... or a Meteorological Phenomenon?
My first exposure to the story of Noah and the flood was in first grade Sunday School. I don’t recall the exact details, but I’m fairly sure it included flannel animals going two by two into a flannel-graph ark. What I do remember clearly is the end of the story. The teacher told us how God put a rainbow in the sky as a promise that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood.
But then the teacher to it a step further and said something that wasn’t strictly speaking necessary. She told us that this was the first rainbow ever - that there had never been any rainbows before that one in the history of the world. And I remember thinking “that doesn’t make any sense.”
(Note: Bruce tells me that this is a common interpretation of the scripture. I don’t get that. You can decide for yourself - Genesis 9:8-17.)
A few years later, in an elementary school science lesson, our teacher showed us how a prism broke apart light and made a rainbow. It was a particularly rainy year and I remember the class going outside to the playground to look at a rainbow in the sky. The teacher explained how the rain in the sky acted like the glass prism and broke apart the sunlight to make the rainbow.
Click. I remembered the Sunday School lesson. Now I knew why it didn’t make sense.
But here’s the thing - and why it wasn’t necessary for my Sunday school teacher to chance her arm - because whatever else it is, a rainbow is a promise. A promise that after the deluge, the sun does shine. That after years of drought, the water and the sunlight together will bring green growth and bright wildflowers to the hillsides. That when all around us is chaos and devastation, and everything seems hopeless, yet there is still hope. And that is God’s promise to all of us.