Many years ago, as the family were driving to Southwold, our nearest seaside resort, we saw a beautiful rainbow, one of those full ones that go across the sky, touching down at both ends. As we travelled, we seemed to go past it. However, when we arrived at Southwold there it was, a full arc but out to sea, with a boat in the centre of its arc. I recall thinking how much that bow, although at times we hadn’t seen it, had travelled with us on our journey. Pictures of rainbows have appeared in our cities, towns and villages, posted onto windows, hanging from gates and being sent through the post to friends and relatives. Rainbows have always been there, the meeting place of rain, sunshine, blue sky and stormy skies. The words of the song ‘When I needed a neighbour, were you there?’ by Sydney Carter came to mind this morning, especially the first verse, ‘When I needed a neighbour, were you there, were you there? When I needed a neighbour, were you there? And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter, were you there?’ The enormity of the Coronavirus has been no respecter of rich or poor, creed or colour, where you live or what you do. Our world today is covered by the storm clouds of a virus that has affected us all.
Prince Charles sent a video message on behalf of Age UK on 1st April. He encouraged the nation with these words, ‘None of us can say when this will end, but end it will and, until it does, let us try and live with hope and with faith in ourselves and each other and look forward to better times to come.’ Throughout the millennia, there have been many worldwide crises that have taken their toll on humanity.
On the 8th March, at the very beginning of social distancing, self-isolation and now lockdown, I sent a WhatsApp message to a young friend who had emigrated to Canada to get married last autumn. This is what I wrote, ‘I’ve seen a rainbow this afternoon. Wonderful to know that God keeps his promises. It was a double rainbow too. We can always trust God and his Word.’ She returned my WhatsApp with these words, ‘Could you write about double rainbows in your next reflection’. At that time, I assured her that I would, little realising where this world would be today with its devastating fear, loss and suffering.
I researched rainbows on the Internet and was surprised by how much it is used as a symbol of hope, a sign of faith, and aspirations of healing. I re-read the story of Noah’s ark this week because of God’s covenant with Noah by the sign of a rainbow in the sky when the floods receded. ‘And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 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. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”’ (Genesis 9:12-17)
We desperately need to have our faith and hope renewed at this present time so that, when this dark time has ended, we will be able to, in time, learn to live again. It is only natural that, with the turmoil of thoughts and chaotic emotions, there will be many recriminations, and we will have to exercise forgiveness.
The final thought I leave with you is found at the end of 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul evaluates what true love is. He ends with, ‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’ (1 Corinthians 13:13) When I see the rainbow in its full intensity with the double rainbow, longer and fainter, appearing above the lower rainbow, I feel that the larger rainbow is God sealing his promise to us. He will never break his promise.