THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER (COMMONLY CALLED ROGATION SUNDAY).
THE GOSPEL: ST. JOHN 16: 23-33
“VERILY, VERILY, I SAY UNTO YOU, WHATSOEVER YE SHALL ASK THE FATHER IN MY NAME, HE WILL GIVE IT YOU.”
Today, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, (the four days before Ascension Day) are known as rogation days (or days of fasting and preparation for our Lord’s Ascension). It was a part of the church’s calendar from about 470 A.D. till 1970 when it was dropped from the calendar. It comes from the Latin word “regare” which means “to ask”. Farmers would ask the priest to bless the crops and in some parishes the priest and choir would process around the boundary of the parish praying for its protection in the coming year. This was called “beating the bounds.”
“Ask and ye shall receive. In me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
You will all agree that we live in a world of turmoil. Wars are being fought all over the world, even in our own country, we even now have a terror alert system, and it has become a part of our national vocabulary. More and more evident is the war of cultures here in the U.S. One group says: “Do what you want to do, don’t think about the consequences, because the only thing that counts is your happiness.” Another group says: “The greatest virtue of life is ‘tolerance’ toward all people and all ideas, no matter how detrimental to others or their culture, because all that matters is you and your spiritual journey.” Others preach hatred and evil in the name of ideas and religion, including Christianity.
SO how do we find real peace?
One person’s answer was: “My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace was to finish what I start. So today I have finished two bags of chips and a chocolate cake. I feel much better…..
So how do we live a life of faith, one that while taking all things into consideration we do not adapt to them, but are able to remain faithful in the face of them?
I believe the key is found in the last paragraph of our gospel for today, John 16:33. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. These words of Jesus came just hours before He would be crucified, and the lives of the disciples would be rocked to their very foundations. Soon this Messiah they had hoped for and believed in would die a horrible death, and they would live in fear for their own lives. Jesus, anticipating this, and also the persecution to come after His resurrection, looks to put their minds at ease with these words. He is saying to them: “I leave you peace, I give you peace, I do not give it to you the way the world gives. Why is he saying this? Because the world is at odds with God’s purposes But there is good news: “Jesus offers us peace.” “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
He wants us to have His peace. How do we find that peace?
Put first things first: gain peace with God. We cannot have the peace of God until we have peace with God. Those who are outside of Christ are considered an enemy of God. There are many who reject Christ, who refuse to accept His offer of eternal life, which He purchased on the cross. Enemies are not at peace with each other. God does not want enemies, He wants us to be children of God. He sent Jesus to make that happen.
We need to understand God’s sovereignty. God is in control from the beginning to the end. His plan will succeed. Jesus has overcome the world. He did that in His death, he conquered sin and its power, and in His resurrection he conquered death and its power. He gave us His word, through which we can find direction in living for Him and have the comfort of His promises. No one can change His plans, no matter how hard they try.
We need to adopt a Biblical mindset. Remember there are generally two causes of war: selfishness and pride. And it seems that the world’s value system is determined by both of these. In order to have a Biblical mindset you must be Christ-centered. You need to love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Remember that important collect in the opening of our service?) It is very hard not to be affected by the world’s value systems because the world is run by many who do not love Christ. True peace will only come when our Lord returns, until then we will continue to have wars and rumors of wars.
We need to pray about everything. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Pray without ceasing. Always be in an attitude of prayer. God hears and He moves on behalf of His people. He does not always answer the way we would like, but He is not deaf to our concerns, He is well aware of them.
Dr. Elinore Kinarthy says this: “The average person has more than two hundred negative thoughts a day, worries, jealousies, insecurities, cravings for forbidden things. Depressed people have as many as six hundred. You can not eliminate all the troublesome things that go through your mind, but you can certainly reduce the number of negative thoughts.” One of the best ways to reduce these negative thoughts is to turn them into prayers. Lord, please help me to see where I can go and what I can do to erase these thoughts, and then add praises and thanksgivings. Reflection and thanksgiving to God for His intervention in our lives brings an inner peace. Pray about everything, good, bad, indifferent, seeking His peace.
Then plan ahead, submit to the will of God. Do NOT adopt the attitude of “why bother, it is not going to matter, it is only going to get worse.” That kind of thinking is not Biblical. God is in control, no matter what you see or what you hear, the Bible is very clear that we are to plan for the future, set aside savings, discipline our children, and impact our culture for generations to come. Remember Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps. In other words: in his heart a man plans his course; but the Lord determines his steps.
We need to live in obedience. Remember when you were a child and disobeyed your parents? It brought strife and tension into the family. And so it is also true with our heavenly Father. Sin hampers our relationship with God, but obedience will bring peace.
We need to live in anticipation. We need to look forward to the time we will see the Saviour face to face, to the time when there will be no more suffering and death, no more war and pain, only the perfect bliss in the presence of God Himself. Philippians 3:20-21:” For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. “
While looking forward to our life in heaven we also look forward to the fulfillment of his promises on earth. Lamentations 3:22-23:” It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”
Remember this: “God keeps us, and one way He does that is found in the Great Thanksgiving and the Eucharist which we are about to celebrate. As you consume Christ, know that He is praying for you and interceding for you. And His prayers never fail.”
God’s faithfulness is always with us. Walking with Jesus Christ helps us discover His wonderful promises while we wait for His return. When you go to bed tonight say this: “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety. Amen.