May 19

MAY 19
Pastor Judy
Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Do the skies themselves send down showers? No, it is you, LORD our God. Therefore our hope is in you, for you are the one who does all this. Jeremiah 14:22

Early this morning (Monday) I was awakened by the sound of rain.  What a welcome sound!  And I was reminded of our time in Africa, where the sound of rain meant God’s presence.

If you have read Out of Africa by Karen Blixen, you know what rain means in Africa – or in any country that is utterly dependent on seasonal rains.  I will never forget this excerpt:

One year the long rains failed. That is a terrible tremendous experience, and the farmer who has lived through it will never forget it. Years afterwards, away from Africa, in the wet climate of a Northern country, he will start up at night, at the sound of a sudden shower of rain, and cry, ‘At last, at last!’

I can identify with that.  You have seen in news documentaries, no doubt, what drought can do to those who depend on the rain in Africa (or in any land where systems of irrigation are not widespread) and everyone – including professors and politicians – is a farmer.  The most precious sound in our 22 years there was that of water trickling into our water tank at night – meaning we would have water for the next day.  I still remember it.

So it is not surprising that many Africans believe that God is present in the rain.  Scripture often points to the fact that it is God – and no one else – who sends the rain, who provides us with food and water.  We are utterly dependent on God for our most basic needs.

But it’s more than that. God also showers us with his grace – with salvation.  There were a couple of times in Africa that brought this truth home to us, and it was at the time of baptism.  A remarkable missionary in our time, Pastor Dave Simonson had, together with African leaders and evangelists, performed mass baptisms of the Maasai – over 1000 at a time, spanning at least 3 days.  Pastor Dave’s wife, Eunie, reflected on those baptisms:

“It may have been the most incredible part of the baptisms,” she said. “Each morning the sky was blue.  Each day as the baptisms got underway, clouds appeared.  And then it rained.  Each day delivered showers in the afternoon.” A coincidence? “Oh no.  Each time the showers came we remembered what rain showers mean to the Maasai.  Rain, the Maasai believe, means God is present.” (Jim Klobuchar, The Cross Under the Acacia Tree, 1998)

It happened to us at Makumira – the seminary where we taught in the northern part of the country.  A Danish student had come to study theology, but was not a Christian.  To her, theology was simply an interesting academic subject.  While at Makumira, she became a Christian under the influence of our African students, and decided to be baptized.  During her baptism, a sudden shower of rain thundered on the corrugated iron roof, such that nothing could be heard until the shower was over.  A coincidence?  No.  God is in the rain.

My friends, when you hear the rain, think of God’s presence, of his abundant grace, how he showers you with blessings, because he alone grants you the gift of salvation, through Jesus his son.

God, our Creator and Redeemer, you are powerful and you are gracious.  Thank you for the rain and for the way you provide for us.  Thank you for your powerful witness among the Maasai people, and for their witness to us.  Thank you most of all for sending your son Jesus, to be our Savior, and for his gift of forgiveness that washes us clean.  In his name we pray, Amen.

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