On Sunday, October 17 we’ll gather at the Portland Art Museum to celebrate my installation. The term “installation” may be a bit misleading. In this electronic age, it calls up images of installing software in a computer, of plugging a new program into the system. While it is true that I bring new stories and new skills to our ministry together, what we will do that evening will be far from mechanical.
The religious event that evening is our entering into a covenant. We will promise to walk together, “in all the ways of God known, or to be made known.” You will promise to welcome my moral leadership and spiritual guidance as we seek wholeness of spirit and integrity of person. I will promise my ”consecrated efforts on your behalf” as you empower me and give me your trust. These promises describe a relationship that will build and deepen over time. They are promises to live, together, into the promise of what our ministry can become.
The first covenant described in the Christian Bible is in the story of Noah and the flood. God was not pleased with how the humans were using his creation and sent the flood to destroy all living things. God wanted a “do-over.” But he found one righteous man, Noah, and his family, and had them build an arc to his specifications and gather in it pairs of all the animals so that life could begin again when the water receded. He hung a rainbow in the clouds as a sign of his promise (their covenant) that he would not destroy life again.
“Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind.” Genesis 9:14-15
Do we need another “do-over?” It is not hard to make that case. We have fallen far short of the vision of the Beloved Community.
Unitarian Universalist minister, long time justice and peace activist, Stephen Shick, reflected on the Noah story in the following poem which spoke to me this morning:
“The Rainbow Sign” --- By Rev. Stephen Shick
Perhaps it is true.
One year is a thousand in your sight
Perhaps a thousand thousand
And you simply have not seen a rainbow
In a long, long time.
What else would explain it?
The wars, the terror, the torture
Flowing from the hanbds
Of men and women
And, yes, even children.
Or, perhaps the rainbow is broken,
Fallen into pieces, and now
After a long, long time you
Have stopped looking for it.
Perhaps your rainbow was always
Only a reflection of our dreams,
Our longing for for what you
Would not or could not give
Or have not looked for.
Maybe there is another reason.
Maybe your rainbow
Shattered and scattered
And we are its pieces
Waiting to be gathered
One by one
And cast against
Your cloud-covered sky.”
See you in church and on the 17th.