The bold colors of this drawing from a 9-12 atrium at Christ Church Cathedral in Nashville TN sing of abundant life and hope.
I returned to it last month when preparing for a conference presentation that ended with a close look at the covenant established between God and all living beings after the Great Flood. The rainbow is a sign of God’s pledge not to destroy the earth, and our call to account for any lifeblood we may shed. God’s creation, teeming with life, is sacred, honored by God, it’s creator, as well God’s people.
This artwork is full of New Testament images: the cross, the resurrection, and the True Vine, but it also calls to mind the Covenant for Life with its vivid rainbow. As I considered the painting, I saw the vine, rooted in the earth, connecting us not only to God and one another as branches on the Vine of Christ, but also to the earth in which we are grounded. We are not an unrooted vine, free to ignore the earth which provides us with sustenance, beauty, and the air we breathe. We embrace the created world as part of our communion with God and others.
This vine is shown literally wrapped around the cross, transforming death into life, and darkness into light. I imagine the people in the story of the Flood, emerging from the ark that may have felt like a tomb for many days, into the fullness of life once again; seeing the earth’s color return, and the sky’s light breaking forth in the form of a rainbow. The hope of this moment is known to us in the resurrection as well. Soft colors simply will not suffice!
This year we are also emerging from a “tomb” — the pandemic quarantine. We remember those who died during this pandemic, emphasizing our isolation as we attempted to bury, grieve, and memorialize those we lost. Now, we are taking cautious steps out of the “ark” of our homes into the fullness of our lives with one another once again. It’s a little scary, but full of possibilities too. May we be mindful as we go of our experience of being grounded in the gifts of the earth, its beauty, sustenance and air; surrounded by the gifts of one another, the kindnesses, the faithful work, the calls, and parking lot visits; and blessed by the constant mercy of God. While this emergence may happen in fits and starts, we rejoice with every newly opened door.
We have other “tombs” to consider as well. Tombs we have built to separate ourselves from others – violence in the form of classism, racism, sexism, homophobia, nationalism, materialism, pollution, and the unnamed violence towards children. These tombs are harder to see – some have been comfortably living in many of them for years and years, while others have been suffering from them. How does this drawing speak of life and hope to the violence of our communal tombs?
I lived in community households as a young adult. Over several years we offered temporary housing to immigrant children and adults, children with disabilities, and adults leaving college, or seminary, or a marriage. One day I was sitting in our living room. A number of people had just moved out, and the house felt “empty.” I asked God how the space could be used. A few months later we had a small Montessori school open its doors in that living room! The story reminds me that if we find some space in our hearts or homes and ask God to fill it we give God some room to do some remarkable work. The kind of work needed to leave behind the “tombs” of our society.
We are all invited to emerge. We are called to be accountable for all of life. We are called to recognize our communion with the earth and one another and with God. We are called to step out with hope into the bold color of the fullness of the Kindom of God. Be grounded, be hopeful. What are your next steps?