Can you say, “Rogationtide?”

 Not that you would ever know it from our lectionary readings, but today (in addition to being Mother’s Day!) has also been known as Rogation Sunday. Rogation comes from the Latin word “rogare” which means “to ask.” Same root word from which we get “interrogation.” And on these days, the church has traditionally asked for God’s blessing on the planting of crops and the eventual harvest.

In modern times the concerns have been broadened so that, this Monday, we will pray “for a fruitful season,” on Tuesday “for commerce and industry” and on Wednesday “for stewardship of creation.” Those are all three vital concerns for us in these days as we welcome the Easter and spring season of new growth and planting at the same time as we face a challenging economy in the wake of the pandemic, and a worldwide attempt to combat global warming and the harmful effects of man-made climate change.

While the Judeo-Christian tradition has not always been known for an emphasis on the environment and the protection of Mother Earth (in fact, often, quite the opposite!) nonetheless we do well to remember that the biblical writers lived much closer to the land and to nature than we do. Jesus often uses agricultural imagery in his teaching and parables as in today’s Gospel, “…I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…” (John 15

The Psalmist often praises the gift of creation in words like we read this morning, “Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it, the lands and those who dwell therein. Let the rivers clap their hands, and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD, when he comes to judge the earth.” (Psalm 98:8-10)

Even the First Lesson from Acts and the First Epistle of John remind us that the element which makes up 71 % of the earth’s surface – water – is the same element Christians use for our primary sacrament – holy baptism! Water is life – physically and, for us, spiritually!

I started thinking about all this again as we celebrated Earth Day a couple of weeks ago and as Susanne and I explored some relatively new territory for us in the Rocky Mountains on our first real trip in over a year! And, as I was challenged by these paragraphs from Sherri Mitchell, a Native American attorney and environmental activist:

[Our [indigenous] story begins with an understanding that we are related to all beings within creation. The two legged, the four legged, the winged, the beings that crawl and slide along the ground, the plants, the trees, and the living Earth are all our relatives. Everything is interconnected and interdependent; the well-being of the whole determines the well-being of any individual part…there is one life, one breath that we all breathe…

…this teaches us that it is not enough to know that we are part of one living system. We must also take steps to live in harmony with the rest of creation. This means that we cannot adopt attitudes or beliefs that place us above the natural world. We cannot see ourselves as having dominion over the land, the water, or the animals…We are only keepers of a way of life that is in harmony with the Earth. Every day, we must act in ways that acknowledge that we are part of one living system, a unified whole.

This understanding is very different from the belief that human beings are chosen above all others. That view creates countless distortions that not only elevate {humanity} inappropriately, but also diminishes the rest of creation. The world is one unified system. It cannot be separated into fragmented, salable parts.

 The Eurocentric view of property ownership requires us to see the land as being disconnected from us. This view separates us from the source of life. The indigenous view recognizes the land as kin, as part of the lineage of life that we are all connected to. Thus, we have an obligation to care for the land in the same way that we would care for human relatives.”] (Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change, 2018)

We have an obligation to care for the land in the same way that we would care for human relatives! What a challenge! (Pause) Sometimes, we hear a dichotomy set up between how best to protect the environment and combat global warming. Does the emphasis need to be on large national and international efforts or on changing our personal habits and our ways of treading upon the earth? I think that’s a false dichotomy. It’s not an either/or but a both/ and.

Certainly, the Biden Administration has proposed some lofty goals on the environment in recent weeks. By taking steps to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, working with the international community, and setting a goal of cutting the United States’ carbon emissions to half their 2005 levels by 2030, President Biden has shown that he is not afraid to dream and plan big for what some have called “this generation’s moonshot!” Our church supports such efforts, but also encourages us to take personal steps to help combat climate change. Here’s one list of ten simple things you and I can do:

  1. Reduce, re-use and recycle – cut down on what you throw away.
  2. Volunteer for clean-ups in the community – New Song is doing this!
  3. Educate yourself first about the problem and then try to educate others.
  4. Conserve water – the less water you use, the less wastewater run-off.
  5. Eat less meat, lower on the food chain.
  6. Shop wisely – bring reusable shopping bags (when we can again) instead of plastic.
  7. Use long-lasting light bulbs.
  8. Plant a tree – either personally or join community efforts like in Cedar Rapids in the wake of the derecho.
  9. Use non-toxic chemicals at home.
  10. Drive (and certainly fly!) less and try to have a fuel-efficient car.

Well, there are many such lists. And I think of them sort of like a rule of life or spiritual discipline. We do them not because they will change things overnight but to remind ourselves of the problem and to hold places where we work and shop accountable and always to vote for politicians who are willing to do something about this problem – both nationally and locally.

So, if you will, join me on Monday in praying, not only for a fruitful growing season, but that farmers and ranchers may become leaders in developing sustainable agricultural practices for the future. On Tuesday, pray not only for commerce and industry, but that corporations may find a social conscience to guide them in business decisions which will be responsible to the earth and which will treat laborers and workers fairly.

And, on Wednesday, pray that we will not only be good stewards of creation but, as Sherri Mitchell wrote: that we will be “keepers of a way of life that will be in harmony with the Earth!”

And in this, as in all things, may we be faithful to Jesus’ charge “to bear fruit…fruit that will last!”

                                           Can You Say “Rogationtide?”

Not that you would ever know it from our lectionary readings, but today (in addition to being Mother’s Day!) has also been known as Rogation Sunday. Rogation comes from the Latin word “rogare” which means “to ask.” Same root word from which we get “interrogation.” And on these days, the church has traditionally asked for God’s blessing on the planting of crops and the eventual harvest.

In modern times the concerns have been broadened so that, this Monday, we will pray “for a fruitful season,” on Tuesday “for commerce and industry” and on Wednesday “for stewardship of creation.” Those are all three vital concerns for us in these days as we welcome the Easter and spring season of new growth and planting at the same time as we face a challenging economy in the wake of the pandemic, and a worldwide attempt to combat global warming and the harmful effects of man-made climate change.

While the Judeo-Christian tradition has not always been known for an emphasis on the environment and the protection of Mother Earth (in fact, often, quite the opposite!) nonetheless we do well to remember that the biblical writers lived much closer to the land and to nature than we do. Jesus often uses agricultural imagery in his teaching and parables as in today’s Gospel, “…I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…” (John 15

The Psalmist often praises the gift of creation in words like we read this morning, “Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it, the lands and those who dwell therein. Let the rivers clap their hands, and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD, when he comes to judge the earth.” (Psalm 98:8-10)

Even the First Lesson from Acts and the First Epistle of John remind us that the element which makes up 71 % of the earth’s surface – water – is the same element Christians use for our primary sacrament – holy baptism! Water is life – physically and, for us, spiritually!

I started thinking about all this again as we celebrated Earth Day a couple of weeks ago and as Susanne and I explored some relatively new territory for us in the Rocky Mountains on our first real trip in over a year! And, as I was challenged by these paragraphs from Sherri Mitchell, a Native American attorney and environmental activist:

[Our [indigenous] story begins with an understanding that we are related to all beings within creation. The two legged, the four legged, the winged, the beings that crawl and slide along the ground, the plants, the trees, and the living Earth are all our relatives. Everything is interconnected and interdependent; the well-being of the whole determines the well-being of any individual part…there is one life, one breath that we all breathe…

…this teaches us that it is not enough to know that we are part of one living system. We must also take steps to live in harmony with the rest of creation. This means that we cannot adopt attitudes or beliefs that place us above the natural world. We cannot see ourselves as having dominion over the land, the water, or the animals…We are only keepers of a way of life that is in harmony with the Earth. Every day, we must act in ways that acknowledge that we are part of one living system, a unified whole.

This understanding is very different from the belief that human beings are chosen above all others. That view creates countless distortions that not only elevate {humanity} inappropriately, but also diminishes the rest of creation. The world is one unified system. It cannot be separated into fragmented, salable parts.

 The Eurocentric view of property ownership requires us to see the land as being disconnected from us. This view separates us from the source of life. The indigenous view recognizes the land as kin, as part of the lineage of life that we are all connected to. Thus, we have an obligation to care for the land in the same way that we would care for human relatives.”] (Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change, 2018)

We have an obligation to care for the land in the same way that we would care for human relatives! What a challenge! (Pause) Sometimes, we hear a dichotomy set up between how best to protect the environment and combat global warming. Does the emphasis need to be on large national and international efforts or on changing our personal habits and our ways of treading upon the earth? I think that’s a false dichotomy. It’s not an either/or but a both/ and.

Certainly, the Biden Administration has proposed some lofty goals on the environment in recent weeks. By taking steps to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, working with the international community, and setting a goal of cutting the United States’ carbon emissions to half their 2005 levels by 2030, President Biden has shown that he is not afraid to dream and plan big for what some have called “this generation’s moonshot!” Our church supports such efforts, but also encourages us to take personal steps to help combat climate change. Here’s one list of ten simple things you and I can do:

  1. Reduce, re-use and recycle – cut down on what you throw away.
  2. Volunteer for clean-ups in the community – New Song is doing this!
  3. Educate yourself first about the problem and then try to educate others.
  4. Conserve water – the less water you use, the less wastewater run-off.
  5. Eat less meat, lower on the food chain.
  6. Shop wisely – bring reusable shopping bags (when we can again) instead of plastic.
  7. Use long-lasting light bulbs.
  8. Plant a tree – either personally or join community efforts like in Cedar Rapids in the wake of the derecho.
  9. Use non-toxic chemicals at home.
  10. Drive (and certainly fly!) less and try to have a fuel-efficient car.

Well, there are many such lists. And I think of them sort of like a rule of life or spiritual discipline. We do them not because they will change things overnight but to remind ourselves of the problem and to hold places where we work and shop accountable and always to vote for politicians who are willing to do something about this problem – both nationally and locally.

So, if you will, join me on Monday in praying, not only for a fruitful growing season, but that farmers and ranchers may become leaders in developing sustainable agricultural practices for the future. On Tuesday, pray not only for commerce and industry, but that corporations may find a social conscience to guide them in business decisions which will be responsible to the earth and which will treat laborers and workers fairly.

And, on Wednesday, pray that we will not only be good stewards of creation but, as Sherri Mitchell wrote: that we will be “keepers of a way of life that will be in harmony with the Earth!”

And in this, as in all things, may we be faithful to Jesus’ charge “to bear fruit…fruit that will last!”

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