Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: Stay Alert

Sixth Sunday of Easter
17 May 2020
10.30 Morning Service

Revd Nicholas Mercer

This Sunday is Rogation Sunday

It is descended from a Roman tradition where citizens asked the Roman God Robigus to protect their crops from wheat rust. It was later adopted by the Christian Church   

From the Latin rogare, God was asked to protect the crops and prevent calamities

Rogation Sunday was also marked by what became known as “beating the bounds”

After the service, the parish, led by the priest, would walk the parish boundaries

Priests were later encouraged to bring congregations from other parishes together, for inter parish processions, in an attempt to keep everyone safe in the coming year

This service sits uncomfortably between Easter and Ascension and I struggle to make sense of it

This year it seems even more out of place

However, I think that there are some interesting lessons from Rogation Sunday in the midst of this crisis

First of all, it speaks of our relationship to creation

The Romans and the early Church were very conscious of the natural world and how it could inflict great damage on their lives

Wheat rust would mean no bread and people would starve

Close attention to the natural world was absolutely essential

In the Western world particularly we have lost sight of our relationship with creations and, completely blindsided, we have been overtaken by a natural disaster

We should have paid more attention to the natural world and have suffered for failing to do so

Secondly, by losing sight of God’s creation we have abused it

We are consuming too much and are raping the earth

We have relied on fossil fuel, to such an extent, that we have poisoned the planet

This perpetual thirst for more and more must stop- it is unsustainable

We need to pay far more attention to our God given world rather than exploit it

Thirdly, Rogation Sunday speaks of dependence on each other

Beating the bounds to keep the parish safe is about mutual co-operation rather than individual endeavour

The parish acts as a group and in conjunction with others

Something we have come to recognise far more clearly in the midst of a pandemic

Not just the doctors, nurses and care workers who save our lives but everyone else

The bus driver, bin man, chemist, farmer, grocer, teacher

I can’t tell you the delight when the dustmen emptied our bins yesterday

I know of one parishioner who wrote a message of thanks on their bin

We all depend on each other

However, the value placed on individuals by society often bears little relationship to the good bestowed by their labour  

We need to pay far more attention to our fellow men and women as we seek to keep our society safe and secure

We need to “love our neighbour” far more than we do

The past few days has fixated largely on the new Government messaging and what it might mean

Ironically, the watchword for Rogation Sunday could be very similar

“Stay alert”

We need to “stay alert” to the natural world at all times

We need to “stay alert” to our consumption and “stay alert” to our fellow men and women

And if we do so, we will keep our parish boundaries safe, and we will, literally, “save lives”

Perhaps the Romans and Early Church had a point after all?