Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
I have a project for us. Something each and every one of us can do this week, because I know we’re all tired of waiting…the quarantine is taking a toll…we’re anxious about what the next steps will be…we’re anxious about what the future will look like…we’re still grieving all of the losses that continue to pile up…all of the things we’ve had to set down or say ‘goodbye’ to…and we want something to do…
So…I have a project for us. Something that is safe (at least as long as you take the recommended precautions), and it’s also something that is incredibly courageous…and has the potential to be really transformative.
See it’s Rogation Sunday. Rogation Days are the three days before the Ascension—when Jesus—after the resurrection—leaves the apostles and ascends to be at the right hand of the Father. Like a lot of Christian festivals—Rogation days come from ancient agricultural festivals where God was prevailed upon to protect this year’s crops. And it makes sense to link them to Ascension…because, if you know Jesus is going away—going to the Father—you want to get in all your requests in. And remember last week he said, “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” (John 14:14). So before he leaves, we’d better do some asking. That’s where the term ‘rogation’ comes from…it’s Latin for “to ask.”
In years past, we’ve done a rogation procession after the service. We process out the Dean Road door, say a prayer at the entrance to the park. Go to the corner of Beacon and Dean, say another prayer. Go to the rose garden, another prayer. Come back onto the lawn and usually sing a round of “Dona nobis pacem.” Many churches do something similar. It’s a lovely ritual that we are not able to do this year. It gets us out of the building, and reminds us that our work is really out in the world. That everything we receive here…all the gifts that are bestowed upon us…are to be taken out…and given away…and used up…poured out…shared with our neighbors.
But that’s all changed this year, hasn’t it. We don’t need a procession to get us out of the building…we’re already out of the building. We’ve been out of the building for going on three months. We have not stopped being church…We have not suspended our mission…We have not been left comfortless…but we have also not been “in the world” in many of the ways that we’re used to being in the world.
We’ve also become so deeply and profoundly aware of how interconnected we are…how dependent we are on one another…on agriculture workers, for instance…and workers at meatpacking plants…on delivery drivers…and the people who stock the shelves at the local grocery store….the people who clean buildings and keep our infrastructure working. We were probably dimly aware of how dependent we are on all of them before this… but now…now…?
Our physical distance from one another has only made us more intensely aware of just how dependent we all really are…how viruses and economics ties all of us together…so that what happens in Chelsea…or Sioux Falls, South Dakota, or Waterloo, Iowa, really does have a direct, real world impact on us.
And that’s why this is a perfect time to reclaim Rogationtide…to return to the radical core of what it is about…not about a staid procession that lets us go outside in our fancy liturgical garb….It’s about radically, humbly, yet courageously going into the world and boldly asking God for help. It’s about being aware of all the connections in our world…being aware of all that we depend on…and asking God to come and help us and all of creation move through this.
So here’s the project. Here’s what I’m encouraging all of us to do this week. At the end of today’s bulletin there is a list of some 25 prayers for a variety of things: for agriculture, for science, clean water, food service workers, schools, public safety, government, this community…over the course of the next week, let’s all of us make our own Rogation procession. When you go out for a walk (if you do), take these prayers with you…and when you pass a garden or school…or a place where trash, compost or recycling is handled…stop for a moment. Pause. Imagine it, not as you se it now…but as it will look when God’s will is done…and say the prayer. Stop in front of the coffee shop or the restaurant you miss going to and say a prayer…when you’re waiting for yet another zoom meeting to start (or end), take a breath and say a prayer for places of work, and for those who have been laid-off, or furloughed…Ask God to come and help and bless and heal.
If you don’t want to go out, or if you can’t, spend some time online…search up some links to places listed in these prayers and prayer for them…as you go through your newsfeed or read the paper…say the prayer for those who influence public opinion…pause at the story about medical researchers and ask God to provide help and aid to them…linger over the story about how this pandemic is devastating the homeless and those in prison and plead for God to provide aid, comfort and reform. Use the prayers provided, or if you’re feeling really bold…make up your own…and pray what’s on your heart…Ask. Ask God to provide. Pray that God’s will be done.
If every one of us did it, would make a difference? We won’t know unless all of us do it. But, if ever there was a time to be bold, and ask God to come and be God, and let God’s presence be known, and let God’s will be done, now is it. So let’s be bold, and ask. Let’s set aside worry about whether we’re good enough to ask…(we’re not—none of us are), or whether we’re asking in the right way (we won’t), but with humble and grateful hearts let’s do what Rogation processions are meant to do… let’s go into the world give voice to the faith that is in us…the faith that God hears prayers offered in Jesus’ name. Let’s go into the world to give voice to the hope that is in us…the hope that with God all things are possible…We can’t process around the lawn of All Saints, but we can make our presence and our prayers known…wherever we go. We can ask, and when we hear the shepherd’s voice we can respond. And isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Amen.