No Name Saturday – Tomorrow a Rainbow

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Synopsis of   No Name Saturday – Tomorrow, a Rainbow

Good and joyful morning to all Christian brothers and sisters, on this the day the Lord has made. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee, or tea, or milk, or whatever is your favorite….we’re about to slice a piece of the bread of life, the word of God. And today’s slice comes from….  Genesis 9:1-17      Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him:  “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you  and with every living creature that was with you-the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you-every living creature on earth.  I establish my covenant with you: never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”  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.”

Even if you’re not Irish, and the most Irish thing you’ve ever done is eat lucky charms, you know all about leprechauns. The thing everyone knows about leprechauns is they love gold. The thing everyone knows about gold is that in Irish tradition pots of it languish at the “end of the rainbow.” At the end of every rainbow, guarded by a leprechaun, is a legendary “pot of gold.”

Sounds like easy pickings, right?…. Except for one teeny, tiny flaw in that equation no one can ever find the end of a rainbow. Ever try to follow a rainbow from one end to the other? The “end” always “moves,” shifting onward, westward, eastward, somewhere. No one ever finds leprechaun gold, because no one can ever find the end of the rainbow.

Lent is usually devoted to looking down the long journey to the still obscured (but we know it is glorious) miracle of Easter. No matter how intentional our Lenten days of prayer, no matter what we may “give up” for lent, no matter how focused we may be on the tragedy of the crucifixion, we still know we are looking forward to Easter morning,  and the transforming joy of the resurrection. It is hard to pretend we don’t know the ending to Christ’s story.

But the fact is, even though we may know the “end,” most of us don’t know even consider the “middle” of this journey. We don’t know the story that drives the plot to its glorious conclusion. Here, at the the Lenten season, is the time to look at the heart of this divine drama.

The most neglected, the most misunderstood twenty-four hours in the entire Christian calendar is given the name of “no-name Saturday,” that deep, dark, extremely earthly day between the completed crucifixion and the miracle of the resurrection.  In the apostle’s creed it comes to us in these four words that are seldom commented on: “he descended into hell.”  

It was into this dark, dismal, scary space, a space defined by the ugliest kind of segregation (separation from God’s presence) that Jesus voluntarily ventured.  It wasn’t over for Jesus after he was crucified. He still had this part of his journey to make. Jesus had to go down before he could go up. The grace of God’s redemption was not contained by his death on the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice involved much more.

At the very ending of the Lenten season, as we   begin to think about the significance of those forty days, the first biblical symbol we read about, is the rainbow. The rainbow is the sign from God that goes from earth to earth, the prism of light that seems to spring from out of the world and then, just as a dolphin leaps up and over, returns to this world. Where does this rainbow come from; where does this rainbow end?

The only liturgical day that tentatively addresses the day when God most committed the divine self to the down-side of dirt, to the depths of the world where death still reigned, is no name Saturday, holy Saturday. So today’s message has 2 titles…. No name Saturday & Tomorrow a Rainbow

A sunrise looks as though the sun is coming up, but actually the earth is going down. On holy Saturday a rift opens up between how things are and how we experience them. What appears to be a tomb, is actually a womb, and from that womb is born a new creation, a new heaven and a new earth. Holy Saturday is more than the story of the cross as personal salvation. It’s the story of the salvation of the earth.
The Lenten season looks forward to Easter. But we should never lose sight of the ground we cover on the way.  Holy Saturday, like every Jewish Sabbath, should be kept holy. How do we keep holy Saturday “holy?” By living every day as an “earth day,” a day to consecrate and celebrate our  humanity. How about  finding God in the wonder of the ordinary, in the aliveness of life, in the common. “surely the Lord is in this place .

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No Name Saturday – Tomorrow a Rainbow

Good and joyful morning to all christian brothers and sisters, on this the day the lord has made. pullup a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee, or tea, or milk, or whatever is your favorite…. we’re about to slice a piece of the bread of life, the word of God

And today’s slice comes from….  Genesis 9:1-17 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man. As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.”

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you-the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you-every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

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.”

Even if you’re not Irish, and the most Irish thing you’ve ever done is eat Lucky Charms, you know all about leprechauns. The thing everyone knows about leprechauns is they love gold. The thing everyone knows about gold is that in Irish tradition pots of it languish at the “end of the rainbow.” At the end of every rainbow, guarded by a leprechaun, is a legendary “pot of gold.”

Sounds like easy pickings, right?…. Except for one teeny, tiny flaw in that equation no one can ever FIND the end of a rainbow. Ever try to follow a rainbow from one end to the other? The “end” always “moves,” shifting onward, westward, eastward, somewhere. No one ever finds leprechaun gold, because no one can ever find the end of the rainbow.

Rainbow ends are “movable.” As you come closer and closer to what looks like is going to be the end point, that shiny summit keeps shifting. Light, reflections, the curvature of the earth, keep transmitting that “end” perpetually forward. The global nature of our world, the roundness of the earth, keeps the end point from ever become a final “end point.”

The rainbow is the only celestial body given divine importance, a divine imprimatur, that is…. licensed to be printed, in the Old Testament. And the rainbow is also the only celestial, “heavenly” event that begins and ends upon this earth. The rainbow is the divine, heavenly symbol that intentionally bonds itself to this world, both at its beginning and at its end.

Lent is usually devoted to looking down the long journey to the still obscured (but we know it is glorious) miracle of Easter.

No matter how intentional our Lenten days of prayer, no matter what we may “give up” for Lent, no matter how focused we may be on the tragedy of the crucifixion, we still know we are looking forward to Easter morning, and the transforming joy of the Resurrection. It is hard to pretend we don’t know the ending to Christ’s story.

But the fact is, even though we may know the “end,” most of us don’t know even consider the “middle” of this journey. We don’t know the story that drives the plot to its glorious conclusion. Here, at the ending of the Lenten season, is the time to look at the heart of this divine drama.

The most neglected, the most misunderstood twenty-four hours in the entire Christian calendar is given the name of “No-Name Saturday,” that deep, dark, extremely earthly day between the completed crucifixion and the miracle of the resurrection. The Book of Common Prayer prohibits the celebration of the Eucharist, or holy communion, on Holy Saturday. It is the day of pause and silence in the narrative of Christ, but without pause and silence no story can be told.

In the Apostle’s Creed it comes to us in these four words that are seldom commented on: “he descended into hell.”

There are, of course, no first hand accounts of the depths Jesus encountered on that day when he “descended into hell.” Traditionally “Holy Saturday” a.k.a. “No-Name Saturday” has been taught as the “day” when the crucified Jesus journeyed into the depths of death. In the Christian tradition we envision those depths as “hell,” that agonizing separation from God, branded with fire and brimstone. But in Judaism and in Jesus’ day that place between heaven and earth was known as Sheol, a dark, shadowy, not-living but not-torturous “place” at the center of the Earth. It was a kind of “waiting room” for souls, not a fiery pit, but definitely deep in the scary bowels of the earth, not part of the heavenly sphere.

It was into this dark, dismal, scary space, a space defined by the ugliest kind of segregation (separation from God’s presence) that Jesus voluntarily ventured.
It wasn’t over for Jesus after he was crucified. He still had this part of his journey to make. Jesus had to go down before he could go up. The grace of God’s redemption was not contained by his death on the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice involved much more.

There is no lack of horrific tales of death in human history. Dying on the cross was the science of torture taken to its most artistic limits. But Jesus went beyond death. He journeyed down into the bowels of the earth, to the roots of Sheol, to eradicate that horrible halfway house and enable all souls to journey back to the loving longitudes of God’s Lordship.

What Jesus embraced with his birth, with his life, he also embraced with his death. Jesus embraced the world. Jesus embraced the Earth. Jesus was born as an earthly child. He lived as an earthly man. He died, as an earthly criminal. Jesus’ life and mission and death as the Second Adam were wholly tied to this Earth, this garden planet.

At the very ending of the Lenten season, as we  begin to think about the significance of those forty days, the first biblical symbol we read about, is the rainbow. The rainbow is the sign from God that goes from earth to earth, the prism of light that seems to spring from out of the world and then, just as a dolphin leaps up and over, returns to this world. Where does this rainbow come from; where does this rainbow end?

In both cases the answer is somewhere beyond our human experience, yet still part of our earthliness. The rainbow comes out of, and returns to, the earth, even as we do. But the “end of the rainbow” cannot be found by human means anymore than the “ends of the earth” can be found. The “ends of the rainbow” reach below the bounds of the crust of the earth.

The only liturgical day that tentatively addresses the day when God most committed the Divine self to the down-side of dirt, to the depths of the world where death still reigned, is No Name Saturday, Holy Saturday.

so today’s message has 2 titles…. No Name Saturday and Tomorrow a Rainbow

Here at the end of all, the Divine presence entered in. Here is the radical nature of the Incarnation. When God came down to earth, God came all the way down. In death, on Holy Saturday, Jesus was still not beyond the bounds of this world. In Sheol, in the shadowy world of death and separation from God, Jesus brought the redeeming, the re-creating God down into those depths and re-seeded the very heart of the Earth with resurrection energies.

A sunrise looks as though the sun is coming up, but actually the earth is going down.

On Holy Saturday a rift opens up between how things are and how we experience them. What appears to be a tomb, is actually a womb, and from that womb is born a new creation, a new heaven and a new earth. Holy Saturday is more than the story of the cross as personal salvation. It’s the story of the salvation of the Earth. That’s why in Christian history some theologians have used the metaphor of the volcano for resurrection. they see Easter morning as the first eruption of a volcano which reveals the divine fire burning in the innermost bowels of the earth, a fire which continues to burn and overflow with its healing powers and presence and passion.

The Lenten season looked forward to Easter. But we should never lose sight of the ground we cover on the way. Holy Saturday, like every Jewish Sabbath, should be kept holy. How do we keep Holy Saturday “holy?” By living every day as an “Earth Day,” a day to consecrate and celebrate our earthliness, our humanity. How about finding God in the wonder of the ordinary, in the aliveness of life, in the common. “Surely the Lord is in this place .


In a sense, until we too die and rise with Christ every day is “Holy Saturday,” a day when we face the forces of hell but with this awareness, an awareness that this fear-filled world needs to hear: that there is no hell where Jesus has not already been; there is no pit of darkness where life can take you that Jesus has not penetrated with the light.

The Prince of Peace took the beauty of God into the very living room of the Prince of Darkness, and there forever redeemed the original beauty of creation.

Jesus committed his life and his death to the glory of God and to the glorification of God’s creation, which is God’s earth. In fact, on the cross Jesus did not so much show us how to be a new kind of Christian, but how to be a new kind of human, the original kind of human God created Adam to be. Jesus is your best shot at being human.

What kind of human are you? Are you a Jesus kind of human?

Since I started this whole message with the rainbow…. let me return there. in fact lets start with the story of the flood that prompted god to give us the rainbow. One of the best known stories in all literature is the story of Noah and the Ark. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the more modern version of that story. Let me give you an abbreviated humorous version as posted by somebody on the Internet:

The Lord spoke to Noah and said, “Noah, in six months I’m going to make it rain until the whole world is covered with water. But I want to save a few good people and two of every living thing on the planet. So I am ordering you to build an Ark.”

“OK,” Noah said, trembling with fear. “I’m your man.” Six months passed, the sky began to cloud up, and the rain began to fall in torrents. The Lord looked down and saw Noah sitting in his yard. There was no Ark.

“Noah!” shouted the Lord, “where is My Ark?”

“Lord, please forgive me!begged Noah. “I did my best, but there were some big problems. First, I had to get a building permit. My neighbors objected, claiming that I was violating zoning ordinances by building the Ark in my front yard. I spent months trying to get a variance from the city planning board. After all that, I had a big problem getting enough wood for the Ark, because of the endangered species act.

“Then the carpenters’ union started picketing my home because I wasn’t using union carpenters. Next, I started gathering up the animals but got sued by an animal rights group. Just when that suit got dismissed, the EPA notified me that I couldn’t complete the Ark without filing an environmental impact statement for your proposed flood. Then the Corps of Engineers wanted a map of the area to be flooded. I sent them a globe and they went ballistic! Lord, I’m sorry, but I don’t think there’s any way I can finish the Ark in less than five years if ever!”

With that, the sky cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow arched across the sky. Noah looked up and smiled. “You mean you are not going to destroy the world?” he asked hopefully.

“Wrong!” thundered the Lord. “But I’m going to do it with something far worse than a mere flood. Something far more destructive. Something that man himself created.”

“What’s that?” Noah asked.         “Government!” said the Lord.

Even little children know the real story of Noah and the ark and the animals. And we know the beautiful ending to the story. God made a promise to Noah, and to all humankind. Never again would God send a flood to destroy the earth. And this would be a sign of God’s promise. God placed a rainbow in the clouds. Whenever we see the rainbow we can remember God’s promise. There’s something special and hopeful about a rainbow, isn’t there?

There are some things about rainbows that you may not know. Rainbows appear at the end of rainstorms because it is then that you have the two prerequisites for making them: 1) water droplets suspended in the sky and 2) sunlight .

A rainbow’s visible colors are always arrayed in the same order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet . . . Rainbows are actually circular. They appear to be arches [or half‑circles] only because their bottom halves are cut off by the ground you stand upon. If you wish to see them in their full circular glory . . . you need to view them from high above the ground, such as on board an airplane.” That’s why you can never find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The rainbow has no end.

Those are the technical truths about rainbows, but they do not explain the emotional lift we get from these wonders of nature. There is something about rainbows that lift our spirits whether we are young or old.

Rainbows follow storms. Maybe that’s one reason we love rainbows. No matter how fierce a storm may be, if we see a rainbow afterward, it gives us hope.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss, in her radio series called, “The Blessing of Thorns,” tells a truly touching story. It’s an Easter story, but it bears a universal truth. I’ve tried to abbreviate the story just a little for this sermon while still leaving intact its beauty. It’s about a woman named Sandra.

Sandra was feeling exceedingly low as she made her way into the florist shop door. It was Easter week. This is the week she would have delivered her second child, a son. But there was an automobile accident. As a result, she lost her baby. As if to add to her grief, her husband’s company was threatening a transfer and her sister called to say she could not come for the holiday. she wondered aloud. “Easter? celebrate, for what? For an airbag that saved her life but took that of her child?”

“Good afternoon, can I help you?” The shop clerk’s approach startled her.

“I . . . I need an arrangement…….. “For Easter.”  “Are you looking for something that conveys ‘gratitude’ this Easter?” “Not exactly!” Sandra blurted out. “In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.”  the shop clerk said, “I have the perfect arrangement for you.”

Just then another customer entered the shop. The clerk said, “Hi Barbara . . . let me get your order.” She walked toward a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of long stemmed thorny roses. Except the ends of the rose stems had been snipped, there were no roses, just stems with lots and lots of thorns.  “Want this in a box?” asked the clerk.

Sandra thought, “Was this a joke?. Who would want rose stems with no flowers?” But it was no joke. After the customer left with her order Sandra stammered, “Uhh, that lady just left with, uhh . . . she just left with no flowers!”

“Right,” said the clerk. “I cut off the flowers. That’s the Special . . . I call it the easter Thorns Bouquet.”

Then the clerk explained, “Barbara, who just left, came into the shop three years ago feeling very much like you feel today. She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she was facing major surgery.”

“That same year I had lost my husband, and for the first time in my life, I had to spend the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel.”

“So what did you do?” asked Sandra.

“I learned to be thankful for thorns I’ve always thanked God for good things in life and never thought to ask Him why those good things happened to me, but when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask! It took time for me to learn that dark times are important. I always enjoyed the ‘flowers’ of life, but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God’s comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we’re afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others.”

Sandra said, “I guess the truth is I don’t want comfort. I’ve lost a baby and I’m angry with God.”

Just then someone else, a man named Phil, walked in the shop. He said his wife sent him to pick up their usual Easter arrangement . . . twelve thorny, long stemmed stems!  “Those are for your wife?” asked Sandra. “Do you mind me asking why she wants something that looks like that?”

“No . . . I’m glad you asked,” Phil replied. “Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord’s grace and guidance, we slogged through problem after problem. He rescued our marriage. Jenny here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she learned from ‘thorny’ times, and that was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific ‘problem’ and give thanks to [God] for what that problem taught us.”

As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, “I highly recommend the Special!” “I don’t know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life,” Sandra said to the clerk. “It’s all too . . . fresh.”  “Well,” the clerk replied carefully, “my experience has shown me that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God’s providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don’t resent the thorns.”

Tears rolled down Sandra’s cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on resentment. “I’ll take those twelve long stemmed thorns, please,” she managed to choke out. “I hoped you would,” said the clerk gently. “I’ll have them ready in a minute.”

“Thank you. What do I owe you?” asked Sandra. “Nothing.” said the clerk. “Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year’s arrangement is always on me.” The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. “I’ll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you’d like to read it first.”

It read: “Dear God, I have never thanked you for my thorns. I have thanked you a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to you along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of your rainbow look much more brilliant.”

Friends…. Sandra had been through the storm. Now she could see the rainbow. I wonder if that isn’t one reason our spirits are lifted by rainbows? Rainbows follow storms.

Rainbows also remind of us of the beauty of God’s world. There are many people who believe this beautiful world happened by blind chance. They can make compelling arguments for their position. I have to ask them, however, if the world did happen by blind chance, why is it so beautiful? Why do we have roses and rainbows?

There is a story of a child from the slum area of a great city who was taken for a day in the country. When she saw the bluebells in the woods, she asked: “Do you think God would mind if I picked some of His flowers.”

That’s the way we ought to feel about creation. This is God’s beautiful world, a world He has filled with rainbows and roses.

No one ever seems to want to address that question, why there is so much beauty in the world? Some people want us to explain why there is suffering in the world why we have thorns and storm clouds. In a world of chance, thorns and storm clouds can be easily explained. It’s just part of the fight for survival. They are part of the evolutionary process. But how do you explain roses and rainbows? They are not necessary for our survival. Their beauty serves no evolutionary function that I can tell. They are simply and solely the gift of a loving and gracious God. They are the best evidence we have of God’s love.

An unknown man told me about a reproduction he once saw. It was a reproduction of the Constitution of the United States. This reproduction had been skillfully engraved on a copper plate. At first glance this reproduction seemed to be nothing more than a piece of noble writing. However, if you looked at it from the proper perspective, you could discern the portrait of our first President George Washington artistically etched in minute detail in the words of the Constitution itself. Washington’s face is revealed in the shadowing of the letters, and you can see his person in the flowing words.

So it is with creation. When we look at the rainbow or the rose we see the nature of God. God is a God of love who colors our world with beauty. Rainbows follow storms. Rainbows remind us of the beauty of God’s world.

as the clock frowns at me from the wall…. let me remind you…… here’s what is most important of all: rainbows remind us of our covenant relationship with God.

God made a promise to Noah and he sealed it with a rainbow. God also made a promise to Abraham. And to Isaac. And to Jacob. God made lots of promises in the scriptures. In fact, people who study these things and count them tell us that there are more than 3,000 promises in the Bible. You will find a promise to meet every need you will ever encounter. Promises are important to God, just like they are important to us.

“On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty, to God and my country.”                          The Scout’s promise.

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”                                  The President’s promise.

“To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish ’till death us do part.” The promise we give each other in the marriage ceremony.

Promises are important. Of course, a promise is only as good as the character of the one making the promise. The One who has made 3,000 promises to us in scripture has impeccable character. If God says that He will be with us through the storm, you can count on it. If He says He accepts us just as we are, you can take it to the bank. If He says He has prepared a place for us that where He is there we may also be, you can look forward to it. If He says that nothing in all creation can separate us from His love for us, then relax. Life is all taken care of.

  1. Until next Sunday           same time             same station

Perhaps you are in a storm this Easter week. perhaps you hava a hard time celebrating his resurrection. Remember that the next time you see a rainbow. Not simply that God promised Noah He would never again destroy the world with water, but all the promises God makes to us throughout the scriptures. After the storm, a rainbow. Rainbows remind us of the beauty of God’s world. Rainbows remind us of the beauty of God’s promises.

Sometimes life might not be the party we hoped for …. but, while we are here we might as well dance.

Remember also to ask yourself….

Has God, or is God, walking with me through this storm? will He provide a rainbow for me?

 

America Bless God      and     God will bless (and provide a rainbow for) America

 

 

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