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Lindemann on Rogate: Sixth Sunday of Easter (Fifth After)

by revalkorn ~ June 6th, 2011

My apologies for getting this up too late for this year.

ROGATE, THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER

As far as this is possible in the Church which celebrates Easter every Sunday and builds its entire faith and life on and around the Resurrection, this Sunday brings the celebration of our Lord’s Resurrection to a close. The Liturgy begins the day with the song of victory sung to the Church of the first-born, the redeemed, by the redeemed in honor of their Redeemer. “Declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it, send it forth to the end of the earth; say, The Lord has redeemed His servant Jacob. Alleluia!” This Sunday also feels the nearness of the Ascension. But the Church does not indulge in sentimental sadness because of the farewell. She is reaching out toward the Ascension. The sorrow first felt by the disciples when the Lord announced His imminent departure is giving place to a new joy that drowns out all thought of sorrow in the wonder of its power. Redemption is complete. “Utter it even to the end of the earth.” Our Lord is ready to return to the Father as our Brother and Representative. Now we shall commit to Him all our concerns and petitions that He may take them with Him and in the eternal home submit them to the heavenly Father. This Sunday is preparation day for our Lord’s departure and also a day of prayer, of asking, Rogation Sunday.

Since the middle of the fifth century the three days following have been known as the Rogation Days. The faithful would proceed from the churches into the fields, chanting litanies. Prayers would be offered for the growth of the fruits of the field and for the tiller of the ground, asking God’s blessing on the plants that rose with the spring awakening.

The Introit. “With the voice of singing declare ye, and tell this; utter it even to the end of the earth. Alleluia! The Lord hath redeemed His servant Jacob! Alleluia! Alleluia! Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands! Sing forth the honor o His name; make His praise glorious.”

The Collect. “O God, from whom all good things do come, grant us, Thy humble servants, that by Thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be right and by Thy merciful guiding may perform the same.”

We pray that we may think rightly, truly understand the glories of our Christian calling, and that we may live accordingly. The right faith and the life according to this faith, that is the whole and complete Christian. This touches upon the Lessons about to be read. The Holy Gospel always aims at the dogma and mystery, the Epistle at morality and life. So on this day the Epistle leads us into the practical life of the Christian: “perform the same” as taught by our Lord in the Holy Gospel, “think those things that be right.”

The Epistle (St. James 1:22-27). Since Easter the Epistles have instructed us as to various phases of the risen life to which we rose with Christ. St. James taught us many things regarding the practical life of the Christian in last Sunday’s Epistle. He is our teacher again today. There is a tradition that his knees were calloused from kneeling in prayer. If true, he would be the man to teach us on Rogation Sunday. In the Epistle he enlarges on the petition of the Collect. We are not to be hearers only, but doers. We are to bridle our tongue; practice merciful love, self-denying, thoughtful, resourceful charity; and keep ourselves unstained from the world. He continues the practical instruction of the newly baptized and all others. The difference between a mere hearer and one who hears and does is defined as “thinks he is religious” and “religion that is pure and undefiled before God.”

The Gradual. “Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ, who hath redeemed us with His blood, is risen and hath appeared unto us. Alleluia! I came forth from the Father and am come into the world; again, I leave the world and go to the Father. Alleluia!”

The opening sentence is like an echo of the Epistle. Christ has redeemed us from the worldly life. He is risen, and with Him we now walk in newness of life. The Easter sun has risen for us, and we reflect its light. In our lives is reflected the glory of the risen Christ. The second verse introduces the Holy Gos-pel. It is an exquisite sentence. One feels that the Church endeavors to lift these majestic words from all else and place them in a precious frame of Alleluias. In the four phrases our Lord’s entire life is presented. As we sing them, we may apply them to ourselves and may speak so every day.

The Proper Sentence. “Alleluia! Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us. Alleluia!”

The Gospel (St. John 16:23-30). As on the past two Sundays, the Holy Gospel is a part of our Lord’s farewell discourse, one of the most profound and intimate utterances. On most occasions He spoke in the presence of His enemies and was forced to speak in self-defense. Or He addressed the people at large, who still had difficulty in grasping His profound thoughts. But here He is speaking only to His trusted disciples. There was no one to disturb Him as He told about His departure from this earth, and He gave vent to the most important and intimate feelings of the soul. The content of His discourse may be summed up in the one word “consolation.” He wished to console His disciples before leaving them. When people who love each other are to part, they console each other, count up all the possibilities of how they can preserve the bond between them, by writing to each other, by thinking of each other, by praying for each other, until the time when they can be together once more. Our Lord consoled the disciples in this same way. “I am going ahead to prepare a home for you. Then I shall come again to get you. But even while you remain in the world, we shall not be completely separated. For there arc three ties to keep us united.” The first bond is sanctifying grace, of which He speaks in the parable of the vine and the branches. The second is the Holy Spirit, who is the Consoler and destined to take our Lord’s place on earth. The third bond is prayer, asking in His name. This last is like the letter a son sends from overseas to his father at home. The glad news on this Rogation Sunday is our Lord’s assurance that our prayer in His name will be heard.

Then our Lord speaks of two great gifts to God’s children: they will find the Father’s heart wide open if they pray in the name of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit will speak the inmost truth plainly and without figure. The realization of these benefits gives us the entire liturgical life of the Church. In this Gospel our Lord characterized the holy liturgy most beautifully. From our side it is speaking and praying to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. From God’s side it is the revelation of the heavenly Father’s message and grace.

The Proper Preface. “But chiefly are we bound to praise Thee for the glorious resurrection of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord; for He is the very Paschal Lamb which was offered for us and hath taken away the sins of the world; who by His death hath destroyed death and by His rising to life again hath restored to us everlasting life.”

OUTLINE FOR SERMON ON THE EPISTLE

This closing Sunday of the post-Easter season plainly teaches the intense reality which must mark the risen life of Christians, both internally as a life of holy thought and feeling and externally as a life of daily duty. As there must be the inner life of prayer, peace, and sonship, so there must be the outer life of practice and of brotherhood; for unless our principles produce results, they cannot be considered to be there at all.

The Outer Life

A. The Necessity of Practice. This is shown by the apt illustration of a mirror, so wholly useless unless we remove the defects we have seen in ourselves. The Christian mirror is our Lord Jesus Christ, His perfect character, His words and teachings. These form a mirror in which we see: (1) Ourselves as we are. In studying Christ we see ourselves, our defects, errors, blemishes in character and principle. He who does not know Christ does not know himself, but imagines himself better than he is, having never seen the best. (2) Ourselves as we ought to be. This mirror is also a law which condemns us for our unlikeness to our Lord; a perfect law which holds up the very ideal of righteousness in the face of Jesus Christ. (3) Ourselves as we can be. For it is not only a law but a law of liberty, which while it condemns shows the way of escape. The imitation of Christ is no hard bondage, but a labor of love. His rules do not fetter us, but set us free, as the knowledge of the rules of art make painter and musician free to paint and compose. Obeying them we seem to obey not something outside of us, but our better newborn selves. We must intensely contemplate this divine mirror and stand continually before its pure surface. It is the work of the Spirit to instruct us in the use of it in order to convince of sin, righteousness, and judgment. (Last Sunday’s Holy Gospel, John 16:8-11)

B. Three Special Points of Practice. It is especially important for us to be very practical in three most necessary directions: (1) In the bridling of our tongues. The bridle of restraint is most needful, for our tongues are prone to go too fast and be in advance of truth through exaggeration, of modesty through boasting, of feeling through flattery, of love through anger. In all these respects they are likely to run away with us. The bridle of correction is needed to prevent them from wandering into frivolity, personalities, scandal, or into subjects of which we know nothing, lest they carry us whither we would not. The bridle of direction is also needed to guide them into whatever is good, useful, interesting, and edifying (Eph. 4:29, 30). A religion that cannot control the tongue is not a religion of the heart (Matt. 12:34). (2) In charity. This must be seen in its most practical form of caring for the fatherless and widows. This is acceptable in the sight of God, who has revealed Himself as the “father of the fatherless and protector of widows” (Ps. 68:5). This is the pattern of Christ, who went about doing good, and of this He will require the practical proof. “You visited Me.” (3) In purity. As we need charity to mix with others, so we need purity to avoid others’ sin and to keep us unspotted from the defilement, seductions, indulgences, and temptations of the world. The word rendered “religion” means literally worship. No external acts of worship are of avail separate from charity and purity, which are themselves the devotion and worship which God most loves.

OUTLINE FOR SERMON ON THE HOLY GOSPEL

The Inner Life

Christ reveals three essential marks of the inner life Of Christians. It is to be:

A. A Life of Prayer. our Savior here gives us the very charter of Christian prayer. The pledge of prayer is His solemn and most emphatic promise: “Ask, and you will receive.” It is a pledge as wide and unreserved as can possibly be: “if you ask anything of the Father.” He gives us also the prevailing plea of Christian prayer: “in My name.” He will transmit or discharge or transport our prayers for everything which He can approve, and He will approve every reasonable longing of our nature. He will join our prayers to His own and His prayers to ours. So “we have boldness and confidence of access” to the Father (Eph. 3:12).

B. A Life of Sonship. Prayer rests on sonship and is sonship expressed in words. Our Lord came to reveal the Father and to make us sons of God. All definitions and descriptions of religious truth are parables and comparisons, except this of sonship, which expresses the actual relation between the Christian and God. The mediation and intercession of Christ must not be taken to mean that the Father does not Himself love us, or that His will toward us needs changing, for the Father sent the Son, and, His mission ended, the Son returned to the Father. The mission of Christ is, therefore, the expression of the love which first loved us, and which is freely open to those who have accepted God’s great gift to them. Our sonship is through the Son.

C. A Life of Peace. Sure confidence in God as our heavenly Father lies at the root of the Christian life and gives freedom to prayer. Trusting so and praying so, we may live a life of peace. Our peace does not rest upon our faith but upon our Father. The disciples were soon to find out how weak was the faith with which they were now so well satisfied. They must cease to depend on themselves in any way and depend on God, even as our Lord in the loneliness of His sufferings still enjoyed the Father’s presence. So the inner life of peace in Christ would enable them for the outward life of the world. Reality in the inward life alone can enable us to overcome the world’s temptations, hindrances, difficulties, anxieties, irritations, and afflictions; aid us to live for God in a world that rejects Him, and in the midst of a world of sense to live for a world of spirit. In Christ, in His Person, Church, and ordinances, lies the promise and power of vic-tory.

THE HOLY COMMUNION

For the strengthening of our faith, that we attain to three essential marks of the truly Christian life, we come to the Lord’s Table and commune with Him. We eat and drink to remember Him vividly. We hear Him say that if we ask the Father for anything, He will give it to us in Christ’s name, for Christ’s sake. It will not be necessary for our Lord to pray the Father for us, for the Father Himself loves us. Why should it be difficult to believe the Son’s words? We proclaim His death for us in the Holy Communion. A love that went into death for us may be trusted to the uttermost. Why not trust the Father’s love? He so loved us that He gave His Son. He does not love us because He gave His Son, but He gave His Son because He loved us. We may pray as beloved children of a loving Father. By His death Christ made us the sons of God and, being sons, we may trust boldly that our Father will withhold no good if we ask. In the Sacrament we proclaim that we are sons because Christ died and took away everything that stood between us and our Father. Knowing this, we have peace. The tribulation of this world will not affect our joy and good cheer. With grateful hearts we again enter into communion with the faithful, loving Christ, who by His death made us the sons of God and revealed to us the unchanging, boundless love of the Father.

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