Rural America/Rural Missouri

given on Sunday, May 16, 2010

Special note:  The structure for Sunday was atypical.  The scripture and the sermon were divided into different phases so I am posting the entire script for the service:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Order of Worship

I can do everything through him (Christ)

who gives me strength.   –Philippians 4:13


Scripture:  Genesis 1:1-3                from the Message

1-2 First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see.  Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness.  God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.

3-5 God spoke: “Light!”

And light appeared.

God saw that light was good

and separated light from dark.

God named the light Day,

he named the dark Night.

It was evening, it was morning—

Day One.

*Hymn:  Let us sing out our joy for living in this glorious land, filled with trees, grass, flowers and so much we cannot list it all!

Sermon Phase One:          The UMC’s Statement

The quoted material was accessed on line Summarized from the Action Institute for the study of religion and liberty.  “United Methodist Church Statement on the Environment: (accessed on Tuesday, May 11, 2010)

“Today, rural parts of the globe suffer from many of the same maladies as did ancient Israel.  Land holdings have become more concentrated.  The accumulation of material wealth often is worshiped as the solution to other spiritual and economic problems.  Creation itself groans under a burden of eroding topsoil, toxic wastes, and polluted waters.  Neither the land nor most of the people who work it can celebrate the wholeness God intended.”

Pastoral Prayer:

Dear Creator,

We wake up each morning to the new day’s light

We see how good your work is.

We know the glory of the earth.

We know the stars sparkle in the night sky.

We know the sun warms and nourishes us in the day.

We know that each day is good.

Guide us day by day to protect the heavens and earth.

Refresh us night by night in order to care for this land.

Whisper to us what needs to be done to be good stewards.

Lord’s Prayer: Please join us in the prayer Jesus taught us.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

As we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever.  –Amen

Scripture: Gensis 1:  6-8             from the Message

6-8 God spoke: “Sky! In the middle of the waters;

separate water from water!”

God made sky.

He separated the water under sky

from the water above sky.

And there it was:

he named sky the Heavens;

It was evening, it was morning—

Day Two.

Sermon Phase 2:

  • Leviticus 25 — God owns the land
  • Leviticus 25:4 — Land needs a rest every 7 yrs.
  • 2 Chronicles 36:21 – Israelites lack of care for land may have led to exile to Babylon
  • Deuteronomy 23:24-25 – care for the land, rights of the poor & in need were all the center of the Law

The theology for the UMC’s statement on the environment is based on the verses.  Sense ownership of land is a legal issue, we easily ignore that we are only living on our land as stewards.

Unfortunately—or fortunately—the rural land is the source of income for many so our human decisions are often made in an effort to keep that source of income producing as much as possible.

Today, we are able to provide our offerings because of our work.  For those still farming and producing, the offerings may vary seasonally.  Still each of us knows that we are able to give whatever we can because God did create the heavens and earth, because God did give us day and night, and because he separated the water and the land.

God’s work on Day Two began the order of our work week.


Sharing tithes and offerings with God:

*Doxology:                                                      UMH No. 95

Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Praise Him all creatures here below

Praise Him above ye heavenly host,

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

*Prayer of Thanks

Thank you, God, for allowing us to share our offerings with you.  May these offerings work in your behalf as we continue to share your love.  –Amen

*Hymn: Let our words sing out the joy we feel since we are here this morning in a world of farm land, ponds, lakes, and rivers.  Life is good!

Scripture: Genesis 1:9-13               from the Message

9-10 God spoke: “Separate!

Water-beneath-Heaven, gather into one place;

Land, appear!”

And there it was.

God named the land Earth.

He named the pooled water Ocean.

God saw that it was good.

11-13 God spoke: “Earth, green up! Grow all varieties

of seed-bearing plants,

Every sort of fruit-bearing tree.”

And there it was.

Earth produced green seed-bearing plants,

all varieties,

And fruit-bearing trees of all sorts.

God saw that it was good.

It was evening, it was morning—

Day Three.

Sermon Phase 3:  The Soil

“Soil conservation practices such as contour plowing, corporation, wind-breaks, and covering-cropping are affected as farmers are pushed to farm more and more acres with bigger and bigger equipment.”

As the discussion from the Action Institute continues, we see that the ages have indeed brought the actions of humans into contention with God’s plan.  I personally see the land and see ‘scars’ where we have failed to see the damage our actions cause.  We make decisions without looking at the long-term consequences.

The more urban our world becomes, the more scars that occur.  What can we do, here in our rural land, to prevent more scars from occurring?

True we can actively care for the acreage under our care, but is there more we should do?

Yes.  We can be alert to planned changes in our community that potentially can harm the land.  We can become active by taking a stand and making sure that others see the possible harm.

One action is to make sure that we are alert to the various decisions made by the county commissioners, by the state, and even the federal government.  Be responsible, active voting citizens.

An example of a simple idea which an urban leader promoted is Kansas City, Kansas’s push for rain gardens.  A simple idea, and for gardeners—a fun idea, to create in low lying areas a different structure which allow for water to drain through a rock layer, topped with soil and plants suitable for the moist to dry situation.  The plantings, if perennial, is a lasting solution for the problem of too much run off in a concrete-infested world.

Sound alarms when damage is looming.

Sing praises when something good is done.

Hymn: Raise up the voices to fill the world with sounds of harmony as we work to keep in harmony with the land.

Scripture: Genesis 1:14-19                from the Message

14-15 God spoke: “Lights! Come out!

Shine in Heaven’s sky!

Separate Day from Night.

Mark seasons and days and years,

Lights in Heaven’s sky to give light to Earth.”

And there it was.

16-19 God made two big lights, the larger

to take charge of Day,

The smaller to be in charge of Night;

and he made the stars.

God placed them in the heavenly sky

to light up Earth

And oversee Day and Night,

to separate light and dark.

God saw that it was good.

It was evening, it was morning—

Day Four.

Sermon Phase 4:  All These Days & Nights,

What Do We Do?

According to the UMC’s Statement on the Environment, the problems which need to be addressed at the local level are covered in four recommendations that we as a small, rural church are called to do:

  • Mend brokenness of community life in rural society
  • Strengthen ministry and mission of rural churches
  • Responsible stewardship of natural resources
  • Build bridges of understanding and partnership between rural and urban congregations/communities

No solution is simple, but as a small group of concerned rural Americans, we can do our share.  In many cases we are doing our share, quietly, on our own, on our acreage.  But how can we notch up our action and become leaders as stewards of God’s world?

*Hymn:  Our hymns sound so strong as we sing together.  As we fill the air here in our little space today, think of how our united actions can be heard beyond our small piece of this world.

Scripture: Genesis 1:20-23                from the Message

20-23 God spoke: “Swarm, Ocean, with fish and all sea life!

Birds, fly through the sky over Earth!”

God created the huge whales,

all the swarm of life in the waters,

And every kind and species of flying birds.

God saw that it was good.

God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Ocean!

Birds, reproduce on Earth!”

It was evening, it was morning—

Day Five.

Sermon Phase 5:  Responsibility for All the Earth

Did those words want to make you just take off to the lake?  All the waters are filled with fish.  The birds fill the air—and the trees, the shrubs, the fence lines.  The spring weather certainly gives us an itch, doesn’t it?

In an article from Circuit Rider, which arrived in the mailbox this week, the problems associated with pollution are identified with this one paragraph:

“City drainage systems were so congested with garbage, tons of it and much of it plastic, that the rising waters could hardly recede.  If the drainage systems had been clear, the flood waters would have been able to drain away.  Instead, the densely populated city was flooded with murky waters containing every kind of refuse imaginable.”

No the description was not here in the county, it was of the result of Tropical Storm Ketsana in Manila, Phillippines.  That may seem like a world away, but with all the rains we have seen this spring, I have witnessed how the trash is floating along in the run-off, not to mention the soil turning the rushing waters brown.

The stewardship God has assigned us is being ignored in many ways.  As we continue to follow God’s words, let us accept the responsibility of doing all that we can in all the ways that we can at all the times we can for all the world that we can.

*Hymn: The words of our hymns are prayers.  As we sing, remember that we are talking directly to God and at the same time reminding ourselves of our Christian roles.

Scripture: Genesis 1:26-31                from the Message

26-28 God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them

reflecting our nature

So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,

the birds in the air, the cattle,

And, yes, Earth itself,

and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”

God created human beings;

he created them godlike,

Reflecting God’s nature.

He created them male and female.

God blessed them:

“Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!

Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,

for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”

29-30 Then God said, “I’ve given you

every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth

And every kind of fruit-bearing tree,

given them to you for food.

To all animals and all birds,

everything that moves and breathes,

I give whatever grows out of the ground for food.”

And there it was.

31 God looked over everything he had made;

it was so good, so very good!

It was evening, it was morning—

Day Six.

Sermon Phase 6:  Is There a Solution?

Can We Make a Difference?

Yes, we can make a difference.  We have to!  The problems are getting way too close for comfort.  Right now we must make a commitment to find solutions because the problems that the Methodist church has identified in the 1980s (when the statement was first published) are growing:

“Many farmers have internalized the extreme cause of their losses which lead to deep depression, spouse & family abuse, alcoholism, mental breakdown, divorce, suicide, participation in extremist groups, and at times, murder.

The nation’s poorest housing and health facilities occur disproportionately in rural communities, as do the worst education, the worst roads and transportation systems, the least progressive justice systems, and the greatest poverty and malnutrition.”

I am certain that we know this.  Sometimes, though, we have to see it and hear it again.  Even though these words were first placed in front of the General Conference in the mid-1980s, they were updated in the 1990s and continue to be concerns today in the 21st century.

As we look ahead to our purpose here in the county, we must keep these concerns in our focus.  We must look for additional ways to serve our rural communities.  It will not be easy.  It will take work.  It will take our time.  It will take our strength.  It will take our dollars.

Is it worth it?  I cannot imagine any one of us in this corner of the world would disagree.  We love our rural communities.  We love the sense of nature, the friendships of our neighbors, and the solitude in which we hear God speak.

*Hymn: Oh my, we have work to do.  Still singing a little prayer can lighten the load.  We are all like those who worked the fields in the hot sun far from their native land, but they knew God.  They knew life with God was glorious.  So for all those who love this land, let us sing out loud!

Scripture: Genesis 2:2-4                from the Message

2-4 By the seventh day

God had finished his work.

On the seventh day

he rested from all his work.

God blessed the seventh day.

He made it a Holy Day

Because on that day he rested from his work,

all the creating God had done.

This is the story of how it all started,

of Heaven and Earth when they were created.

Sermon Phase 7:  The Future—It Is in Our Hands

We know that on the 7th day, God rested.  We, too, must rest; but we must return to work.  Here it is a Sunday, what Christians have identified as the 7th day, a day of worship and rest.  But is it?  No.  Even here in our rural world, where God, man, and the land work hand in hand, we have taken away rest.

If we do not rest, can we continue to take care of the land effectively?  If we do not rest, will the future continue to be bright?

The task to care for the land and all its creatures is mammoth.  But if we do not work together to tackle the problems, the land and/or its residents will follow the path of the wooly mammoth now extinct.

According to the UMC statement, any solution we develop must follow three ethical guidelines:

  1. 1. Must be just:  just society and just agriculture … for the maintenance and renewal of necessary resources for food, clothing and shelter, for now and for the future …
  2. 2. Must be participatory:  … everyone has a right to be consulted …
  3. Must be sustainable: … even waste products can (should) be absorbed back into the ecosystem without damage.

Today, rest.  Tomorrow, go into action.  I see many possibilities that our small rural church can do right away.  I think we have started, but there is more to do.  I know how passionate you are about our piece of this world.  I know how concerned you are about the others living right down the road.  I know why you choose to live in rural America.  I know you love God.

Dear Creator of this Earth,

Thank you so very much for letting us live here in our rural community.  Thank you so very much for letting your glory shine out to each and every one of us.  Thank you for the fellowship of our small rural church so we can find renewal together and the strength to work together and the ideas to carry out our stewardship of this earth together.  Talk to us, teach us, guide us as we step out to care for our rural world.         –Amen

Closing Benediction:

Are you not blessed?  God has blessed us with opening his glorious world to us.  Now, open those minds, those hands, and those hearts to serve as good stewards of God’s world.  As we work, may our actions share our blessings with others so they too might know of God’s grace and glory.  –Amen

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