Some of you will see them by looking outside your windows or front door. For some of you, in just a short walk you’ll see them dotted in houses along the street. Others if you will have heard and seen them on TV. What am I taking about? I’m talking about the nations recent art-explosion of rainbows.
Along our street there are big ones & little ones, painted ones & coloured ones, all different, and unique, but all part of a bigger picture, a bigger message – that there is hope, that this time of distance will come to an end.
As we look at these rainbows, as pieces of art, we see the diversity of colour & design, the variety of materials used to make them.
The rainbow is perhaps most widely used today by the LGBT+ community which (to put a much longer, more complex history of the symbology into much briefer terms) has becomes as a symbol that offers a shared identity, a symbol offering a sense of unity to a diverse community.
Thinking about rainbows themselves in a more scientific way, when they appear in the sky they are caused by the reflections, refraction and dispersal of light…(and that’s where my scientific knowledge reaches its end!). As it happens, into the sky shines a spectrum of colour for all to see.
But before scientific understanding took place, before – perhaps – people could attempt to use rainbows in art, the rainbow as a symbol comes in biblical tradition as a sign of God’s covenant with Noah that floods will never again destroy the earth.
11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ 12 God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.Genesis 9:11-13
Millenia on, and the rainbow continues to be a sign of hope & promise. A reminder of God’s care for the world, for creation, for all living creatures, for all humankind made in God’s image.
Lent has somewhat been disrupted for us here in 2020, but today is Palm Sunday. The day in which we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
As Matthew tells it, after weeks and months of ministry ‘on the road’ Jesus gives some of the disciples instructions, they get a colt, and Jesus rides into Jerusalem. Matthew makes the point, as Matthew often does, to point to Jewish scriptures – Christ as the promised one, the Messiah, the new king.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!Zechariah 9:9, (cited in Matthew 21:5)
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
And as he approaches Jerusalem, a crowd gathers – they were not in the midst of a global pandemic! As the crowd does, they grab branches from the trees and wave them and cheer.
8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!Matthew 21:8-9
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
There’s a parallel to Jesus’ lowly entry to Jerusalem, from the eastern side of the city. From the west, Pilate was entering Jerusalem in a military procession. As Borg and Crossan put it:
Jesus’ procession proclaimed the kingdom of God; Pilate’s proclaimed the power of empire. The two processions embody the central conflict of the week that led to Jesus’ crucifixion.Borg and Crossan in ‘The Last Week’, p2.
For the crowds that gathered and waved their palms, Jesus was a symbol that life could be different. Jesus had become a symbol of hope that things could be better. Of course things didn’t go the way people expected, and it’s not long before a crowd gathers again, this time chanting ‘crucify him’.
As we sit in our homes, we too can know Jesus as a sign to us that life can be different. That there is hope that things will get better.
You’ll see a picture of our rainbow made by Rebekah and Lydia at the top of this post. Ironically, made with their very own palms (I didn’t think about this when we made it!). Just as the palm branches were what the people of Jesus’ day could find, we have rainbows displayed across the nation. Diverse and unique, yet holding a universal message of hope.
Rainbows as symbols of diversity and unity.
Rainbows as a reminder of God’s care for all creation.
Rainbows as a symbol of hope.
While we can’t gather as a crowd today and wave our palms, we can still know, live and even declare to our streets and communities the universal hope that Christ’s entry to Jerusalem declares. Things can be different. Things may get worse (we know Good Friday is coming), but they will one day get better (resurrection is coming).
I hope and pray that this Palm Sunday you will be able to celebrate Jesus as a sign of hope for you today. As Jesus enters our hearts and homes this week, and we journey with Jesus through his last week, may we and those around us know the hope that Jesus brings.
Join the conversation
if you’ve got thoughts or something to share after reading and reflecting on my thoughts, you can comment below and share them with us all – I’d love to hear from you.