Just as soon as we began unloading the truck, there came a downpour. A raucous, blustery thunderstorm had seized our side of the mountain. The movers huddled in their truck, as I took cover under the front door’s awning. After several minutes, the storm passed, and there, in plain view from the front yard of our new house, rose the most beautiful rainbow. It’s been years since I’ve seen a rainbow so brilliant and full (and that one was in Maui). There were no faded sections, no missing colors. From beginning to end, it was sterling and marvelous, a lovely and fitting welcome to Asheville.
Though the rainbow followed a fleeting storm–not a 40-day flood–the first thoughts that came to mind were those of promise and fulfillment. I couldn’t help but remember God’s promise, not only to Noah and his family, but to all flesh–the promise of an everlasting, unbreakable covenant. “When the bow is in the clouds,” God tells Noah, “I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth” (Gen. 9:16).
In that moment, I was also filled with gratitude and thanksgiving for the First Baptist Church of Asheville. As I paused to appreciate the view in the midst of an exhausting day, I was strengthened by the memories of the past several months, and especially of our time together in early June. What an extraordinarily warm welcome you gave my family and me. I have since come to regard that time with you as a sign of great promise and fulfillment. It was fulfilling in the sense that our introduction and your ensuing congregational vote brought to a joyful end an anxious chapter of searching and discernment for all of us. It was filled with promise because of the joy I saw in you, and sensed in my own heart, as I accepted the call to be your new pastor.
In the hallway of Duke Divinity School, over the stairwell that leads down to Goodson Chapel, there is inscribed in the stone archway (a bow, of sorts) the following quote from John Wesley: “The best of all is, God is with us.”
Now I know I should quote an old Baptist in my first blog post, but you’ll hear enough from me about them in due time. What I want to tell you now is simply this: whenever you lift up your eyes to see a rainbow spread across these beautiful hills, regard it as a sign that God is with us, and that this Almighty and Everlasting God will never leave us.
I suppose, as many rainbows as one sees around here, this good news will be impossible to forget.