As I write this the rain is streaming down and I can hear the sound of water pouring from a blocked gutter! I have just made myself a second cup of tea in order to keep warm. To make things worse, I have just received a photograph from a friend living in southern France showing herself and her husband on their terrace in the sunshine, enjoying a glass of the local wine.
When Mick and I first moved here to Chard we couldn’t believe how much it seemed to rain. We had lived for over thirty years in East Anglia, most of the time in Cambridge, which is apparently the driest city in England.
But rain, even in the summer, is essential to our lives, and believe it or not, I have come to like the rain! And of course, quite rightly, those living in drought hit areas of the world our moaning about the rain would seem to come from a place of privilege.
In the Bible, rain is a sign of God’s abundance, “You sent abundant rain upon your land, O God” (Psalm 68:9)
In the story of Elijah rain plays an important part in his journey with God: “and it came to pass, after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, ‘Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send the rain upon the earth”. Then Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the abundance of rain’. (1Kings 18: 18 and 41).
When Elijah speaks these words to Ahab there has not been a sign of rain, in fact he sees drought, famine and barrenness. Yet Elijah chooses to believe God’s promise. He chooses to believe what he heard with his spirit in spite of what he sees with his eyes.
We have all lived, in many different ways, through a period of drought and barrenness in the last year and at times it has been hard to see how it will come to an end. However, come to an end it will, and we have to believe in our hearts, as Elijah did, that our time of drought will be turned by God into a time of abundance of rain. Rain that brings new growth, blossoming and flourishing.
In our gospel reading this week, Jesus experiences a moment of barrenness and drought as he is rejected by the people of his own town. He is mocked as being ‘a carpenter, and the son of Mary’. No mention of a father, and this might have been deliberate. Because of this Mark tells us Jesus ‘could do no deed of power there’. Even Jesus sometimes needed a response of faith from those around him, an affirmation from others.
So we too, need to be affirmed and listened to. It has been hard over the past year to be together in ways which offer comfort and support to one another. But as things return to normal we can begin to come together again, meeting over coffee after church, meeting in our groups and social events. It is a time to look forward to and, although we can’t quite yet imagine it, it will come because we have God’s promise that he will always bring an ‘abundance of rain’ into the dry and barren places of our lives, so that we can begin to flourish and grow in faith together again.