Praying for Rain

Scripture Focus: James 5.17-20
17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

1 Kings 18.42b-45a
42 …Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees. 
43 “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked. 
“There is nothing there,” he said. 
Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.” 
44 The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” 
So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’” 
45 Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling…

Reflection: Praying for Rain
By John Tillman

Early last week, our area got rain after 67 long, hot days. Social media feeds overflowed with pictures and videos of people outside, standing in the rain, playing in their driveways, yards, and streets. The joy was tangible.

Relief from a hotter than normal summer was only one part of it. Practical concerns about water levels were not front of mind. The joy came from a recognition that rain is a blessing.

James connected the story of Elijah praying for rain to bringing back to the faith those who wandered from the truth.

Prior to praying for rain to fall, Elijah had prayed for fire. He was confronting Israel for wandering and wavering between two opinions—worshiping Baal or Yahweh. He challenged them to return to God and when they did, rain returned to the land after a long drought.

James also connected rain to blessings of growth—of crops coming up from the earth. Crops and harvest are gospel language. Metaphors of seed and planting and growth sprang up frequently in Jesus’ teaching. After speaking to the Samaritan woman and describing himself as bringing living water, Jesus told the disciples the fields were ripe for harvest. (John 4.35-39) Not just one woman, but an entire town turned to God.

Before the resurrection, James was among those brothers of Jesus who rejected him, (John 7.5) were offended by him (Mark 6.3), and thought him to be insane. (Mark 3.21) Jesus, after his resurrection, poured out the rain of living water which grew faith even in the hardened heart of his brother, James.

Many of us know of and pray for those who have rejected Jesus or wandered from the truth. We know offended and doubtful people like James. We know questioning people like the woman at the well. Our family members and friends need to feel the blessed rain of God’s grace, and we do too. For in the rain, Elijah was also rejuvenated. (1 Kings 18.46) And as James would testify, even the obstinate can be won over through the winsome winds of the Holy Spirit.

Elijah and James encourage us to keep planting seeds of truth in a drought and pray for rain.  Watch for clouds, even small ones, that show that God’s Spirit is moving and working. (1 Kings 18.43-44) When the rains come, they will be a refreshment for your spirit, even as they bring life to the seeds of the gospel you plant in faith now.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For we are your people and the sheep of your pasture; we will give you thanks forever and show forth your praise from age to age. — Psalm 79.13

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 9(Listen -4:38)
James 5(Listen – 3:01)

Read more about The Blandness of Hell
In Heaven, we are drawn closer to God…Hell is a place of self-exile…When Sartre said “Hell is other people,” he was too broad. Hell is our self alone.

Readers’ Choice is Coming!
We need to know your favorite posts from the past 12 months. Even if all you have to say is, “It blessed me,” share it with us and we’ll share it with others.

Mind Your Manners

Scripture Focus: James 4:1-2a
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.

Reflection: Mind Your Manners
By Jon Polk

Outraged by people who keep cutting in front of him to use the pay phone at a Chinese restaurant, TV’s Seinfeld character George Costanza loudly proclaims to no one in particular, “You know, we’re living in a society! We’re supposed to act in a civilized way.”

Even neurotic, self-absorbed, slacker George gets it.

James focuses his attention on the conflicts and quarrels that apparently plagued the early church in Jerusalem, where he was the leader. He pointedly announces the source of the discord: selfishness and greed.

James proclaims this is the root problem behind all of our disagreements, “You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”

We live in a culture driven by marketing and promotion. Children want the trendiest clothing. Teens desire the newest tech devices. Adults fight for the best job in order to drive the ultimate car and live in the biggest house.

We live in a culture driven by outrage and offense. A word misspoken can set us off. The tiniest misstep can result in a cavalcade of online abuse. We want our rights protected regardless of the impact it may have on others.

We want to be right and we want others to know we are right. We want to get what we desire and we want others to provide it for us. We want our world to work on our terms and provide for our needs.

We’re selfish creatures. James is right in stating that the conflicts that arise between us start from the sinful conflicts that exist deep within us.

One of the most famous presidential quotes in US history is from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address in 1961, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Regardless of political preference, we understand the selfless sentiment that Kennedy expressed during an anxious time in US history.

Too often in life, business, politics, and society, selfishness and it’s cousin greed reign supreme rather than the Christ-like virtues of selflessness and generosity.

According to James, the antidote for our selfish desires is found in humility and submitting ourselves to God. (4:6-10) Living together in a civil society requires that we exorcise the demons of selfishness and greed that often motivate our behaviors. We cannot live as double-minded people, attempting to both serve God and satisfy our own cravings.

Instead… ask not what your God can do for you. Ask what you can do for your God.

From John:
I offer a deep, heartfelt thank you to Jon for this series on James. It was not only insightful but came at a time at which a significant break from writing was needed. Thanks for taking on the challenge! May we prepare our hearts to give thanks this next week of Thanksgiving in the US, and may we all look forward to the soon-coming first week of Advent. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.—Psalm 85:10

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chr 17 (Listen -4:14)
James 4  (Listen -2:25)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Chr 18 (Listen -2:36), James 5  (Listen -3:01)
1 Chr 19-20 (Listen -5:02), 1 Peter 1 (Listen -3:53)

Thank You!
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Read more about Greed and Envy
It is in Christ that we will find the compassion to overcome our cynicism and the generosity of spirit to overcome our jealousy and greed.

Read more about A Christian Response to Offense
Our culture is unable to bear offense and simultaneously unable to bear forgiveness.