For the first Views from the Pews piece. I have decided to begin where most people’s conversations with me, about God, tend to start – suffering, writes Rev Lynsay Downs, St James the Less Church, Penicuik.
People are always horrified by the terrible things that happen to good people; by the senseless things that happen to innocent people. Surely if God exists, God wouldn’t allow this? My answer to this begins with asking, do you know the story of Noah’s Ark?
In the story of Noah, we see God decide that there was no option but to start again.No children’s play set includes the multitudes of people and animals destroyed and floating dead in the waters surrounding the Ark. These images are too graphic and pointed because they speak to us of a God who seeks a new beginning and is willing to destroy lives to do so.
Yet at the end of the story God’s heart and mind are shifted to focus on opportunity and grace. God says to Noah: “When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh!”
Every time I watch the news, I am aware that we do not need God’s intervention to wreak horrors on ourselves and it can only be God continuing to gaze at a rainbow that stays God’s hands. Think about life in our world at the moment and how God’s heart must despair at our inhumanity. As I write this two hospitals in northern Syria have just been hit by air strikes, bringing death and injury. God must be looking at the rainbow!
These continued tragedies of our humanity are signs that God sees the rainbow. I find comfort in the fact that God is not simply immobilised by the desire to do no more harm. God is committed to changing our suffering. That’s what Christians see in the Easter story, where God, rather than seek retribution, shares the consequences of our depravity. In Jesus’s life and death God says that retribution and destruction are not the final answer. Jesus’s resurrection is the fulfilment of the promise of the rainbow – the promise of new life.