Andy Hawes is Warden of
Edenham Regional Retreat House
Being a Country Parson for over twenty-five years means that I have tried most stunts for Rogationtide. They all involve getting folk into the fresh air and gathering them to ask for God’s blessing on the growing crops and the work of those who care for them. It seems important for people to get muddy boots and have a sniff of the crew yard.
There is a real point to having a good look at the shin-high corn or the hint of green in a beet field. There is a long way from the field to the table, from May to Harvest Festival. There is a lot of work to be done and a lot of things can go wrong.
Rogation (from rogare, to ask) is the best season to renew the Church and the individual in the discipline of asking. We must not forget it is Our Lord’s command to ‘ask and it will be given to you’. He also teaches us ‘to ask in my name.’ Asking is one way we can deepen and renew our relationship with God. The discipline of asking assumes two facts of life.
The first is that we have needs we cannot meet ourselves. We are dependent on others and through them the bountiful goodness of God. The three days after Rogation Sunday are designated fast days in the BCP but are now honoured more by the breach than the observance. They are days in the Christian year to let go of ‘easy luxury’ and take hold of the reality of our poverty and weakness without God’s grace.
The second fact is that ‘the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.’ Asking is the shadow of thanking in the symmetry of our lives in God. We ask because we have needs, we thank because God meets them – in the ways that he chooses. If we cease the discipline of asking we will soon become followers of the false god of self-sufficiency.
The other important aspect of Rogation is that it recognises the need for God’s guidance and blessing on our corporate stewardship of creation, and the reality that we are co-workers with God in creation. You may live in a setting where all you have is a window box or a back yard.
Nevertheless even if your field is no bigger than a plant pot of lettuce, it won’t grow if you talk to it. It will grow if you ask God to bless it and the work of your hands in caring for it.
Because you have asked for God’s blessing that lettuce has a different meaning. It is a sign of God’s goodness to you. It is not growing for your glory but for his.
The same is true for the fields around Edenham because we have asked God to bless them – and he has.