|Pentecost 15, Year B||September 6, 2015||Proper 18, Year B||Isaiah 35:4-7a, Ps 146, James 2:1-17, Mark 7:24-37|
|Pentecost 12, Year B, Jonathan Myrick Daniels Commemoration||August 16, 2015||Pentecost 12, Proper 15||Proverbs 4:20-27, Psalm 85:7-13, Galatians 3:22-28, Luke 1:46-55|
|Pentecost 11, Year B||August 9, 2015||Proper 14, Year B||Ephesians 4:25-5:2|
|Pentecost 10, Year B||August 2, 2015||Proper 13, Year B||Ephesians 4:-16, John 6:24-35|
|Pentecost 8, Year B||July 19, 2015||Proper 11, Year B||Psalm 23, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56|
|Pentecost 7, Year B||July 12, 2015||Pentecost 7, Year B||Ephesians 1:3-14|
|Pentecost 6, Year B||July 5, 2015||Proper 9, Year B||Ezekiel 2:1-5, 2 Corinthians 13:3-10, Mark 6:1-13|
|Pentecost 5, Year B||June 28, 2015||Proper 8, Year B||Mark 5:21-43, Psalm 30|
|Pentecost 4, Year B||June 21, 2015||Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, Year B||2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41|
|Pentecost 3, Year B||June 14, 2015||The Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 6||2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17; Mark 4:26-34|
|Pentecost 2, Year B||June 7, 2015||The Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 5||Genesis 3:8-15, Ps 130, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35|
|Pentecost 1, Year B -Trinity Sunday||May 31, 2015||Pentecost 1, Year B, Trinity Sunday||Isaiah 6:1-8,Psalm 29,Romans 8:12-17,John 3:1-17|
|Easter 7, Year B||May 17, 2015||Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B||John 17:6-19|
|➤Easter 6, Rogation Sunday, Year B||May 10, 2015||Sixth Sunday of Easter, Rogation Sunday||Deuteronomy 11:10-15, Mark 4:26-32|
|Easter 4, Year B||April 26, 2015||Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B||I John 3:16-24, John 10:11-18|
Easter 6, Rogation Sunday, Year B
Sermon Date:May 10, 2015
Scripture: Deuteronomy 11:10-15, Mark 4:26-32
Liturgy Calendar: Sixth Sunday of Easter, Rogation Sunday
"The Mustard Seed"
Today is Rogation Sunday.
The earth is spinning through space and we’ve entered into late spring, so on this Sunday we celebrate God’s gift of the blissful entrance into warmth and new life that we experience each year in this part of the world.
There’s more to this day than celebration. The word “rogation” comes from the Latin verb, “rogare,” which means “to ask.”
So as the early Christians did, all the way back to probably the 4th century, on Rogation Day we ask God to forgive our transgressions. We ask God to protect us from calamities, and also to obtain a good and bountiful harvest. http://catholicism.about.com/od/holydaysandholidays/p/Rogation_Days.htm
On Rogation Day, early Christians recited something called The Litany of the Saints and also various psalms as they walked the boundaries of the parish. The Catholic Encyclopedia tells us that in this way the whole parish was blessed and the boundaries of the parish were marked. After the procession, everyone participated in a Rogation Mass.
Today, we won’t physically walk the boundaries of the parish.
In fact, I’d like to make the case that in this technological, interconnected world, the whole earth and all of creation has become our parish and walking around it would be practically impossible.
And just as human activity changes boundaries, the far reaching impact of our human activity continues to change creation itself, and in this technological age when the whole world is bound more closely together and every little thng we do affects creation, Rogation Day takes on a new significance.
So this Rogation Sunday is a good day to ask for the forgiveness of our transgressions as the early Christians did–especially our transgressions against creation itself.
The psalmist reminds us that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” and today’s reading from Deuteronomy reminds us that “the eyes of the Lord your God are always on the land, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.”
So often we forget this simple fact. Many of us own land, but we are not the true owners of any piece of the earth. The earth is the Lord’s. When I remember this, that the earth is the Lord’s, and not mine, my perspective changes.
God gives us the invaluable sacred gift of the earth. The earth, with its gravitational pull, is the foundation beneath our feet. The earth feeds us and clothes us. The beauty of the earth is a constant source of amazement and wonder.
In fact, the earth is doing things for us that we might not even know about!
Here’s an example of what I mean.
Recently, I read an article about gardening by Barbara Damrosch in the Washington Post Local Living section. In the article she talks about the obvious benefits of gardening, and our partnership with the living soil. Penicillin, which has saved so many lives, comes from a soil fungus. In January, “researchers at Northeastern University announced a newly tested antibiotic produced from a soil sample that kiils resistant strains of staph and also tuberculosis.” Damrosch also writes about a soil microbe that triggers mouse brains to produce serotonin, that chemical in both mouse and human brains that acts an antidepressant. Maybe there’s a scientific reason that gardening just makes us happier!
The earth truly is a gift—but because we frequently abuse it for our own purposes, this Rogation Day really is a good day to ask for forgiveness for our transgressions toward the earth.
We can’t stop there, though. Today is a great day to come up with some ways that we can show our appreciation to God for this incredible gift by being more intentional about the caring for creation.
Here at St Peter’s, we already recycle, and we’ve started using biodegradable take out containers for the Village Dinners. Shred-It is another good way to care for the earth. According to the Shred-It website, “after the paper has been securely shredded, the confetti-sized pieces are bundled and recycled into paper products.”
I could preach a whole sermon on things we could do—but instead of that, let’s all take a minute now to name some things we could do as individuals and also as a parish to be more intentional about our care for creation. (Time to comment.)
Now let’s talk about what it means in this day and age to pray for a good and bountiful harvest. We have farmers and gardeners in this congregation, and obviously, we are praying specifically not only for a bountiful harvest for them, but for good harvests for all farmers and gardeners everywhere.
But this prayer is for the rest of us too, because we all produce harvests in our lives. We raise our children, we have the work that God has given us to do, God gives us people to love and to care for—all of the things we do in our lives ultimately produce and outcome, a “harvest.”
And so on this Sunday, we pray specifically for good and bountiful outcomes for our work.
Today’s gospel has some helpful things to say about how we can pray and be present to God as we live our lives and do our work and hope and pray for a good harvest. And the first little parable appears only in Mark.
“Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.”
In this day and age, we have come to believe that what we have and what we produce is based on the strength of our own efforts. The harder we work, the more we accomplish, the more we get, the more important we are. We’ve fallen into the trap of believing that our worth is based on what we produce, and that we can completely control the outcome of any work that we are doing.
Now of course, yes, we want to and have to work, but Jesus reminds us that we ourselves cannot single handedly bring in the Kingdom of God in our own lives or in anyone else’s for that matter by being busy every waking moment.
Our job is to sow our seeds on the ground. And then, here’s the hard part—to wait–
To sleep and rise night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows and we don’t know how. And the earth produces of itself.
That is–After we’ve done our part, then our job is sleeping and rising night and day, knowing that the growth of the seed is in God’s hands.
Our relationship to the earth itself can help us all to slow down so that we can sleep at night and get up the next day in peace, knowing that the harvest we long for is growing in the very soil of God’s love.
Ragan Sutterfield, in his book, Cultivating Reality: How the Soil Might Save Us, points out that “the soil and a life lived in response to it creates a kind of liturgy of the hours—a way of moving the work of human community into holy time.”
When we honor creation, and honor the very soil itself as a gift from God, then “we are welcomed into a rhythm of life that …moves our bodies into a time to which it can keep pace—a kind of dance” and I love this, because it’s so true—Suttefield goes on to say that “the natural pattern of life is one of work and leisure, a call and response of effort and idleness.” Leisure and idleness—waiting for the seed to sprout and grow without worry.
Norman Wirzba, in his book, Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight, says that “creation itself has something to teach us about rest. If we are attentive to the world, we will quickly see that Sabbaths are going on all around us. Sabbath rhythms are vital to the maintenance of all life. Humans are the unique species in that we have presumed to step outside of these created rhythms by working or shopping around the clock…”
God rested at the beginning of time, having created the fullness of the earth and all that it is in it. Even God rested.
The writer of Genesis tells us that “on the seventh day God finished the work that God had done, and God rested on the seventh day….and blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that God had done in creation.”
Conventional wisdom says that preachers give the sermons that they themselves need to hear. I know that this is true in my case, and for many of you as well. I need to reclaim Sabbath time in my life, and to establish a better rhythm of rest, and to trust that the seeds I’ve planted will sprout and grow, because they are growing in the soil of God’s love.
Remember, then, on this Rogation Day, that the eyes of the Lord your God are always on the gift of this creation that enfolds us in its vast abundance and incredible beauty.
And that God calls us to be faithful to this God given gift, and to be faithful to the work we are called to do within it, and to also to enjoy it, and to treasure it as the most precious gift we could ever receive–
And to remember that God wants us to trust and to have patience, to leave behind the presumption of rushing, busyness, and exhaustion, and to enter once more into the healing and life giving rhythms of creation that God created at the beginning of time for the ongoing healing and abundance of this good earth.
And most of all, to remember that God calls us to be faithful, hopeful, and patient with the work we are called on to do here and now, and to continue to learn from and to give thanks for the gift of God’s good earth.
Damrosch, Barbara. “Down-to-earth cures for mind and body” in Local Living: Virginia Edition in The Washington Post, April 23, 2015.
Sutterfield, Ragan. Cultivating Reality: How the Soil Might Save Us. Eugene, Oregan: Cascade Books, 2013.
Wirzba, Norman. Living the Sabbath: Discorving the Rhythms of Rest and Delight. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006.