I want to begin, not with a Biblical text, but some words of the poet TS Eliot, ‘Take no thought of the harvest, but only of the proper sowing’. In other words, don’t be anxious about the results, but give your care and attention to the preparation.
This wisdom has a bearing on many aspects of life.
It has a bearing on those sitting public exams at the moment. The results will be what they will be, the real work is now, and what has been done before now, to prepare.
Likewise the farmer who only agonises about the amount of harvest in a few months’ time may neglect to prepare the land for the seed, forget to water it and to feed it.
Today, the Sixth Sunday of Eastertide, is also known as Rogation Sunday. The word ‘rogation’ comes from the Latin, rogare, meaning ‘to ask’.
It is a time when we take care ‘of the proper sowing’
It is a time when we reflect upon what it is we ask of the Lord in our lives, for ourselves and our relationships, for our world and its peace and wellbeing.
Rogation is, as it were, the counterpart to the harvest. And so much more effort tends to go into the harvest thanksgiving than the asking for blessing and fruitfulness. It’s not that thankfulness is bad, quite the contrary, but Rogationtide reminds us also to make our requests and petitions known to God: ask and you shall receive.
There is an especially environmental dimension to Rogationtide too. It is when God’s blessing is invoked upon the crops and plants that are growing, asking that they may be fruitful. Rogationtide reminds us to tend and care for the earth not just extract as much out of it as we can and almost literally bleed it dry.
As a Minster church we need a posture of rogation as we consider what God is calling us to in this season of the life of our church. This will really be initiated in our church Vision Day on 15th June, and please do make it a priority to be part of that day, from 1000-1400. And if you can be there, or if you cannot, please pray and ask that it may be fruitful, that our life may be fruitful.
It’s a pernicious tendency in the church to count numbers of attendees and measure the worth of life by attendance numbers. Perhaps we are too much of a harvest church and not enough of a rogation church.
If we actually asked God to bless us in the sowing and propagation of the word of God, we might find our harvest even more richly blessed. There is something organic about mission; it is not mechanistic.
This morning Bishop Jonathan set out his vision for the role of the Minster in the coming years. He was affirming of what we do now and challenged us to deepen our roots so that we may grow.
He gave us a potted history of what Minsters were in ages past and what this one might be today, noting how the parish system and boundaries had been fluid up until Elizabethan times. Curiously, even predating the Elizabethans, it was a Rogationtide custom for processions to go out and ask God’s blessing on the crops but it became the marking out of territory and boundaries, even prompting fisticuffs on the boundaries from time to time.
Mission today will not be served by territorialism. Bishop Jonathan recalled us to a bigger vision than that, and his words are worth looking up and will be made available this week.
As we approach Ascension Day on Thursday we are reminded that the life of God in Christ is not boundaried.
Christ’s resurrection was literally earth shaking event: the powers of the death and the tomb could not hold the Crucified and Risen One.
Our Incarnate Lord, who was restricted to physical location, be it in Galilee or Jerusalem - as we are, in Croydon or wherever - ascended into the heavens such that he is no longer held in by boundaries.
He makes his connection with us in the power of the Holy Spirit, for whose outpouring we await with eager longing at Pentecost, as did the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary, in nine days of deep prayer (cf Acts of the Apostles 1.14). The Spirit makes Christ present at all times and in all places when we call upon him, most especially in intensity of the presence of the Sacraments.
So let us ask God that we may be open to his purposes for us, and that we may be fruitful in all that we think and speak and do, doing all in his name and to his glory.