Sermon Notes for ROGATION SUNDAY, 6 May 2018 Anno Domini, St. Andrews Parish Church

Be ye does of the word, and not hearers only…”

James 1:22

We of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are truly the sons and daughters of the Almighty God. There are merely two families only – that family of God, and the other which is the family of their father the devil. (John 8:44) If we were to fall asleep in death today, what would men find if they dug up our remains in five hundred years? They would find only dust. The dust could not be called American, Chinese, Korean, German, Japanese, or English dust – just dust. The body returns to the constituent elements of the soil once decay has taken its course. “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” Acts 17:26 (KJV) But the spirit belongs to God.

 

Martin Luther referred to this book of the Bible (the Book of James) as ‘a right strawy epistle.’ He did so, I contend, because he misappropriated the Biblical principle of  man’s righteous response to God’s Grace. The principle of righteous works emanating from faith as a fruitful manifestation of faith itself is made abundantly clear by our Lord in the Gospel, perhaps nowhere more so than in His caution against our neglect of those in need. True it is that we sre not saved by good works, but we ARE saved UNTO good works.

“I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.”  [Matthew 25:43-45]

Jesus Christ was the greatest servant who ever lived. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark_10:45). Christ came to serve and to give, and God desires the same for us. “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister” (Matthew_20:27-28).

Almost without exception Saint Paul began every one of his epistles with words to this effect: “Paul, a servant….” or “Paul, a bond slave….” He was indeed an apostle, but he conducted himself as a servant.

“Notwithstanding, very few of us want to be known exclusively as a servant. We want to be known as a servant and a great preacher, or a famous missionary, or an outstanding elder, or a well-known business man. What we fail to realize is that true servanthood does not have hidden aspirations to be great in the eyes of men.

When we think of our relationship to Jesus Christ, can it be said of us that we want only to serve Him? “O God, help me to be the master of myself, that I may be a servant of others.” [E-sword]

“When the American evangelist J. Wilbur Chapman was in London, he had an opportunity to meet General Booth, who at that time was past 80 years of age. Dr. Chapman listened reverently as the old general spoke of the trials and the conflicts and the victories he had experienced. The American evangelist then asked the general if he would disclose his secret for success. “He hesitated a second,” Dr. Chapman said, “and I saw the tears come into his eyes and steal down his cheeks,” and then he said, “I will tell you the secret. God has had all there was of me. There have been men with greater brains than I, men with greater opportunities; but from the day I got the poor of London on my heart, and a vision of what Jesus Christ could do with the poor of London, I made up my mind that He would have all of William Booth there was. And if there is anything of power in the Salvation Army today, it is because God has all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will, and all the influence of my life.” Dr. Chapman said he went away from that meeting with General Booth knowing “that the greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.” [E-sword]

In this great season of Rogationtide we both petition the Almighty against the harvest, given now at seed time, and prepare for a right and holy remembrance of our Lord’s glorious Ascension into Heaven.

In times past our forbearers made great pomp and circumstance in the keeping of these Rogation days: walking the parish bounds while offering up Litanies and rogations [prayers of petition and intercession].

The essence of the teaching behind it all is summed up in the three sermons from the Book of Homilies and an Exhortation for the same. The Homilies of the Church of England speak of three ways in which we ought to view our relationship with God in this season of planting:                                                                         [1] First that we recognize God’s hand in Creation. In the first quarter of the last century Christians were faced with refuting the Darwinian theory of Evolution which contradicted the Bible. The theory became the secular, therefore godless standard, promoted in the schools and eventually, although NEVER proven, accepted almost universally as absolute truth.

Today it is the evolutionists who are trying to defend themselves against a scientific community that clearly has had to recognize, by virtue of its own discovered evidence, that evolution is not the answer to understanding from whence we all came, but rather the stamp of creation is indelibly fixed in the code of life.

 

It is our duty as Christians both to acknowledge before God His due Glory, and give thanks to Him for the wonderful gift of Creation in which, through God our Creator we live and move and have our being.

[2] Secondly the homilies for Rogation call for Christians to recognize and witness to the fact that God’s hand is in all the blessings of this life: “while in such good things which we call fortune, as riches, authority, promotion, and honour,we ought to acknowledge God’s hand, some men mistakenly think, that they come by the industry and diligence of our labour and travail rather supernaturally of God.”  When Christians teach a secular world view they lose their witness to Jesus Christ and become a source of harm and falsehood rather than a source of the Gospel of freedom and truth. Secular belief placed under a profession of Christianity is a principal vehicle today for the Church’s failed witness and heretical doctrine which has damaged so many souls.

[3] Thirdly the Homilies for Rogation speak of the importance of recognizing that God is the source of all our spiritual gifts. It is quite easy for Christians to credit their faith to a personal act of works. The two doctrines of predestination and free will, God’s sovereignty and man’s will are not meant to be pitted against one another. They are rather to be understood as two wheels turning one another’s cogs in opposite directions in order to accomplish one singular and harmonious task. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith” Hebrews 12:2 while at the same time our Lord said over the Holy city:  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Matthew 23:37

There is a story about “an old boatman who painted the word “faith” on one oar of his boat and “works” on the other. He was asked his reason for this. In answer, he slipped the oar with “faith” into the water and rowed. The boat, of course, made a very tight circle. Returning to the dock, the boatman then said, “Now, let’s try ‘works’ without ‘faith’ and see what happens.” The oar marked “works” was put in place and the boatman began rowing with just it alone. Again the boat went into a tight circle but in the opposite direction. When the boatman again returned to the wharf, he interpreted his experiment in these strong and convincing words, “You see, to make a passage across the lake, one needs both oars working simultaneously in order to keep the boat in a straight and narrow way. If one does not have the use of both “faith’ and the “works” which spring from it as fruits, he makes no progress either in trying to cross the lake or live as a Christian.

Christians are called to praise God for all that is theirs from the wonder of Creation, through the success of their labours to the priceless gift of their faith.

One last aspect of Rogationtide needs to be pointed out. Queen Elizabeth the first required parish priests in the newly reformed Church of England to include with their litanies and rogations whilst beating the bounds of the parish, a curse against trespassers. It stated: “cursed be he that translateth the bounds and doles of his neighbours.” Doles, meaning measures, were, in rural mediaeval England, “slips of land left between furrows of ploughed land. A dole meadow was a meadow in which the shares of different proprietors were marked by doles or land marks.”  

From the Ten Commandments, to King Ahab and Queen Jezebel’s theft of Naboth’s vineyard, to our Lord’s rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, the Bible teaches us not to transgress our neighbour’s possessions.

Living in harmony with our neighbours is prerequisite to a right relationship with God. Thus this Rogationtide is an opportunity for us the midst of the Christian Year to renew our praise of God whose hand is in all things that are good, and pursue a right relationship with Him “not only with our lips but in our lives, giving up ourselves to his service, and by walking before him in holiness and righteousness all our days.” Amen.

By | 2018-05-07T18:54:33+00:00 May 7th, 2018|Sermons|0 Comments

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