Thursday, August 28, 2008

Like Rain

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth (Luke 5:27).

It’s raining this morning. Steady but not torrential. This rain falls like mercy, not wrath. It is gentle, life-giving.

I can’t remember the last time it rained like this. Summer often brings afternoon showers that blow in violently but don’t hang around long enough to truly do any good. We’ve had our share of those, but this is the kind of rain we’ve needed for a long time.

Almost a year ago our Governor prayed for rain. I think what’s falling this morning is what he had in mind – but is this the answer to those prayers? Many would say no. As if prayers have a statute of limitations after which the desired reality can no longer be regarded as God’s answer to prayer.

Years ago I served a wonderful group of people in a community that had a long history as a farming community. It wasn’t uncommon, especially during the summer, for rain to be mentioned as a “prayer request.” On one occasion an older member of the congregation recounted to me how they used to gather for specially called prayer meetings to pray for rain. Folks who came to the prayer meeting often brought umbrellas with them. The prayer gathering spoke to their humility. The umbrellas spoke to their confident faith.

All of this makes me wonder about grace and how God works in our lives. Does it rain because we pray, or do we pray because God is the only one who can give rain? We can answer by saying both are true, and find plenty of biblical evidence to back us up.

We’ve been reflecting this week on the story of how Jesus called Levi. At its core, this is a story about grace – not because Levi was a lousy human being to whom Jesus showed kindness. That is one way to think of grace. But grace is most evident when Jesus shows up and steps into Levi’s life while Levi is minding his own business.

The opening verse of the story has Jesus doing all the action. Jesus is on the move, Jesus sees Levi, Jesus speaks the word of invitation. Levi is simply sitting at his cubicle, tending his work. Jesus found Levi. Nothing suggests that Levi was looking for Jesus.

But then Levi gets up and leaves everything. Grace always calls for a response.

Grace falls like rain. We know we need it, but we can’t create it. It comes to us without regard for our plans for a day of golfing or the desperate condition of a lake. But once it comes, it defines the world we live in and calls for response.

Levi got up and left everything, his life defined by a new reality. This new reality found him, and seemingly found him when he wasn’t looking or making plans for a major life change.

Has God’s grace surprised you lately? Who knows. Grace could invade your world today, falling like rain you’ve long been yearning for. How will you respond? As you step into this day, take your umbrella.

Let it rain, Lord Jesus. Not simply on our land, but on us. Pour out your grace in ways that we don’t expect, and make us ready to respond. With words from the old hymn, we ask for “showers of blessing.” Give to us this day whatever you see fit to give, and we will live by your grace, giving thanks in all things. Amen.

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