May 5: Celebrate and Pray for Our Farmers

Celebrate and Pray for Our Farmers

Joel 1:1-7, 10-12, 17-20; 2:18-24, 3:18

May 5, 2024

          Today on my United Church of Christ calendar it says: Rural Life Sunday. It’s the Sunday where we celebrate our rural heritage.

          At the heart of this community’s rural heritage is our farmers. This church has been blessed over the years to have many farmers as members. It’s time to celebrate each of our farmers and to pray for them and their work.

          This will be a different type of sermon. It will include an opportunity for us to hear from our farmers. Our liturgist and farmer’s wife Ilse will be sharing some Scripture from the Old Testament book of Joel. In addition, we’ll be pausing from time to time to pray for different aspects of farming. It will all center in the six questions I’ve printed in the bulletin.

          I’ll start with the first question: Who are our farmers?

          I’d like for any of you that have been involved in any aspect of farming to stand, say your name and mention what type of farm you have or used to have. This includes farm spouses.

Kay/Ilse Erickson; Roger/Barb Miller; Wayne Miller; Dave/Marilyn Poole; Sandy McLure; Mike/Rita Miller; Brenda/Kevin Kniebes 

          Let’s thank each of these farmers.

          After each question, I’m going to say a brief prayer.

          Let’s pray,

          God, I thank you for the hard work of each of these farmers. I pray a special blessing on each of them. Bless the work they have done and the work they are doing to bring food to our tables. Bless them in Jesus’ name. And everyone said: Amen.

          The second question for our farmers is this one: What makes farming difficult these days?

          Lori and I were over at Kay and Ilse’s a couple weeks ago. They were talking about why there are fewer and fewer people going into farming these days. They mentioned many of the difficulties faced by farmers.

          Would you, who are or were farmers, mind sharing a few of those difficulties?

          Let’s pray: Compassionate God, we’ve talked about the challenges faced by our farmers. We pray you’ll give them the strength they need. Bestow upon them your courage and persistence to keep going. Steadfast God, be their rock in hard times. We ask this in the name of Jesus. And everyone said:

          Next, we’re going to hear the first of our Scripture passages from the book of Joel. Joel is an Old Testament prophet. Joel spoke messages he received from God related to events that were happening in his day. Society back then was mostly rural: people lived on farms. Therefore, what happened to the crops could mean life or death to most of these subsistence farmers.

          Listen to Joel describe what happened:

          This is from Joel 1: 1-7:

I am Joel the son of Pethuel. And this is the message God gave to me. Listen, you leaders and everyone else in the land.
Has anything like this ever happened before?
Tell our children! Let it be told to our grandchildren
 and their children too. Swarm after swarm of locusts has attacked our crops, eating everything in sight. Sober up, you drunkards! Cry long and loud; your wine supply is gone.
A powerful nation with countless troops has invaded our land.
They have the teeth and jaws of powerful lions.
Our grapevines and fig trees are stripped bare; only naked branches remain.

This was a plague of locusts that devastated the crops that year in the Jewish country of Judah.

The third question for our farmers is this one: What pests do our farmers contend with today?

Let’s pray:

God, I pray for our farmers as they deal with these pests. Give them wisdom to know how to fight these pests. Give them protection through the use of chemicals and other tools at their disposal. We ask this in the name of Jesus. And everyone said:

The next Scripture passage continues with the prophet Joel describing more specific challenges faced by the farmers in his day. This related to the weather.

Joel 1:10-12 and 17-20

Barren fields mourn; grain, grapes, and olives are scorched and shriveled. Mourn for our farms and our vineyards! There’s no wheat or barley growing in our fields.Grapevines have dried up and so has every tree—figs and pomegranates, date palms and apples.

Seeds dry up in the ground; no harvest is possible.
Our barns are in bad shape, with no grain to store in them.
Our cattle wander aimlessly, moaning for lack of pasture, and sheep are suffering. I cry out to you, God. Grasslands and forests are eaten by the scorching heat.Wild animals have no water because of you; rivers and streams are dry, and pastures are parched. All happiness has faded away.

The farmers of Joel’s day are facing a drought of dramatic proportions. The absence of rain and water are devastating to the crops.

The question for our farmers today is this: What are the weather challenges you face?

Let’s pray: Creator of the universe, we pray for good weather. We pray for plenty of sunshine and rain in the right amounts. We pray for an absence of killing frosts and devastating heat. We ask this in the name of Jesus. And everyone said:

Our third Scripture reading finds God blessing the farmers of Joel’s day with a good harvest. God answered their prayers.

Joel 2:18-24 and 3:18: God was deeply concerned about his land and had pity on his people.In answer to their prayers God said, “I will give you enough grain, wine, and olive oil to satisfy your needs. No longer will I let you be insulted by the nations.An army attacked from the north, but I will chase it into a scorching desert. There it will rot and stink from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean.” God works wonders and does great things. So tell the soil to celebrateand wild animals to stop being afraid. Grasslands are green again; fruit trees and fig trees are loaded with fruit. Grapevines are covered with grapes.People of Zion, celebrate in honor of God! God is generous and has sent the autumn and spring rains in the proper seasons. Grain will cover your threshing places; jars will overflow with wine and olive oil. On that day, fruitful vineyards will cover the mountains. And your cattle and goats that graze on the hills will produce a lot of milk. Streams in Judah will never run dry; a stream from my house will flow in Acacia Valley.

This is what we pray for and hope for: an amazing and fruitful harvest.

Name some of the crops and produce that you hope to harvest this year or that were grown around here that you hope to take to Market:  

Let’s pray: Bountiful God, we pray for this year’s harvest. We pray that you will bless us with plenty of apples and peaches and pears and blueberries, and corn and soybeans and cherries and grapes and so much more. Bless the harvest this year. For we ask this in the name of Jesus. And everyone said:

A few weeks ago Ilse sent me this message she had found on Facebook:

It leads me to my final question for you farmers. Why do you do it? Why did you do it? What would you say?

One more prayer for our farmers.

Sustainer of Life, we pray for each and every one of our farmers today. We thank them for their work. We pray you’ll bless each of them during this 2024 season. For we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Let’s stand and sing if you’re willing and able our next hymn: “To You, O God, All Creatures Sing”, #17. We’ll just sing verses one thru four.

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