Portland, Oregon: they have 222 days with what is considered heavy cloud cover and only 68 days that are considered clear, the other days being moderately cloudy; and it rains, on average, 164 days a year. Oklahoma gets 84 on average. With that in mind…
A fella dies and finds himself in line for judgment. As he watches, he sees some being ushered into Heaven and others directed to the Devil who is off to the side waiting for the wicked. As the guy watched, he saw Satan immediately throw some folks into hell, while a few he pitched over unto a pile. After watching Satan do this several times, the fellow’s curiosity got the better of him. He strolled over and tapped Old Nick on the shoulder.
“Excuse me, there, Your Darkness,” he said. “I’m waiting in line for judgment, and I couldn’t help wondering why you are tossing some people aside instead of flinging them into the fires of hell with the others?”
“Ah,” Satan said with a grin. “Those are Portlanders. I’m letting them dry out so they’ll burn.”
On Ash Wednesday, we talked about how the last twelve months have really seemed a bit like Lent with all the isolation, “fasting” from life, and denial of the lives we had. Continuing with that thought, we can use what lead up to our Old Testament lesson, the great flood, as an analogy for what has been happening. How? Well it’s been raining. As my Granma would say, It’s been raining cats and dogs. More than even in Portland. In fact, it’s almost comical at this point: pandemic, elections, masks, isolation, elections, Arctic blast, and that earthquake Friday morning was a real kicker! When it was over, I just kinda busted out laughing. With everything that has been thrown at us, the only thing I’m missing on my “This is Your World” Bingo card is Velociraptors, and based on what I read about some ridiculous cloning experiments… it wouldn’t surprise me! Yes. It is raining and I for one—and I know I’m not alone in saying this—am ready to dry out, I’m ready to see the rainbow. That sign of a storm passing and of peace. I know that God’s not going to wipe us out again like with what happened in the flood, but we could all use a reprieve; however, this is where we are and for now, it is still raining, and as Dolly Parton says, “If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” If this is the case, the where are we to find safety between the two, between the rain and the rainbow?
I think most are aware of this: the area in the church where you all sit is called the nave. These two side areas are called transepts and this area in the center is called the crossing. The entire area up here is called the chancel, which is broken down into the choir and the sanctuary, the area of the high altar.
Between the sanctuary and the chancel with the transepts, we have the cruciform shape, with the altar, Christ as the head. Now, the word “nave” is quite similar to the word “navy” and they both have as their Latin root word navis, which means ship, which comes from the Greek word naus, also meaning ship. Not only that, but looking up—and the architecture St. Matthew’s does this marvelously—you see the form of a ship, as though you were looking at it from above.
Where are we to find safety between the rain and the rainbow? This ship… Noah’s Ark… the Church. Yet we know that the church is not just this building, but is the Body of Christ and Christ is the head; and it is only through that Body, that community of the faithful—both lay and ordained—that we find our salvation from the rain and storms while we wait on the glorious appearing of the rainbow, which is the coming of our Lord.
My friend, St. Josemaría Escrivá says, “No later than the second century, Origen wrote: If anyone wants to be saved, let him come to this house so that he can obtain salvation… Let no one deceive himself: outside of this house, that is outside of the Church, no one will be saved. Of the deluge – the great flood – Saint Cyprian says: If someone had escaped outside of Noah’s ark then we would admit that someone who abandoned the Church might escape condemnation.” (In Love with the Church, 2.24) But the truth is, no one, other than the eight on the Ark, survived, and they only by the grace of God.
While it is raining out, know in your heart and mind—and I’m not going to speak for other churches—but know in your heart that the community of St. Matthew’s is an ark where you can find fellow passengers who are here to give comfort and support and who need you for the same reason. Know that we are a church where you can find sanctuary from the storm so that your soul might know and feel the peace of God. In this ship, you can receive food for your soul, the Body and Blood of Christ. This church is a place where you can know that even when it is raining, the rainbow is present and reflected through God’s people as they continue to witness to the protective covenant that God made to his people.
Let us pray: O Lord, our God, You called Your people to be Your Church. As we gather together in Your Name, may we love, honour, and follow Your Son to eternal life in the Kingdom He promised. Let our worship always be sincere, and help us to find Your saving Love in the Church and its Sacraments. Fill us with the Spirit of Christ as we live in the midst of the world and its concern. Help us by our work on earth to build up Your eternal Kingdom. May we be effective witnesses to the Truth of the Gospel and make Your Church a living presence in the midst of the world. Increase the gifts You have given Your Church that we, Your faithful people, may continue to grow in holiness and in imitation of Your Beloved Son. Amen.