Acts 17: 22 – 31 Rogation Sunday
I think Rogation days are probably a lost tradition for most of us. It used to be the day when the Church asked for God’s blessing on the crops, that we would have a bountiful harvest.
You may have heard of the tradition of ‘beating the bounds’, when the Rector would get his cassock dirty, while he and the church folk would walk round the boundaries of their parish, praying for God’s protection over their crops for the next year.
Today, not many of us get our livelihoods directly from the production of food, yet it is good to be reminded of our dependence upon those who do – as well as our responsibility for the environment - asking the Lord to bless the fields, the crops, and the farmers who produce our food.
We’ve seen on the news that our farmers are struggling, in the absence of migrant workers, to find a work force to pick the crops.
That might make us more grateful, more aware of what comes into our supermarkets and onto our table.
I wonder if any of you have been using some of your spare time in ‘lock down’ to grow some of your own food? We’ve been growing tomatoes from seed in the greenhouse and I hope you will see Marilyn’s raised beds and a friend of mine’s strawberries.
Pottering in the garden or going for walks makes us feel better, doesn’t it? It’s good for our mental, as well as our physical well-being. God has given us this beautiful world to enjoy that it might lift our hearts in praise and thanksgiving.
It’s interesting how all this connects with our reading from Acts for today. The people of Athens had their gods. Some were responsible for the harvest and if the Greeks didn’t get a good crop, they believed the gods were punishing them. So they built many shrines to many gods - and one in Athens was erected to the ‘unknown god’ – perhaps so that all the options were covered.
The Apostle Paul presents to them a very different God; one “who made the earth hospitable”, one who could be known in Jesus; and one who doesn’t live in shrines.
I think that if the Apostle Paul had been speaking today, he might have said ‘Neither does this God who made the world and everything in it, live in church buildings’!
It is now 8 weeks since we met in our Church building. Are you missing the building? it’s very understandable. We have a beautiful building and the act of regularly meeting together there is sorely missed.
Instead, we are forced to worship and pray in our homes and in our gardens, on our walks and even looking at the computer screen! But maybe we are discovering this truth that Paul conveys that God is everywhere
I do pray that the presence of God who is with us everywhere, is becoming more real to us all these days. Paul says: “God doesn’t play hide and seek with us. He’s not remote, he’s near”. Is that what you are experiencing at the moment, or does Paul’s description of ‘groping around in the dark’ trying to find him, fit you better? That can be the case when we don’t have our church community to share with in worship and study and conversation. If that’s the case pick up the phone to someone you trust.
Maybe you just need to hear again that the God who created us is reaching out to us in love. He’s not far from any of us. In fact, “he is nearer to you than you are to yourself”. We just need to turn around and look in the other direction – that’s what Paul means here by repent. Turn around and look into the face of the Living, Risen Lord Jesus.
May that be our experience and then when we are able to meet again there will be lament for all we and our world has lost over this time, but also joy, not just at our being together again, but because Jesus is in our midst.