Rain

Jesus said, “God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” -Matthew 5:45

It’s raining. Or, if it isn’t raining right when you read this, it was recently and probably will be again soon. That’s what we’re getting for weather today and tomorrow in central Iowa. Like it or not, there is nothing we can do about it.

We humans really are powerless when it comes to the weather. For all of history, human life has depended on forces beyond ourselves for the sun to shine, the rain to pour, the wind to blow, the snow to fall. Sure, we try to predict the weather. We have meteorologists who tell us the forecast, often for weeks or months in advance! I’m not aware of any other job where a person can so often and so publicly be wrong, though. 

Since we clearly can’t control the weather and can only sort of predict it, we humans often decide the next best thing is to try and control the one who sends the weather. From prayer to ritual to sacrifice, societies around the world have tried different ways to get the weather they want. It doesn’t work. Why?

Because God isn’t fair. At least, not in the way we think about fairness. When we think about what’s fair, we usually mean that people get what they deserve. We think good people get good things and bad people get bad things. We think that people who make sacrifices deserve rewards, while people who are selfish deserve to suffer. We think people who diligently pray should get what they ask for, while people who don’t should be left wanting. That would be fair, according to our standards.

But God isn’t fair—God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous, and we are both. One of the breakthroughs for Martin Luther as he led the Reformation was the realization that Christians are always both sinners and saints. He used a Latin phrase, simul iustus et peccator, to describe the way that we are justified by grace through faith even at the same moment as we are sinners whose thoughts, words, and deeds don’t measure up.

We don’t have to measure up or earn God’s grace any more than we have to earn the rain. We are as powerless to control God’s love as to make the sun shine. Frankly, that may come as a relief: you don’t have to earn forgiveness or sunshine. God just gives it because you need it. Good people, bad people, in-between people: we all need grace. Good news! You receive it freely, abundantly, like rain that streams down from the heavens and pools up all around. May the weather you cannot control be a reminder of the God you cannot control: who is gracious and merciful, sending forgiveness and rain and grace and sunshine to sinners and saints alike.

God, you are not fair; you are gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. You give what we do not earn out of your pure love for us. Thank you. Amen.