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The Rev. Joseph Winston July 26, 2009
Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 No one needs to tell you about the drought here in Texas. You can see it with your own eyes. We never received that last storm front in the middle of June that normally drenches the dry ground with rain.2 Additionally, our traditional afternoon thunderstorms that seem to pop up out of nowhere during the summer are absent this year. This one-two punch is devastating almost the entire state. About one-ﬁfth of Texas is currently experiencing “exceptional drought,” the worst category identiﬁed by the United States Department of Agriculture.3
1 Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3. 2 Robert Burns, TAMU climatologist: Drought could be here to stay, (http://agnews. tamu.edu/showstory.php?id=1304, July 2009). 3 Juana Summers, Drought aid tough to come by Perry declares 167 Texas counties to be in a state of disaster, (http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/ local/2009/07/17/0717drought.html, July 2009).
No one else in the country is having this level of problems.4 All around us, stock tanks are shrinking by the hour into small patches of mud. They no longer provide enough water for the livestock.5 Without the needed rain, the grass in the pasture is turning brown and dying.6 Experts estimate that only ﬁfteen percent of the state’s grazing lands are in good condition.7 Because of this fact, ranchers are completely liquidating their herds of cattle.8 The extreme drought in Texas is deﬁnitely hurting farmers. All across the state, it has been too dry and too hot for most crops. More than likely, dry land farmers’ yields will fall to one-ﬁfth of what they have seen in the past.9 Reluctantly, over large portions of the state, farmers are abandoning their irrigated ﬁelds of cotton and grain.10 This type of weather has a real cost born by people we all know. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that since November of last year, farmers in Texas have lost about 2.6 billion dollars.11 Income for Texas ranchers during this same period is down by 974 million dollars.12 If this terrible trend continues to the end of the year, the estimated losses in the agriculture industry in Texas will be 4.1 billion dollars.13
Summers, ‘Drought aid tough to come by’. Blair Fannin, Texas drought losses reach $3.6 billion Losses could exceed $4.1 billion by end of 2009, (http://agnews.tamu.edu/showstory.php?id=1311, July 2009). 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid. 9 Summers, ‘Drought aid tough to come by’. 10 Fannin, ‘Texas drought losses reach $3.6 billion’. 11 Ibid. 12 Ibid. 13 Ibid.
The parched ﬁelds that we drive by and the missing herds of cattle that we now experience every day because of the drought stand in stark contrast to the world the author of the one hundred and forty-ﬁfth psalm paints for us. The ﬁrst line that we heard from the psalm, which is actually the psalm’s tenth verse, continues an earlier theme found in the psalm. All of God’s works are worthy of praise. For the poet, these works include everything that God created since the image of God working causes us to recall the mighty acts of God creating the world (Genesis 2:2-3). The ﬁrst day of creation gave us day and night. In the second day of creation, God established the earth’s foundation below us and heaven above us. The third day of creation gave us land and sea. With the water in the sky, the land now could provide food. God blessed it and it was so. On the fourth day, God created the sun, stars, moon, and seasons. Living creatures in the water and the sky came on the ﬁfth day. In the sixth day of creation, God made land animals and humans. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctiﬁed it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made (Genesis 2:2-3 RSV). In this world described in Genesis, everything works as it should and the entire creation pleases God because it is good. There is no drought because the water does God’s bidding. It rains when it should. The land is lush since it provides food for the world, just as God planned it. This bounty designed by God feeds all 3
the animals and they too have a good life. All of creation supplies humans what we need to live. God is happy with the results. Next, the poet gives us the words many faithful have used throughout the ages as a prayer before meals: The eyes of all look to thee, and thou givest them their food in due season. Thou openest thy hand, thou satisﬁest the desire of every living thing (Psalm 145:15-16 RSV). Perhaps, you too learned this table blessing when you studied Luther’s Small Catechism. Luther then makes the following observation about the verb satisfy: “satisfying the desire of every living thing” means that all animals receive enough to eat to make them joyful and of good cheer. Greed and anxiety about food prevents such satisfaction.14 This brief comment from Luther seems especially troubling when we know what is actually happening outside these doors. Rain is not falling in due season and the temperature is warmer than normal. Together, these two factors are causing a drought. In other words, creation is not running as God intended. This prolonged dry spell hurts creation: animals and humans. We need to remember how this weather is affecting the wildlife. Scientists tell us that the whooping crane population is down almost ten percent.15 This fact
Small Catechism, Article VIII, G RACE AT TABLE n. 8; Theodore G. Tappert et al., editors, The Book of Concord, (Fortress Press, 1959), p. 353. 15 Ana Campoy, Severe Texas Drought Threatens Coastal Wildlife, (http://online.wsj. com/article/SB124027139462837033.html, April 2009).
does not make any whooping crane happy. Elevated temperatures and low water levels are killing ﬁsh. This cannot bring cheer to the ﬁsh. Lack of water and grass is hurting the wild animals. This way of life does not satisfy. Domesticated animals are also affected. We clearly can see this through numbers. Last week, Bastrop County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Fisher reported that twelve thousand cattle left the county.16 He went on and said that this number was ”astonishing” and that a decrease of this magnitude could ”devastate” ranchers for years.17 This has to be painful. Since November of last year, ranchers have paid 869 million dollars to provide supplemental food for their cattle.18 That is almost a billion dollars that has to come from somewhere. Ranchers cannot be satisﬁed with higher costs. Another 105 million dollars were lost during the same period by people who raise goats, sheep, horses, and bees.19 This has to hurt. Now, consider all the stress on the farmers and the ranchers. • Crops decimated • Bank notes due • Herds liquidated • Breeding stock sold • Payments that must be made.
Summers, ‘Drought aid tough to come by’. Ibid. 18 Fannin, ‘Texas drought losses reach $3.6 billion’. 19 Ibid.
In no way, can anyone say that this level of anxiety is satisfying. And if history is any indication, we soon will be seeing a horrible new trend among farmers and ranchers in Texas that follows exactly what has happened with other farmers and ranchers countries like Australia20 and with dairy farmers in this country21 : suicide. This level of depression cannot show that God is caring for you. If you were to ﬂip to the front part of the Bible, you then would quickly learn the answer. In the fourth chapter of Genesis, we hear about a rancher and a farmer. Abel kept sheep and Cain farmed the land (Genesis 4:2-3). Both men brought their sacriﬁces to the L ORD, but for whatever reason Abel’s offering was accepted while Cain’s was rejected (Genesis 4:4-5). The L ORD warned Cain about his attitude but that did not help (Genesis 4:6-7). One day, Cain murdered Abel (Genesis 4:8). The L ORD asked Cain about Abel’s whereabouts (Genesis 4:9a). Cain famously replied, ”Am I my brother’s keeper (Genesis 4:9b)?” By the L ORD’s judgment of Cain, we all know that humanity is given the charge to take care of one another. The Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, testiﬁed before congress on Friday and he told the country that he would guess there were twenty-ﬁve businesses that are ”too large to fail.”22 From what has been discussed in the past, it is a safe bet to say no farmers or ranchers appear on this list. This attitude about totally ignoring the plight of the people who work from
Nick Bryant, Australia drought sparks suicides, (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/ asia-pacific/6065220.stm, October 2006). 21 Sharon Kiley Mack, Economic strife in farming communities leads some to tragic ends, (http://www.bangordailynews.com/detail/110473.html, July 2009). 22 Scott Lanman, Bernanke Says About 25 Financial Firms Systemically Important, (Bloomberg, July 2009).
sunrise to sunset so that we can eat must be contagious. Either that or the government must believe that food comes from the grocery store. In March, Governor Rick Perry wrote the Secretary of Agriculture and explained to him that the losses incurred by Texas’ farms and ranchers ”exceed state, local and private sector assistance capabilities.”23 Around this time, the Governor also declared seventy counties as disaster areas.24 Unfortunately, farmers and ranchers tell us that help is difﬁcult to ﬁnd. So far, only about 4.6 million dollars in emergency loans have come to Texas.25 According to the head of Bastrop’s Emergency Management, even those farmers that have U.S. Department of Agriculture backed insurance have not received any payments yet.26 On Thursday, Perry declared 167 Texas counties to be in a state of disaster. Time will tell if ofﬁcial communication from the Governor helps those people in need. From what we can see, it is obvious that we are not taking care of our brothers and sisters who are suffering due to the drought. No matter what the agencies in Washington or Austin do or do not do, we still are our “brother’s keeper.” The Bible makes this clear. If anything happens one of them, their blood is on our hands. We know what God can do. Think about how the L ORD fed one hundred with the twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain during the time of Elisha (2
Rick Perry, (http://governor.state.tx.us/files/press-office/ O-VilsackTom20090306.pdf, March 2009). 24 Summers, ‘Drought aid tough to come by’. 25 Anonymous, USDA says Texas farmers will have to wait for aid, (http://www.chron. com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6535887.html, July 2009). 26 Summers, ‘Drought aid tough to come by’.
Kings 4:42-44). Remember the feeding of the ﬁve thousand using the young boy’s ﬁve barley loaves and two ﬁsh (John 6:1-21). None of these spectacular miracles would have been possible without God’s power. The author of the letter to the church in Ephesus reminds us of this fact. He writes, “Now to Him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).” This is what God does. He accomplishes the impossible. There once was an insigniﬁcant group of people held captive by a superpower. Not a problem for God, He freed Israel from slavery. A while back, a customer owed the bank more than they could ever pay in this life or the next. God paid the entire debt for this person along with every other customer’s charges. Then there was God’s death on the cross. No one thought that God could get out alive. We all know what happened next. Jesus lives. We might be afraid to dream that God can work through us. God can. It is hot and dry outside. Not only is the land suffering from the lack of water but people are also hurting since they lack food. We do not really know when this drought might end.27 It could be a permanent change in our weather or it could last seven years like in 1950.28 Either reason does change what we must do. Go and feed the hungry. “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”29
Burns, ‘Drought could be here to stay’. Ibid. 29 Philippians 4:7.
Anonymous, USDA says Texas farmers will have to wait for aid, (http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/ 6535887.html, July 2009), Last checked on July 25, 2009. Bryant, Nick, Australia drought sparks suicides, (http://news.bbc. co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6065220.stm, October 2006), Last checked on July 25, 2009. Burns, Robert, TAMU climatologist: Drought could be here to stay, (http:// agnews.tamu.edu/showstory.php?id=1304, July 2009), Last checked on July 25, 2009. Campoy, Ana, Severe Texas Drought Threatens Coastal Wildlife, (http:// online.wsj.com/article/SB124027139462837033.html, April 2009), Last checked on July 25, 2009. Fannin, Blair, Texas drought losses reach $3.6 billion Losses could exceed $4.1 billion by end of 2009, (http://agnews.tamu.edu/showstory. php?id=1311, July 2009), Last checked on July 25, 2009. Lanman, Scott, Bernanke Says About 25 Financial Firms Systemically Important, (Bloomberg, July 2009), Last checked on July 25, 2009.
Mack, Sharon Kiley, Economic strife in farming communities leads some to tragic ends, (http://www.bangordailynews.com/detail/110473. html, July 2009), Last checked on July 25, 2009. Perry, Rick, (http://governor.state.tx.us/files/ March 2009),
press-office/O-VilsackTom20090306.pdf, Last checked on July 25, 2009.
Summers, Juana, Drought aid tough to come by Perry declares 167 Texas counties to be in a state of disaster, (http://www.statesman.com/news/ content/news/stories/local/2009/07/17/0717drought. html, July 2009), Last checked on July 25, 2009. Tappert, Theodore G. et al., editors, The Book of Concord, (Fortress Press, 1959).
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