Flower and seedSermon for Rogation Sunday, 9th May 2021
Reverend Sarah

Readings for this Sunday:
Isaiah 55:1-11;
Acts 10:44-48;
John 15:9-17

Our theme today is around creation as it is Rogation Sunday; the word ‘Rogation’ coming from the Latin ‘rogare’ to ask.
It’s a time when we traditionally ask for God’s blessings on emerging crops in springtime.
Sometimes, we celebrate this service outdoors, in the fields, but we decided against that this
year because we have only just come back into our church buildings, it’s hard to livestream
from the middle of a field and it’s not terribly inclusive for those who have difficulty walking.

Don’t let that stop you taking your prayers outdoors later today or during the week; Rogation
isn’t confined to a Sunday. You might choose to do a prayer walk to support your
community, on your own, or with friends; just remember to stop now and again, look around
you at God’s creation and pray a blessing on what you see (there’s a suggested prayer of
blessing at the end).

Our reading from Acts today reminds us that it’s not just a select few for whom the Holy
Spirit comes, it’s for all of us. The Holy Spirit had been poured out ‘even on the Gentiles’
because our God is a generous God, pouring out his love on all who turn to Him. Accepting
God’s word and therefore the Holy Spirit comes with responsibilities; one of these is good
stewardship of God’s creation and we all know that we’re not doing particularly well on that
count. There is much work to be done.

In Isaiah 55 we read:
‘For as the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have
watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the
eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it
shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.’

God gives us everything we need. We’re just not very good at managing what we’re given
and have got into bad habits, forgetting how to share equitably and around the globe. This
earth has finite resources, most of which are recycled naturally – water, nitrogen, carbon – until
we upset the balance. At the moment, we export much of our carbon footprint, so might look
good locally, but impact negatively on people elsewhere.

Creation is big news this year – COP26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference
is being held in Glasgow in November; also the 16th meeting of the parties to the Kyoto 3
Protocol and 3rd meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement. It’s a fantastic time to engage
in current affairs.

Much of the discussion at these meetings will be around becoming carbon neutral. A lot of
progress has been made and our own Diocese has plenty going on in this sphere
(www.oxford.anglican.org) but there is plenty more to do and each of us can play our part, as
can our churches. But carbon is just one part of one of the so called ‘planetary boundaries’
that are beyond their threshold. These include:
• Climate change – atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration causing global temperature rise
• Biodiversity loss: extinction rate of species – examples would be a number of important
pollinators – through change in land use, pollution, overexploitation and invasive species
• Biogeochemical changes
~ Nitrogen and phosphorus in particular
~ Anthropogenic nitrogen removal from the atmosphere – way past the boundary
~ Anthropogenic phosphorus going into the oceans – not quite at the boundary yet

Data from:
Planetary Boundaries: Exploring the Safe Operating Space for Humanity (stockholmresilience.org)
Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet | Science (sciencemag.org)

One of our local farmers – Simon Beddowes – has written a column for the Henley Standard
this week where he brings some of these things to our attention at a local level, available here:

He writes about what it means for him as a food producer and protector of the land resources
and has no doubt we are experiencing climate change. He writes about noticing higher
temperatures overall; greater variability in temperature; an increase in the average rainfall, but
longer periods of more extreme weather. This all has an impact on what we can grow and
when, the yields and the cost. As a farmer, he acknowledges that he is part of the solution and
reminds us that we have – as consumers – freedom of choice, so it’s also up to us and our
habits; if we buy it, producers will produce it.

So the choices we make are important – and difficult. It’s an excellent article.

Bill Gates has also written a good book: ‘How to avoid a climate disaster’. Both Simon and
Bill ask us to think very carefully about the choices we make that result in our own carbon – and
other – footprints merely being exported to other places around the world through the choices
we make. If we are to change this, there will be sacrifices we have to make, but isn’t this what
is meant by ‘laying down one’s life for others’? We’re not talking about death. This is about
dying to sin, living in a way that keeps us in right relationship with God.

In our Gospel reading today, we read ‘You are my friends if you do what I command you’.
We are not servants, we are friends; we have free will and can make choices about the way we
live. As friends – rather than servants – we know what is being asked of us, to look after God’s
creation. Rogation Sunday is one of those days when we can think deeply on this. It’s also
tradition on this day that we ‘beat the bounds’, getting out to walk the boundaries of our
parishes as we pray blessings on the crops, the rainfall and the people. This is about
understanding the communities within which we dwell and being prepared to look across the
boundaries to make sure that those on the ‘other side’ are in good health too, that they have
food, electricity, water, sanitation. This isn’t just about looking ‘next door’, these are global
boundaries. We are all neighbours and this earth isn’t very big – there are 7.8 billion people
on this planet, up from 2 billion in 1927 – just three or four generations. I t’s about identity:
knowing ourselves and our communities; knowing who our neighbours are; what it is that
joins us together and what separates us.

For our joy to be complete, we must love one another as God loves us. This means taking
care of this world, the finite resources we have; working towards equity in healthcare,
sanitation, food; preventing a climate crisis.

Where do we begin? Here. God chose us to do this, to spread His word and the Gospel of
salvation through the way we live, how we relate to and think about others. So let’s begin
right here and now with a prayer and blessing that you can take out as you walk around our
countryside today.

Remember, Lord, your mercy and loving-kindness towards us.
Bless this good earth, and make it fruitful.
Bless our labour, and give us all things needful for our daily lives.
Bless the homes of this parish and all who live within them.
Bless our common life and our care for our neighbour.
Hear us, good Lord.

Field and sky