Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sixth Easter, "St. Marathon," and Rogation Sunday

Acts 16; The Revelation 21

Grace and peace this morning, the Sixth Sunday of Easter season, and with two additional notes regarding the calendar. 

Congratulations. first of all,  to those who figured out how to slip through the barricades and across the flowing streams of runners to find your way to church this morning.  Always a great day for the city, if a bit of a jumble for the churches.  Back in the mid and late 1990’s and early 2000’s I used to run in the marathon, as some of you will remember—and even though I haven’t done that for more than a decade now I still enjoy all the festivities of the day.  A good day I think for our city and region, and I know we would offer our prayers today with special intention for the runners and those who are assisting them at refreshment and first aid stations, all the support structures involved, for families, friends, people cheering and celebrating along the way.  Nice weather for a long run.   In early fall we’ll pray the Collect marked now in the new Prayer Book for “Proper 21,” and the Sunday nearest September 28.  In the older Prayer Books for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity, but I think perfectly designed for Marathon Sunday:  “O God, who declares thy almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity; Mercifully grant unto us such a measure of thy grace, that we, running the way of thy commandments, may obtain thy gracious promises, and be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure.”  And of course remember also today St.Paul, in First Corinthians 9: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize?  So run, that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we, an imperishable one . . . .”

And second, always one of my favorite subjects!  The three weekdays of this coming week, the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Ascension Thursday are traditionally called “Rogation Days.”  From the Latin verb “rogo,” to “request,” (we have a number of words in contemporary use that are related: “interrogation,” for example.  In this case a rogation is a prayer, and Rogationtide a brief season in which prayers would be offered in agricultural communities during the spring planting season.  In rural English villages it was quite common at Evensong on Rogation Sunday to have a representative blessing of seed, and then to have a procession from the church to circle around the nearby fields and to bless the soil, and to pray for fair weather, sufficient rain, and an abundant harvest.  Years ago when I was serving up in Central Pennsylvania our Susquehanna Deanery, eight or nine churches up and down the Northern and Western Branches of the river, would co-host a Rogation Sunday evensong and potluck supper at St. Gabriel’s Church in Coles Creek, a country crossroads near the village of Benton--right out in the fields.  And if not too many of our St. Andrew’s  families, with the notable exception of Ben and Heather Shannon up in Stanton Heights, live on farms these days, I do know that we have plenty of gardeners.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash.  And in recent years Rogation Sunday has become time as well to think and pray about larger concerns of environmental stewardship, and always to give thanks for those who work to provide the food and clothing and shelter that we city dwellers all rely upon.

I’ve spent some time circling around the topic of Christian Stewardship this Easter season, and just to say that beginning in the first chapter of Genesis and continuing especially in the deep connection of God’s Chosen People with the Land of Promise, there is a deep and meaningful theme that emerges that if we are as Christian people to be eschatological and doxological, if our life here and now is to be deeply connected with the great hymn of praise before God’s heavenly throne, then part of that doxology, part of that worship, is expressed in the reverent care and nurture of the good land that God has provided for us.  Whether we’re talking about the day to day routines of care of our own backyard gardens or the Larimer Urban Garden Project that some of our Outreach team and congregation are working on this summer—or of the global concerns of environment and climate and all the rest, as Christians we would know that this is the material of our praise and worship.  It is to connect our world, this world, with the Garden in Genesis, and with the Easter version of that Garden in John’s great vision in Revelation 21:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

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