March 28, 2020
Readings for March 28, 2020:   Psalm 130; Ezekiel 36:8-15; Luke 24:44-53

A complete list of lectionary readings for Year A is located at https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/daily.php?year=A
A Note from Pastor Charlie
Pastor Tracy Paschke-Johannes serves at Epiphany as our Pastor of Pastoral Care. This is one of her two pastoral positions. Her primary focus in these days is her call to serve as a chaplain for Hospice Care in Cincinnati. In these days of health crisis, we pray for her and her colleagues and those she serves. 

In a conversation with her last week, she shared with me her experience of hope in the midst of disaster. I asked her to share it with us – it is our devotion for today.
Genesis 9:13 

(And God said) “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth….”
April 1997. The winter of my junior year of high school was especially brutal -- even by North Dakota standards. Relentless blizzards began in October, stretching through early March, and then turned into an ice storm that gutted the state’s power grid. Ice jammed the overflowing riverbanks, already backed up by spring thaw. Despite our best efforts to sandbag and salvage the city, the flood waters came. Then, our lives became a scene out of a horror movie: downtown buildings, submerged in 12 feet of flood water, began to burn -- the spark of an electrical fire torching our newspaper and state art institute. Never before had such a huge swath of people been evacuated so far -- as a rural region, the evacuation covered the entire population, and was the largest per capita natural disaster in American history (before Hurricane Katrina). 

Over 100,000 people were displaced. Nursing home patients were helicoptered out and sent hours away, wherever there was room. Every home, every school, every church saw flood waters wash away what had been treasured. Some returned to no home at all -- only a foundation left where a home, business, or church used to stand. We evacuated without saying goodbye, without any planning, not knowing where we were going or when we would return. 

The scenes unfolding before us today feel eerily similar to the spring of 1997. I have the same spinning, confusing, sick-to-my-stomach feeling I remember in those early days. We felt so disconnected, lost and alone. It felt like nothing would ever be the same again.

Early in the days after we returned to our homes -- before the basements were cleaned out, before downtown was restored -- in the days when we were still under an evening curfew, and grocery stores had limited supplies, a gentle evening rain washed over the Red River Valley. 

And a perfect, full rainbow stretched over the prairie sky.  

I could see it over my parent’s country farm. It was visible to those in the burnt out downtown. The rainbow wrapped over my friends living in FEMA trailers and campers.
A full rainbow.
God’s covenant promise -- we are not alone -- visible to all.

The days and months ahead remained challenging. But we had hope. Water could not wash that away. Fire could not burn that away. Ice could not freeze it away. And God would not take it away. Hope brought us back stronger than ever.

I share these words that I pray are hope for you, dear friends, in the days ahead. I have seen a community shaken to its core. I’ve grieved High School Senior celebrations canceled. I’ve watched distraught relatives separated from elderly loved ones, wondering when they would be reunited. Those days were not easy, and I, and my community, were never the same.

But I’ve seen a rainbow in the sky. And I’ve known the hope that comes from a God that never leaves us. I’ve found comfort when everything familiar was taken away. 
We are people of hope and promise. We are people beloved by God. We are people who know the power of God’s promise. 
And that will never leave us.

Let us pray:
Thank you, God, for your hope and your promise. Help us to claim the power of this promise to face today, and strength to face the days to come. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
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