1 Peter 3:18-22
“From grief to grace in just a few verses,” is the description, one of the commentaries I read this week, gave of the passage we heard from Genesis.
The phrase stuck with me as I thought about this 40-day journey we call Lent, what it means, and why it matters.
For some, Lent means giving up something from Ash Wednesday until Easter morning. A group of ladies with whom I try to have breakfast each Thursday morning, often share small gifts to celebrate special times of the year, Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, Valentines Day, Easter. One of the ladies gave each of us a piece of chocolate the week before Ash Wednesday, noting she wouldn’t have chocolate again until Easter. Several of my colleagues have declared their absence from social media for the next several weeks, and I have heard a variety of other things “given up” for this season of the Christian year. Reflecting on the “giving up something for Lent’ tradition as well as this morning’s scripture passages I wondered if “giving up something” is what God is asking of us.
It seems God is saying I am willing to do everything it takes to show you how much I love you, how much I want to be in relationship with you, to give you grace so you can share grace with others.
The verses before this rainbow part of the story, depict God’s creation moving so far from what God intended that God is filled with grief over the state of the world he had made. Heartsick, sad shattered by what the people made in his own image had become, God decides only a fresh start will return creation to right relationship with God and all that was created. Grief motivates God to separate the righteous from the unrighteous and to create a situation in which all things can be new again. God sends a flood but at some point realizes that this would not lead to a lasting solution. God’s grief-filled action, quickly turns to a grace-filled promise.
God takes the initiative throughout this passage. God reaches out to Noah with the plan for the ark. God puts everything in place so the plan can be successful. I am pretty sure no matter how skilled Noah and his family was with caring for animals, putting Elephants with mice, and Lions and bears with sheep, was an impossible task without Divine intervention. God took care of the details and Noah followed God’s lead.
Then once on dry land, Noah acknowledges God’s gift of a new life for his family by taking time to worship before starting the task of starting over, but it is God who again reaches out. This time establishing the covenant with Noah, his descendants and with every living creature for all time. Offering grace for all of creation for perpetuity.
We do not find God – he finds us, calls, and saves us. God regularly shows us unbreakable love in the middle of what we can experience as overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, unworthiness.
Ancient people thought the rainbow was God’s weapon from which his lightning arrows were shot to defeat evil in wrath. (Ps. 7:12-13) For them the rainbow in the sky after a storm was a fearful sight. Setting the rainbow as the symbol of the covenant turned a symbol of destruction to one of deliverance. Moving us from the fear of wrath to the promise of divine mercy. 
The people of ancient Israel needed to hear this gracious promise during the time of their exile, and this tangible sign of their relationship with God and the promise of an everlasting covenant bond brought comfort. With all the structures and practices of their shared life back home wreaked, with their reality in shambles, they were likely inspired by the story of a new beginning, a story of hope and the promise of Gods presence with them, always.
1 Peter is written by people in the midst of political chaos. In this first generation after Jesus, followers are trying to figure out what it means to be a community of faith in new contexts and turmoil. They are experiencing what is going on around them with the experience of the flood waters of Noah’s day. They are trying to figure out their own identity and purpose. In this the hope made real in the work of Jesus reminds them of the unbreakable love of God extending since the time of Noah.
Jesus overcame the power of all sin, through his death and resurrection.. Nothing stands between us and God, because Jesus has bridged the gap. And from the 1 Peter passage we are reminded Jesus has gone to hell and back for us, experiencing anything and everything we experience. We are call to embody that love in our relationships with those who see no hope to get out of the storm, or abyss in which they are passing. 
As we continue on the journey we call Lent, I invite you to look for the signs of God’s covenant with us, remembering it was put in place as Noah began rebuilding after the storm. Let’s look for the rainbows in our lives that remind us that God loves us.
The outreached hand when we are feeling low. The phone call from a friend to check in with us. The Health care professional walking with us through some a difficult health situation. The smile of a child. Words we need to hear at just the time we need to hear them. A ride to the store when we can’t get there on our own and the joy of offering a ride to someone who needs a little help. The person who takes time to listen, the time we set aside the agenda of the day to listen to someone.
Rainbows appear when we look for them in others, seeing God’s love for us in the people he puts on our ark during our storms.
There is still evil today, it found its way on the Ark so long ago, and we see the signs every day. God still grieves when we make choices that put barriers between us and God, and God is still ever present with all the grace necessary to tear those barriers down.
The rainbows remind us God’s love is stronger and if we focus on recognizing the rainbows and on how we can be a rainbow for others, we will experience the unbreakable love that is God’s covenant with us in familiar as well as new ways.
Let’s spend this season actively looking for all the ways there are rainbows reminding us of God’s covenant with us that stands against any tough times we face and surfaces even before the storms fully pass.
 Abingdon Preaching Annual 2018 Feb 18
 Ministry Matters Sermon Options February 18, 2018
 Dianne Bergant Feasting on the Word Year b, Vol. 2
 Mary Schaller Blaufuss Sermon Seeds Feb 18, 2018
 James C. Howell The Life We Claim Weekly Preaching February 18, 2018