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Plan for ‘Food for the Future’

Since 1955 the National Association of Conservation Districts has promoted an annual Soil and Water Stewardship Sunday. It has offered churches well-prepared and biblically sound materials to use in this observation.

The Old Testament prophets seemed to love reminding people of how God had provided a fruitful land for them and of how he brought the rains that made the crops grow. Fertility of land and livestock was and is a blessing from God.  <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /> 
Again and again the prophets chided the rich and powerful for enslaving, exploiting and abusing the poor. It was not the will of God that any person go hungry. Widows and orphans should be cared for. Strangers in the land should not be taken advantage of. Righteousness, justice and mercy should characterize the lives of God’s children (Am 5:21; 9:13-15; Mic 6:6-16; Zeph 2:3). The prophets seem to have been saying, God has done his part. Now we must work to grow and harvest food, sharing the bounty with those who have not. 
In more recent years humankind has learned the importance of conserving the base for food production. We have learned the importance of caring for natural resources of land, water and genetic stock. However, like most important life lessons, we need to be reminded of this truth again and again. 
Since 1955 the National Association of Conservation Districts has promoted an annual Soil and Water Stewardship Sunday. It has offered churches well-prepared and biblically sound materials to use in this observation. 
“Food for the Future” is 2003’s theme. You can look at the materials at the office of the Natural Resource Conservation Service, often located at or near your county courthouse, or learn more at the NACD’s Web site. The materials will either be inexpensive or free, depending on the policy of the local conservation district. 
Among the resources offered are bulletin folders, bulletin inserts, a litany, placemats, bookmarks and coloring books suitable for children’s classes and day camps. The primary piece is a booklet containing an essay about the relationship between conversation and food security, several sermon starters, suggested scriptures and hymns, and a Bible study suitable for Sunday School classes. The essay provides an excellent survey of the Green Revolution and the growing use of biotechnology.  
The art is very attractive, and while the origins of NACD’s Soil and Water Stewardship Sunday are rural, NACD has tried to produce materials that will be useful in urban and suburban churches as well.  
I prepared the Sunday School material again this year. I begin the lesson by presenting a brief survey of food’s importance in the worship, fellowship and ministry of God’s people in biblical times. Then I focus on three important events in the life of Jesus: feeding the 5,000; visiting with Mary and Martha; and celebrating the Lord’s Supper. 
The feeding of the 5,000 is treated as a fulfillment of the prophetic statement by Mary, the mother of Jesus, that he will fill the hungry (Lk 1:53). Then I note that when Jesus spoke of the criteria for judgment of the nation (Mt 25:35), he declared that his disciples through the ages will “fill the poor.”
Mary and Martha appear in three passages in the Gospels. One is when Jesus was visiting in their home while attending a feast time in Jerusalem (Lk 10:34-42). The second was when Jesus raised their brother Lazarus from the dead (Jn 1:1-44). The third was at a banquet when Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with costly perfume (Jn 12:1-8). Taken together, one finds here an acting out of the life principle of “seeking first the Kingdom of God” (Mt 6:33).  
The Lord’s Supper can also be seen as an acted out parable, one that reminds us that Jesus, spiritually, is the water and bread of life (Jn 4:14; 6:43-58). He nourishes us. And interestingly, John’s Gospel concludes with Jesus instructing his disciples to feed other disciples. I think this text holds physical and spiritual applications, and I hope you will consider using it in your Sunday School.  
Gary Farley is partner in the Center for Rural Church leadership, Carrollton, Ala. 
Learn more about the National Association of Conservation Districts and Soil and Water Stewardship Sunday.