Rain is on the topic on everyone’s lips this last couple of weeks. The long dry Spring, Summer and Autumn has finally broken with good soaking rains falling across the Northern Plains. Broad acre farmers have been running their tractors through the night sowing their winter crops. Orchardists and grape growers are hoping the rains continue and replenish the precious sub-soil moisture.
Given the widespread joy with which rain is welcomed in Australia it’s strange how many of the sayings we have about rain seem to assume that rain is a bad thing. There are sayings that encourage thrift: “Save for a rainy day”. There are sayings that encourage hard work and taking opportunities: “Make hay while the sun shines”. There are sayings that try to help us put our troubles into perspective: “Into each life some rain must fall”. There are sayings that encourage us to change our attitude: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain”. The last one is one of my favourites, but it is still based on an assumption that we don’t like the rain.
Maybe these sayings reflect a mindset from Northern Europe where rain is more frequent and droughts unknown. But in Australia, with our frequent droughts and prevailing dry climate we are not so negative about rain. The garden needs it, the farmers need it, the dams and reservoirs need it. Maybe we need to invent our own wise sayings based on our own weather.
The biblical writers have an understanding of rain that is more akin to our own. Palestine was a dry country in the main and rain was seen as a blessing rather than a curse or necessary evil. Bible stories about drought are common and it is used as a metaphor for spiritual emptiness. Similarly access to water was understood as the basis of all life. A person who had a deep spiritual life was described as “like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17:8)
Jesus used the idea of rain and the way it falls on the good and bad alike as a metaphor for God’s universal love. These words are still a timely reminder to us today about the need for us to build inclusive communities where all are welcome. Places where the descendants of original settlers, indigenous, new comers and people of diverse cultures, beliefs and sexuality can find belonging.
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”, Jesus said. “So that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Anybody can do that. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
This is the gospel, and it’s good news.
Brian Spencer, Minister