Wednesday, March 07, 2018
A Rainbow Promise and Practical Realities
I've always liked this year in the three-year lectionary cycle for the Christian season of Lent. There are a series of scripture readings from Sunday to Sunday which address the biblical covenants or promises between God and humanity. Jesus comes to us as the fulfillment of promise, the "new testament" or "new covenant" which we solemnly recognize during Holy Week and celebrate on Easter morning.
The first of those promise passages was the Noahic Covenant, the deluge which destroys most of humankind except for the family of the faithful Noah. The ark for creatures is iconic, as is the dove returning with an olive branch, and the sign of the rainbow.
Many Christians view this as one of the myths of early Genesis, a story which may not be factual yet is true. It speaks to us of attending to God even though we are surrounded by moral and ethical deafness. While we have morphed this story into a fable for children (see every Sunday School room everywhere) it is a powerful call to listen and actively respond to God's voice.
Where am I going with this?! Recently I heard Linda Hepner, the mayor of Surrey, British Columbia speak about the preparations for rising sea levels which could inundate the Vancouver suburb unless planners and politicians act now to mitigate what is happening because of climate change. Older projections just don't address the looming realities and Hepner used the term "managed retreat."
Today I came across a Globe and Mail article about the efforts of the city of Halifax to address potentially catastrophic storm surges. This work began after Hurricane Juan in 2003, which occurred shortly after we moved from the city. Our older daughter stayed behind when we left, enduring weeks of disruption and witnessing the widespread damage.
Hurricane Juan damage
Insurance companies are now saying that "water is the new fire" from their standpoint. It isn't just rising sea levels. When the planet heats up water evaporates and then when the atmosphere becomes super-saturated the precipitation pours down. We may not get forty days of rain but in many instances the deluges of forty hours, or even forty minutes can be highly destructive. Last year floods caused over $590 million in insured damage across Canada. This doesn't include the financial costs to governments and Canadians without flood insurance.
We are called to listen as planetary citizens and as people of God. We can scoff at what we're being told by climate scientists, or we can act differently. The mayor of Surrey noted that this will have to be more than changes to infrastructure. We can only pile the sandbags so high, even if they are sophisticated. As with the story of Noah, our promise lies in our willingness to realize that the party is over when it comes to our excesses and to chart a new course.
While we may not want to hear this, our rainbow promise depends on it.