Whenever the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the eternal covenant between God and all living creatures (Genesis 9:16).
Donning a glistening ruby red evening gown, singer/songwriter Pink paid tribute to the 75th anniversary of the “Wizard of Oz” movie by singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at the 2014 Oscars.
The lyrics include the question, “If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why, oh, why, can’t I?” Kermit the Frog has his own questions about rainbows: “Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what’s on the other side?”
Well, science has answers for us: birds have wings and we don’t; light that both refracts and reflects = rainbows. Still, there is a mystical quality to rainbows. I pull my car to the side of the road when I see a rainbow gleaming over the Boise foothills. I want a glimpse before it fades.
As Christians, we recall God’s promise attached to a rainbow: Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. The “bow” remains a sign of peace and promise in religions throughout the world. Artists of all stripes (pun intended) continue to sing, write and create rainbows. Even politicians have designated rainbow flags since the 16th centuries as symbols of hope and social change.
In our time, a rainbow flag represents an alliance with both the immense diversity and unity among the LGBTQ community. My rainbow flag waved in a colorful flowerpot throughout the spring, summer and early autumn. It lasted longer than I thought. On a chilly late October morning, it was gone. Around the globe, rainbow flags fly during both promising and challenging times as we await the day when the world is a diverse (red), inclusive (orange), accepting (yellow), welcoming (green), safe space (blue) for everyone (indigo/violet). I know and love family and friends who identify as LGTBQ. At least one person in my neighborhood is not yet ready for such inclusion.
Among those watching the 2014 Oscars was Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg. As he listened to Pink belt out the well-known ballad, he recalled the year 1939 when two Jewish men composed the music and lyrics to Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Nazis had not yet created the crematoriums and gas chambers, but already many European Jews could not “fly over the rainbow” – there would be no escape from the coming “chimney tops.”
Rabbi Rosenberg writes: “The remarkable thing would be that less than 10 years after “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was published, the exile was over, and the State of Israel was reborn. Perhaps the ‘dreams that you dare to dream really do come true’.”
The rainbow is, for us, a sign of God’s promise for new life – a new creation. At every turn in his ministry, Jesus widened the mercy of God for the most unlikely people. In the late 1930’s two Jewish American immigrants created a rainbow song that helped tell the story of a little girl who was stuck and wanted to get home. In the muck of racial injustice, Louis Armstrong (aka “Pops”) encouraged people who worried about war, violence, hunger and pollution to SEE the wonderful world and to take responsibility for their part in tending it. Indeed, he wrote “What a Wonderful World” to bring together people of different races: “the colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky are also on the faces of people going by.” (If you do nothing else today, I bid you listen to him speak and sing by clicking on the “What a Wonderful World” link below).
As much as I love glimpsing rainbows in the sky, so also do I long for the day when I may glimpse a rainbow flag in my yard without fear of its removal. Even more, I long for the day when people of all sexual orientations are safe and loved. A fuller welcome, I believe, is what God is calling us to in our time – in our homes and in our congregations.
Send your Spirit to move every human heart. Free us from prejudice and fear. Crumble barriers that divide us and give us courage to live the gospel today. Amen
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” 2014 Oscars Pink’s mom is Judith Kugel. She’s Jewish of Lithuanian background.
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (1939) Both Harold Arlen (named Hyman Arluck from Lithuania) and Yip Harburg (named Isidore Hochberg in Russia) were Jewish immigrants who combined their gifts to write what many call the greatest ballad of the 20th century.
“Rainbow Connection” is a song from the 1979 film The Muppet Movie, with music and lyrics written by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher. The song was performed by Kermit the Frog (Jim Henson) in the film.
Genesis 9 – God’s Covenant
Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg is spiritual leader of of Congregation Beth-El in Edison and the author of many books, including “The Holocaust as Seen Through Film.”
“What a Wonderful World” performed by Louis Armstrong
RIC Want to learn more about becoming a Reconciling Congregation?
The Reconciling in Christ (RIC) Journey can begin with simply one person who desires to specifically welcome LGBTQIA+ people into their midst.
Each congregation that lives out the RIC Journey, does so in a way that is unique and authentic to their community. By engaging in a welcoming process, the faith life of the community deepens. As members participate in dialogue with one another, they practice putting their faith into speech and then action, creating a more vibrant spiritual community.
Reconciling in Christ congregations are sources of hope and support to many LGBTQIA+ folks, families, and friends as they provide safe worshiping spaces and a place where ALL can grow in faith and in community.