This morning it's awful tough to pick just one of the texts from the Life Journal. 1 Kings 17 has the story of the Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. No rain, no food, death of a loved one, and life given back. Great story, and pregnant with potential. 1 Kings 19 has the story of Elijah and the presence of God sneaking up in a gentle whisper. I love that story because God didn't show up like Elijah expected and I'm all about encountering the unexpected presence of God. In Colossians, Paul talks about us, as Jesus followers, being released from the old laws. I really like that one.
But I think I'm going to hang my hat on 1 Kings 18 this morning. I could spend a week blogging just on today's readings but this morning I'm going to kneel with Elijah on top of Mt. Carmel.
This time of year, it's nothing unusual to look out towards the horizon and watch clouds begin to form. We did that yesterday afternoon as a matter of fact. My neighbor and I stood out on my front porch comparing garden notes, and as we watched, clouds began to form in the southwestern sky. Then the bottom dropped out and it rained buckets. My pond filled up in just a matter of minutes from the run off, and both of our gardens got a good drink.
But in 1 Kings 18, it was just a tiny cloud. There hadn't been a rain cloud in the sky for years and everything, everyone, was parched. As Elijah knelt with his head between his knees and prayed, it began to form. Tiny at first. No bigger than a man's hand is what scripture says, and way off in the distance. Eight times Elijah prayed and sent his servant to look for the results. On the last trip he finally saw it. I can imagine what the servant must have felt...either Elijah had just lost his mind because he hadn't seen rain in years...or something was about to happen.
Elijah prayed for rain, and rain is what they got. But here's what I, as a shepherd of the flock, love about this story. After the rain started, Elijah had finished praying, and Ahab was driving his chariot ahead of the storm, Elijah didn't stop. He didn't kick back and say something like, "Hey, would you look at that. It actually worked." He tucked his cloak in his belt and took off, running, and ran ahead of the chariot all the way to Jezreel.
I don't know if you've noticed or not, but there are places where it's getting a little dry. You might even say we're in a drought. Now, we got over an inch of rain last night in just a few minutes, so you know that's not the kind of drought I'm talking about. For the first time in our history as a nation, we are a country of the unchurched. There is a greater percentage of folks claiming NOT to have a relationship with God than there are who do. As a result, there are other Jesus tribes and nations sending missionaries to us now, can you believe that?
It's dry, bad dry. For the last 8 months or a year, I have knelt with Elijah, head between my knees, praying for a rain cloud. As I have watched the horizon for the last few weeks, I'm thinking I see a tiny cloud beginning to form. It's not very big...yet...but it's there. And I can't wait for the bottom to drop out of it. It's going to happen, I know it. It's clouding up y'all, and the rain's coming.
So, especially First Church, I'm asking you to watch the sky with me. But I don't want us to run from the rain like Ahab did, afraid of getting wet, I want us to kick our shoes off and dance in the rain. It may be a little scary at first because we've been told all of our lives that we can't play in the rain. It may take our breath away for just a minute. But it's great, and yesterday I was reminded of just how great dancing in the rain with God is.
Yesterday I was picking blackberries and it started raining. I didn't grap my bucket full of berries and run to the house. I kept picking...in the rain...and you know what, it was awesome. So, if you're not afraid of getting wet, if you think you can kick your shoes off and play in the rain with me, I want to talk to you. I'm looking toward the horizon and it's clouding up.