revjoaquinwillisweb.gifWe watched a film during our church’s retreat last year named “Facing the Giants.” It related the story of two farmers petitioning for rain. One farmer prayed unceasingly; the other prayed and then busied himself with weeding, tilling the soil, and scattering seed.

In the film, there is a sports coach who is on a six-year losing streak. The film’s storyteller asks the coach about the farmers: “Which one really trusted the Lord more?”

The coach considered the question, and then set forth his thinking in writing:  “In all things, praising God should be the only motive for every play.”   Things began to turn around for the coach, as a result of his new approach.  
Many of us need a new philosophy regarding Christ, church and God. 

Ezekiel 34 discusses the relationship between shepherds and the restoration of the people.  In 34:26, God says, “I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessings.” 

While the shepherds (leaders) were blamed for destroying the nourishment of their flocks, the sheep themselves played a part.  The stronger animals pushed aside the weaker ones to graze the best grass.  And once they had eaten their fill and drank of the fresh water, the dominant sheep trampled the remaining grass and muddied the water, rending it undrinkable.  

Some church members objected to the film’s focus upon individual Christianity, and to the perpetuation of “social injustice” issues. 
But the film’s disturbing content was redeemed by its inspiring subtext.  We were confronted with what sort of justice Christ would have us embrace.  The film also exposed the failings of human striving, victory, trophies and awards, amidst the backdrop of uncompleted social work, often left to community outsiders. 

The very act of praying for rain stirs controversy.  We wonder why, when it comes to prayer and our trust in God, that there are no wrong answers.  In good faith, one might pray continually, and yet show trust.  Another might pray occasionally, trusting in God to hear the prayer, before setting about to prepare for God’s response.  Personally, I am of the latter philosophy, understanding that “rain” is a metaphor for the shower of God’s blessings.     

Many of us enjoy the rain of God’s grace, but leave begrudged and muddied help for the poor trailing behind.  We must guard against elitism, against comparing the colors of the collars of our neighbors with our own.  We should pray, trust, and prepare.  And, when preparing for rain, we must check weather forecasts, and guides pointing us toward “good ground.”  

The film illustrated the failings of a community to desegregate its schools, and how a token interracial school, and misused public funds, impoverished everyone.  We need, then and today, individual Christianity to be accountable and committed to the social justice that Christ teaches.  We must avoid distorting Christ’s teaching for personal gain or convenience, always mindful to not muddy the waters for those trying to be Good Shepherds for God’s children.  

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami.  To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or email the pastor at