Genesis 9:8-13, 1 Corinthians 11:25-26      “Promises”


            I do remember some particular rainbows. I know that I have seen so many, and most I do not really recall. However, I remember the rainbow that appeared when I once married a couple on the South Shore. It was in the middle of a tropical depression and it was raining all around us, but the wedding party stayed dry. I told the couple not to worry, that they would see a rainbow as a blessing. And, God kept that promise to them! That same couple came last year with two kids to the church to worship with us!

            I remember the rainbow that was over Hanapepe Valley on the drive back to Lihue airport on the occasion of my first visit here. It was said that that was a sign of God’s promise for my coming back to Kauai, and for accepting the position here to minister.

            Other times in my life, I wished I had seen such signs of a promise from God at the onset. For the life of me, I cannot remember ever even once seeing a rainbow during all the time I have spent in Germany as a youth or even while visiting family and friends later. Here we see rainbows all the time. To some, seeing a rainbow might be a once in a lifetime experience. As for Germany, I saw a lot of rain, but never a rainbow.

            I think about the story of Noah and his rainbow. The bible tells us that the rainbow came at the end of the forty days and forty nights of rain. Why did it not come at the beginning? Would it not have been a wonderful thing if God had sent that rainbow of promise to Noah beforehand? Why did not God send that rainbow while the ark was rocking in the ocean of rains for more than a month. Well, God sent the rainbow afterwards. That is a bit of a truism: Although God has a promise for our lives, we only see the signs of that promise after the rains of our lives have ceased and abated. In order to have a rainbow, you have to have rain!

            Also about the idea of the promise, one person in the afternoon bible study on Tuesday noted to me that he always thought of the “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow. He said that where he used to live, he could see the ends of the rainbows and that they always shone like real gold. That is truly a wonderful thought. It reminded me of that part in REvelation 21 that talks about the streets of heaven being paved with gold–a gold that was transparent. Maybe that's the gold at the end of the rainbow?


            When God talks to Noah after the flood, and remember that they seemed to have some real direct conversations beforehand, so much so that God could give him precise directions to build an ark, God tells Noah that God is making a “covenant” or a divine promise with him. That is the first time in the Bible that we have God making a covenant with humankind. This is a very interesting covenant indeed. God seems to be showing remorse to Noah. God is saying that he will not destroy the earth by flood as God just had done ever again. Maybe it was a bit too harsh?

            To be sure, the promise not to utterly destroy us again is really not the same concept as SALVATION! But, the feeling behind it is kind of the same. The God of Creation will rather try to work with what is left now after the Fall of humanity. In fact, God will send Jesus to redeem God’s creation and offer salvation.

            The Old Testament sets out the minimum requirements to have life on this planet. The New Testament sets out the hope of salvation to God in the end. nIt all comes down to this understanding of covenant in the first place.

            The Hebrew word is “berith” and it refers to that which is “cut.” We still say in English “Can we cut a deal?” or “Can you cut me a break?” Which, by the way, has nothing to do with cutting the brakes on a vehicle! The idiom seems to relate back to the very ancient practice of offering up an animal at the time of a deal or promise, that is to say a covenant. The unblemished lamb would be placed on an altar, cut in two, and cooked. The smoke rising up was to signify God’s taking the deal into God’s nostrils up in heaven. “It smells like a sweet deal to God in heaven!”

            Then, the two parties entering into the agreement would each eat from the other’s half. In this way, the agreement exists in the flesh as the molecules of the offered lamb join with the molecules of the two people making the promise. Therefore, the understanding of a covenant is taking the promise both up to God in heaven and in the human flesh itself. So, breaking the promise would be like ripping your own flesh or going against God in heaven. I do not advise doing either.


            When we make a covenant, we have two possible outcomes. We either enjoy the blessings and goodness derived from the promise, or we break the promise and incur wrath and cursing. That is very clear. That is how the great flood in the time of Noah came about in the first place. That is how the Jews ended up back in slavery in Babylon. And, I could go on. However, did you notice something interesting throughout the Bible? In all of the history of our breaking the covenant of God with us, God remains faithfully in relationship to God’s children!

            This Valentine's Day, Helen gave me some flowers. You might be thinking that she went out and gathered some flowers, cut them, and made an arrangement. You might be thinking that she stopped by a store and bought cut flowers. Nope. She bought flowers that are in fact a potted plant. The potted flowers of course need to be planted in the ground, cared for, and cherished as the blossoms come again and again over the years.

            Wow, this was exactly the point that I had to make in this sermon. God never simply just cuts us off. God always builds the ark, saves for later, and sends the rainbow. In other words, God loves us! Last week I talked about love in the bible, and many of you might be wondering how the conversation about covenant fits in with that idea. Well, if you love God, then you are growing god in your heart. If you are loving your neighbor, then you are helping your neighbor to grow.


            God sent God’s Son, Jesus, because God wants this New Covenant with us. Saint Paul writes about how we are to be in covenant with God and with one another. That was the second reading. The Letter to the church in Corinth was a reminder to those people there about their covenant with God.

            Unfortunately the people in that church had broken the covenant as Jesus had laid it out. What were they doing? This was a house church. If you recall the Christians had been kicked out of the synagogue in Corinth. Corinth was a very rich town because of trans-shipment across the Peloponnese peninsula. Some say it had a lot of moral decay going on. Some compare it to Las Vegas. At any rate, the leaders of the church there would go into the dining hall of this house church and celebrate the Lord’s Supper by feasting all weak long–not inviting the regular folk into the Communion until the very end when the outer doors would be opened to allow some to come into the atrium in the middle of the house, yet still outside of the regular dining hall, where the regular folk would get bits of leftover bread and wine. That was not what Jesus had in mind when he said this is”the sign of the covenant I make with you.” This simply was not sharing the love of Jesus out as “love of neighbor.”

            Just as an aside, all the other churches supported Paul’s ministry and his special offerings to the church in Jerusalem. Corinth, despite being the most wealthy church, did not share anything with Paul. It was in Corinth therefore that Paul had to go back to tentmaking to support his own ministry. When Paul admonished the church in Corinth for this, he was basically told that he was never welcome to come back again to that church–and he never does. 2 Corinthians 1:23 “I call upon God as witness against me: it was to spare you that I did not come to Corinth again. . . “ So, he sends a letter instead, hoping and praying that it will have some effect on the church there.

            Paul is living out the covenant as best he can. Sometimes that means not going out to the other but rather sending word through someone else or by a letter, e-mail, or text. But, not just cut the other off.

            The country singer Carly Pearce has a song out called “We Don’t Fight Anymore.” The video starts with silence for about a minute. Then, the lyrics tell of a relationship that has become indifferent between a husband and wife. They do not love, they do not hate, they “Don't even fight anymore.” You cannot do that with a covenant. A marriage is a covenant. A promise made in flesh before God. It can not just be cut simply. The marriage contract as laid out be the state can be abrogated, but not the covenant.

            So it is with God that God is always faithful. 2 Timothy, 2:13, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” This is the basis of the covenant we have with an all-loving God. God always does send the rainbow. God sent Jesus to save us for his love endures forever.