Sermon for Rogation Sunday - Isaiah 55; John 16
Two-thirds of Japan is covered in mountains, did you know that? It is said that those mountains are the reason why Japanese fish tastes so good. The reason why the fisheries of Japan are so well-stocked. It isn’t because the mountains are bigger than other mountains. It isn’t because the mountains come to life and tend the fish. It isn’t because the fish live in the mountains. It is because of the meltwater. Snow falls on those mountains, and then in spring that snow melts and runs down the mountains into the sea. This water carries along with-it minerals and energy that feeds and grows the population of plankton that inhabits the coastlines. This plankton being the source of food for the fish. Well-fed plankton breeding well-fed healthy fish, breeding good tasting fish. Hence, the fish are good because of the mountains. The fish don’t know that. They just show up and eat the plankton. They know where to eat and get their fill. They aren’t even thinking, “Wow. I am going to taste good on someone’s sushi.” No. They are receiving their nutrients and not worried about what the plankton looks like or whether it is free-range plankton or Japanese plankton, or American plankton. It’s food and they’re being gifted it for no reason other than the fact the Lord makes it snow on the mountains, makes the snow melt, which feeds the plankton, which feeds the fish.
That is how the Japanese see their food supply. How they see what is done to nourish the world for the sake of the goodness of creation. Rogation Sunday, which is today, comes from a long tradition of having to trust God in his provision. To have life continue or end based on what God gives from what is planted. Rogation coming from the Latin for “beseeching” or “asking” of God, especially at a time of greatest need. We have Rogation days spread throughout the church calendar for fasting and praying, but here it is set aside traditionally around the time of planting. Knowing that we must trust the Creator, the one that gives life to all creation, for whatever bounty we might receive.
Have you ever had an experience with someone who complains about what they got for free? No work put into it. No need to hunt or scrounge. Just receive and they complain about it. Maybe they are the type of person who looks at their ice cream and says its too cold. Basically, an extension of the symptoms of a society that prides itself on Burger King methodologies of transaction. Get it your way, right away, at Burger King now. Where all of our needs can be met by the simple push of a button on a cellphone, or the logging into a website. No asking. No dependence. No realization that every bit of life lies in the palms of the hands of the Creator. So, whether the freeloader is us or not, we are predetermined by sin to trust ourselves or an idol more than God. To trust all we can do for me, or what we want God to do for me, rather than see all which has been done always for you. Being picky about the plankton rather than thank God that there is plankton. Needing blessings rather than commodities. Gifts we can’t earn rather than things we think we deserve. Without thoughts on these things, consumerism or personal pride ends up bleeding its way into so many other crevices in our souls. Jobs, family, homes, cars, clothing, image, retirement, vacations, religion, etc.
If our hearts are ones geared to not looking to the mountains for the goodness of the earth that is provided for us (think of the meltwater), then what do you think we do with Isaiah 55 or John 16?
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call to him while he is near. – Why? Who needs God when I have Amazon Prime, or Hugo’s or McDonald’s? It is a command for us to pray. To seek the Lord. Prayer being an event that happens to us that brings us to our knees, literally and figuratively, before the God who is above and over us. Prayer becoming a form of repentance. Turning us away from ourselves to him.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways. For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Yet, in our prayers we so often ask God to be like us more than for us to be transformed by God. Our worship being more of how well we can dress up God in drag rather than being drawn to the one who feeds me without asking any questions. God’s ways are not my ways, which is good. Knowing that in our prayers we are not asking God to do for us what we can do for us, but to ask him to be who he is and to be the God of the mountains. Of the things that give life to us. To be more than I can be for myself. We are nothing without the Lord.
“For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so my word that comes from my mouth will not return to me empty…” – If our minds are wrapped around the desire for only what I want, how do you think things would go between us and God? What if God has something to tell me that means I must be rebuked, I must lament, I must be called out for my sin, my error, my unbelief? Imagine if we are not opened to the simplest of things like snow in the mountains leading to fish in the ocean, how then will our faith and souls be touched by the Word of God doing the same thing in us? If all of life is attached to commodities we can purchase or sell, the Word will lose its power. God’s Word not being God’s anymore. Not being a Word that works in us to transform us. Losing the Law that crushes us to speak to us of sin, causing repentance, and a Gospel that leads us to faith and life in Jesus. Where if our lives and hearts are ones that do not see our temporal lives as gifts from God, will we dare to try to deny the Lord the work of his Word which he says, “it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do.” In so doing, we are denying God the supremacy of being the One who not only convicts us of our human sinfulness, but then sends us that Word again in the form of forgiveness to forgive that sin outright.
In our text from John 16, Christ brings us to that place here of trust in prayer. Trust in asking. Trust in begging of God the things God gives. He adds to our asking that it should be done, not in selfishness, but in his name. An asking brought not by our demanding of the vending machine God, but an asking that is in accordance to his will. In accordance to lives transformed by the Spirit that sees in this world nothing but a God who gifts life and breath. Who causes snow in the mountains of Japan so that you might have that tuna sandwich tomorrow. Streams of life flowing through the valleys of the world to showcase to our western enlightened first world lives that we have a good God who gives to us. Who always is giving. That when the gift overshadows our mere human expectations, that is where we can finally see the Lord working. In things more than our minds can handle. Because it is in his name that the goodness of Jesus comes. The Jesus who is the very word God uses to create. Creating the mountains and snow, but also life out of death. Saints out of sinners. The redeemed out of the captive. The good news being tied to the forgiveness of sin and the daily mercies from God’s hands given to you. Thanks be to God. Amen.