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The Rev. Robert Hart: Sermon for Rogation Sunday (James 1:22ff, John 16:23ff)

April 27, 2008

The Rev. Robert Hart of the Continuum blog has shared with us another remarkable sermon, this one being a Sermon for Rogation Sunday, based on passages from the Epistle of James and the Gospel of John.  His introduction sets the stage quite well, particularly for those of us who may not remember what “Rogation Sunday” is all about:

This fifth Sunday after Easter is called Rogation Sunday: The word “Rogation” comes from the Latin verb rogare, meaning “to ask,” and was applied to this time of the liturgical year because the Gospel reading for the previous Sunday included the passage “Ask and ye shall receive” (John 16:24).And it goes on to say: At one time people observed the Rogation days by fasting in preparation to celebrate the Ascension, and farmers often had their crops blessed by a priest.

Well, we know about the blessing of the crops, and what it has come to mean in terms of the annual celebration of Rogation Sunday. We must be thankful to God because of every good thing He gives us, including the crops of the field and every provision. To have the work of our hands blessed by God, so that our labors are fruitful, and meaningful, is a necessary part of health and the whole of life. Furthermore, let us consider these earthly blessings in light of the Epistle, especially the definition given by Saint James of “true religion.” To be a “doer of the Word” is about those things that we are commanded to do- not just those things we are commanded not to do. Every “thou shalt not” commandment is simply part of the two great “thou shalt” commandments: namely, to love God with our whole being, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Whatever we have of earthly blessings are not meant to be hoarded, but shared with those who are in need; and we must also think on a higher level than these earthly things, or else instead of being mindful of the needs of the poor, as Saint James speaks of “the fatherless and widows in their affliction,” we will be spotted by the world. We can be people of true charity, or we can become carnal. It seems there can be no middle ground.

I strongly recommend that the rest of this sermon be read, because Fr. Hart addresses two common problems with the modern emphasis placed on this season: “the emphasis has moved from gratitude to God for giving to us the things we need, to a secular kind of emphasis on the environment.”  This sermon is one of the better reminders I have seen lately that “the earth is the Lord’s” rather than the earth being the Lord.

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