We all know the story of Noah’s Ark. It starts with God regretting having ever created humanity: God “saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” And the story ends, after all life on earth is wiped out, with a covenant established with Noah and all his descendants and with every living creature on earth! “Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
This is the story of God’s covenant to sustain life even though human hearts will persist in evil inclinations. It is a covenant made with all of creation. And of course, the sign of God’s covenant to sustain life is the rainbow. A covenant is not the same as a contract. A contract is about things and is held together with rules and rewards, obedience and punishment.
God has not signed a contract with us. God hangs a rainbow in the sky and extends to us a covenant. And a covenant is about souls and is held together by love, forgiveness, and worship. Clergyman, author, and poet Eugene Peterson says, “Covenant is the word used to mark the organic, living connectedness of God and us that makes us a community of God, not disconnected individuals on our own.” And the sign of this connectedness of God is the rainbow.
And so we come to the rainbow colors on our church sign.
We Christians join in many covenants with God. We do this in our baptism and each time we partake of communion. We do this in confirmation and in marriage. The sacraments and rites of the church are our faithful response to the covenant God offers through grace to sustain life, to join in the living connectedness of God.
In 2012, PUCC joined in another covenant when the vote was taken to become an Open and Affirming Congregation. This was not simply a “political” or “social” statement to be welcoming and supportive to a particular group of people. As a covenant, becoming ONA is a faithful response to the covenant God offers to sustain life, to join in the living connectedness of God that makes us a community of God. We articulated this covenant in our Welcome Statement and in these lines in particular:
- We affirm that we are a welcoming community to all people, regardless of faith background, beliefs or doubts, age, color, gender, nationality, physical, mental, or emotional ability, or economic or social status.
- We affirm that we welcome all people regardless of marital standing, family structure, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. We welcome all into the full life and ministry of the church.
When we as an Open and Affirming Church display these colors, we are declaring publicly that we are joining with our covenant-making and covenant-keeping God to sustain life, to live in the connectedness of God that makes us a community of God. We are fulfilling this covenant as we welcome all people into the full life and ministry of the church.
And the sign of this connectedness – the reminder of our covenant – is the rainbow.
In the months ahead, with the collaboration of the Deacons and the Administrative Board, we will be furthering our study and discussions of what it means to live into our ONA covenant. I hope as many of you will join us as possible so that we may fully experience the living connectedness that makes us the community of God.