The Gospel St. John 16.23
At that time: Jesus said unto his disciples : Verily, verily I say unto you : Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my Name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my Name ; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs. The time cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father. At that day, ye shall ask in my Name ; and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you : for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed, that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world, and go to the Father. His disciples said unto him : Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now are we sure, that thou knowest all things, and needest not, that any man should ask thee : by this we believe, that thou camest forth from God. Jesus answered them : Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea is now come, that ye shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave me alone l and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation : but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
Welcome to the Fifth Sunday after Easter, otherwise known as Rogation Sunday. Now I’m not going to go into the entire history of Rogation Sunday, except to say that it used to involve a procession and something called “beating the bounds”; which also sometimes involved beating people as well. Ah, for the good old days!
Anyway, in the Church today, Rogation Sunday is known as the time for blessing the crops. I’ve read that rather make a number of visits to individual properties, some ACC Priests will bless a large pot of soil in the course of their Sunday services. Afterwards, this pot of soil is taken to the coffee hour where the people can get scoops of the blessed dirt to spread in their own gardens. Leave it to us Anglicans to find a practical alternative.
As this blessing of soil would imply, Rogation Sunday is also about sowing seeds. The earth has been renewed by the passing of the seasons, and it’s now time to plant. What comes next is the necessity to tend the field and nurture the crops. Then finally, after all our hard work is complete, we will see the harvest. You just know I’m going somewhere with all this.
“ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full“ You see, Rogation Sunday takes it’s name from the Latin word “Rogare”, which means, “to ask”. On the surface, this seems simple enough; if we want our crops and flowers to be plentiful and beautiful, all we need to do is ask in Jesus name; and that’s pretty much the extent of my message today. But before you get too excited, this doesn’t mean that I’m done talking yet.
Of course you all see the obvious metaphors contained in the meaning of Rogation Sunday. Just as the Spring season signals a renewal of the earth, so too have we been renewed by the Resurrection of Our Lord. Just as it is time for farmers and gardeners to begin planting, so to is it time for us to likewise plant. Just as our Spring planting sets upon us the requirement to tend and nurture our gardens and crops, so to is it time for us to nurture the seeds of the Gospel that we have sown. This day does not begin and end with the blessing of soil; Rogation Sunday signals a time of beginning and continuing, at the same time.
So today is all about growing. First, the seeds have been sown in our hearts and minds through the words of the Gospel. They have been nurtured by the Grace of God through the Body and Blood of His Son. They have been tended and defended by the lives of the Saints and Apostles. Now it’s up to us to reap the harvest. And for the harvest to be fruitful, all we need to do is ask.
Next, Rogation Sunday also reminds us that we too should be sowing seeds and tending gardens. We do this through our lives and witness. We do this when we proclaim the Gospel to others. And we do this when we allow our own Faith to grow within us. We have a duty and responsibility to do this; otherwise, the harvest will fail.
Sadly, we see the results of such failure all too often. My first assignment as a newly ordained priest was as curate at St. Patrick’s in Kalamazoo Michigan. Just down I-94 from our Church was the Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of West Michigan. Not long after I started at St. Patrick’s in 2006, that Cathedral had to be sold. The people responsible for tending that garden, for sowing the seeds of the Faith and for nurturing them, had neglected their duties.
They became caught up in arrogance and self-righteousness. They placed the will and desires of man ahead of God’s Holy Will. And the congregation left them. As a result, a building that cost nearly two million dollars to construct in 1969, was sold 37 years later for half a million dollars less. And they had grown the Kingdom of God not at all.
The Church is built on Faith. If you haven’t heard me say it before, you will hear it time and again in the future. It is also grown on Faith. Without Faith, the soil goes sour. Without Faith, the seed falls on bad ground. Without Faith, the garden gets no water, weeds are allowed to invade, and the harvest will never be realized.
Sounds pretty bleak, I know. But remember, as you will also hear from me time and again, with God, all things ARE possible. Which brings me back to the Latin root for the word “rogation”; “to ask”. You see, today is not the only one designated as a rogation day. If you look in our lectionary, you’ll see that there are three days coming up that are likewise titled as “rogation” days. These days were originally set aside as days for prayer and fasting; for asking God’s forgiveness in addition to a request for a plentiful harvest. How else do we ask God for anything, but through prayer? All we have to do is ask.
This is where I’m going to leave you all today. Our Church, our Faith, our lives and our souls; these are all the components that are necessary for that great harvest that is the Kingdom of God. We have been renewed through the Resurrection of Our Lord. We have received the seeds of life through His Gospel. He has tended and nurtured us with His Body and Blood. And now it’s up to us to grow; grow our Faith, grow the Church, grow the Kingdom of God. All we have to do is ask. Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my Name, he will give it you