuge and rejoice in God’s promise to Noah, and God’s promise to you. God will never again destroy the world with water, and in the waters of baptism you are saved from the coming judgment. Amen.
 Luther’s Works Vol 2