Rogation (Fifth Easter) Monday May 18
The three days following the Fifth Sunday after Easter are traditionally set aside for petitioning God to prosper the efforts of our hands, especially as it relates to sowing crops in the Spring in hopes of reaping a bountiful harvest in the Autumn. The word “rogation” comes from the Latin rogare, “to ask.” The Second Book of Homilies (1563) even provided official sermons for each day. As always, in Anglican spirituality, petitioning is to be preceded by penitence, “getting right with God first,” which then leads to love gratitude for forgiveness and everything else God has done for us, including making this wonderful world for us.
However, the first thing we need to recognize is that this penitence is no hamster-wheel approval-earning. Let’s listen to the “Homily for Rogation Week”:
It is his goodness that moveth him to call us unto him, to offer us his friendship and presence. It is his goodness that patiently suffereth our straying from him, and suffereth us long, to win us to repentance... And what other thing doth his loving and gentle voice spoken in his Word, where he calleth us to his presence and friendship, but declare his goodness, only without regard of our worthiness?
The power within us to return to God is nothing else but loving gratitude for God’s goodness to be at work in the midst of our sinfulness until we do repent.
Yet, is this the way we see repentance? Do we repent so we can earn God’s approval and love? Or do we repent to return the unconditional love we have received? Do we repent to gain access to God’s presence? Or do we repent because he is present with us in our sins seeking to lead us out? Self-Hatred or loving gratitude, which one really motivates our attempts at change? These are important questions, since the answers will determine whether we experience a spiritually and emotionally healthy Christian life.
There is an old, old, lie that so often haunts the back of our minds: “Doesn’t God love me less when I sin, but love me more when I don’t?” It sounds so reasonable. How others treat us certainly influences our attitude towards them. But God is not like us, and real Christianity isn’t always “reasonable” by the standards of this world. Real Christianity remembers that God’s love won’t abandon us, even when we have abandoned him.
Lorainne Hansberry expresses this point so well in her landmark civil rights play from the 1950s, A Raisin in the Sun. A $10,000 insurance check from a father’s recent death divides his widow and their two children over how it should be spent. The son Walter wants to invest it in a liquor store so that they can have a decent income. The daughter Beneatha wants to use it to fund her education to become a doctor. Although reluctant at first, Moma wants to give Walter a chance to make something of himself, so she gives him $6500, telling him to put $3000 in a saving’s account for his sister, and to invest the remaining $3500 as he thinks best. Walter, however, turns the whole amount over to a supposed business partner who simply runs off with all the money. Enraged, Beneatha disowns him as her brother. Mama, however, replies:
When do you think is the time to love somebody the most? When they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well, then, you ain’t through learning - because that ain’t the time at all. It’s when he’s at his lowest and can’t believe in himself… !
God’s grace is sufficient even in the face of our greatest failures. When we need God the most, the power of his love is still there for us. In the end, it’s God’s goodness, not our own, that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4).
Mindful of God’s goodness, let us pray this week’s collect.
1552 Readings and Collect appointed for the Fifth Sunday after Easter. Epistle: James 1:22-27. Gospel: John 16:23-33. Lord, from whom all good things do come; grant us, thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lorde Jesus Christ. Amen.