Sept. 20 — Rural Life Sunday (Annual Conference Determines Date and Offering)

Courtesy photo.
Courtesy photo.

A Moment for Mission

“Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, … standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27, NRSV

My college friend Mary and her husband of 50 years live and farm in Minnesota. Every Christmas letter shares lots of family news and reports on the family farm. No matter how difficult the year has been, Mary always ends on a positive note. “Of course,” she wrote three years ago, “very low prices are discouraging, but as long as we can pay the bills, we feel blessed.” A year later, she commented, “Again, we are so thankful to the Lord for seeing us through safely.” Year after year, Mary and John “stand firm in one spirit, striving side by side.”

I would make a terrible farmer. I lack the patience for planting a garden, much less spending my entire working life working the soil. But I am so thankful for Mary and John. And I am grateful for Rural Life Sunday, one of United Methodism’s five special Sundays providing opportunities for annual conference offerings. Rural Life Sunday calls us to celebrate the rural heritage of The United Methodist Church, to recognize the ongoing crisis occurring in rural areas of the world today and to affirm the interdependence of rural and urban communities.

On Rural Life Sunday, I pause to think of the many challenges Mary mentions. And I give thanks for farmers the world over who deserve our gratitude every time we sit down to enjoy a delicious meal.

Thank you, God, for everything! Amen.

Offertory Prayer
Loving God, thank you for the farmers who persevere through challenges of ever-changing weather and uncertain economics to nurture your children. In your name, we pray. Amen.

From Discipleship Ministries: Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost — God of grace and compassion, as we offer our tithes and offerings this morning, we remember the lessons in your providing the Israelites with manna in the wilderness. First lesson: you took care of their needs. Second lesson: you gave enough to meet the needs of the day and instructed them to look out for the weak and needy. Finally, you made clear that accumulating more than they needed would not end well. Help us to learn from these lessons in what you have given to us by your goodness. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen. (Exodus 16:2-15)

From United Methodist Men: Oh! Gracious Heavenly Father, Creator of all people, red and yellow, black, and white; all are precious in Your sight. We are the children of the world. Thank You, God for your son, Jesus, r whose grace and sacrifice assures us we can live with You for eternity. We are sinful but we know You still love us. Help us to repent of our sins and instill in us a heart that loves You and loves others no matter the color of their skin. You are a colorful God and You love all skin colors and so as we become like You let us love all people regardless of skin color. You oh God, look at the color of our hearts and see human hearts that all are the same color. Now fill our hearts with Your spirit and through Your spirit may we be a people of peace, unity and love. Amen. – Bill Paxton, Galena, Md.

Newsletter Nugget
A popular song from the musical “Godspell” is “All Good Gifts.” Composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz gives “God’s almighty hand” full credit for feeding and watering the fields humanity plows and the seeds we scatter. 

The chorus contains the lyric: “All good gifts around us are sent from Heaven above. So thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all His love.”

United Methodists celebrate Rural Life Sunday on a day selected by each annual conference. This special Sunday, with the opportunity for a special offering, is a perfect time to thank God and the many people who tend the soil, ensuring healthier lives for people they may never meet.

In Deuteronomy 11:14, CEB, God promises to “provide rain for your land at the right time—early rain and late rain—so you can stock up your grain, wine, and oil.” God “will also make your fields lush for your livestock, and you will eat and be satisfied.”

Indeed, Rural Life Sunday is a day of thanks!