The Fifth Sunday after Easter, 2017
The Epistle – James 1:22-27
The Gospel – John 16:23-33
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Christ is risen!
This Sunday is not only the 5th Sunday after Easter but it also is called or known as Rogation Sunday.
Rogation (from the Latin, rogare, to ask) is essentially the theme for the day.
First of all, Rogation days were not part of the Sunday lesson cycle until later, (5th or 6th century)
so the lessons, both Epistle and Gospel today, if they have anything to say regarding the Rogation days this week, is purely unintentional by those who created the lectionary.
If rogation or rogare is asking, what are we asking for in particular?
Well, the Rogation Days are days of prayer and fasting. They were instituted at this time of year because this is the time for planting crops.
This is why we sing the Litany at the beginning of this service today.
We are asking God first of all to accept our penitential hearts and petitions, and in turn, out of His abundant kindness, to bless the fruits of the land.
We should always go into prayer with the awareness that we are undeserving of anything from God….and to go in confessing our sins to Him and finding absolution from Him before we start asking for things.
What He gives us is purely out of His good pleasure and mercy.
To begin then with a view to our sin and unworthiness, we move to the petition, asking God to bless our land’s food production.
Bless the crops that our farmers are planting at this time of year so that God would be pleased to cause them to bring forth healthy and hearty abundant crops at harvest time.
This sort of prayer to God is good for us because we can easily go into the kitchen, open the fridge and grab something to eat or drink and never even think, from whence it cometh.
Grace at meals is just as important and tied to this today. Giving thanks to God for what He has graciously placed on our table that we are about to eat.
How fortunate we are to live in this country, which supplies us with such abundance through the grace of God.
If you sit down and pour a bowl of cereal, you have in front
of you rice, or wheat or some grain.
God has supplied that to you this day.
He has been pleased to raise up farmers to plant and gather and supply what you will later eat.
He raises up men who can invent and then streamline the planting and harvesting and gathering process so it arrives on your table….faster, cleaner, and healthier than anywhere else in the world.
Then you pour milk. God has supplied that. He created the cow for milk. And He has inspired some to be farmers and caretakers of cows and other animals so that we get good fresh, healthy milk to drink.
And the list goes on almost endlessly with every food and drink that we consume.
So taking one Sunday (and Monday and Tuesday of this week) to be consciously aware of the source of all things is a good idea.
We can never be thankful enough for all that God provides.
This is almost the flip side of what we recall and are thankful for when we think about the inestimable love of God in sending His Only Begotten Son to die for us.
But there should always be a thankful heart also for what God supplies us in this life as we live out our lives under Christ.
The salvation that we look forward to is most important, but the daily sustaining of our bodies is also very important.
And we should also keep in mind that God created this world, for us to live in and enjoy…and He declared it very good in beginning when He created it. It is man who has brought the Fall to God’s creation.
But it is still where we live and it is still sustained every moment by God. And the food that we eat is given to us by God and it is for us to enjoy as is all of creation.
So we are one last time back in the Upper Room where Jesus is with His Disciples. He is giving those final instructions.
He is telling them that He must go away. It is necessary that He go away because for one thing, He must go to the Cross.
He must finish the work for which He came to accomplish.
He must finish the course, take upon Himself the sins of the whole world, conquer death,
and ascend back into heaven to sit down at the right hand of the Father…and to remain there, reigning, until His coming again.
None of this was really understood well by the Disciples.
But He says to them, “…but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. ….and then from this morning’s lesson, “In that day [the day when they see Him again] you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.
Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (ESV)
There is that asking theme again. Again this is not a passage written for Rogation Sunday but in the context of asking, it does help us understand just what we are to ask for of God.
It helps us understand in what way we ask… and who to call upon.
And of course this is calling upon Him in prayer. Or calling upon God in prayer.
“The nature of prayer is indicated by the word “ask,” which is repeated five times. Once it refers to asking something of Jesus. The remaining four times it refers to asking something of the Father in Christ’s name.” 
What is interesting here is that in asking Jesus or asking the Father…these two methods are set as parallel things. Jesus was telling them first of all here that praying to the Father was “identical, in its essential nature with the conversation the disciples had been having with him.”
This puts prayer into the hands of common people. Prayer is not just for people in monasteries and “holy people”. Prayer is for all people and it’s not something that has to be eloquent and precise.
Asking God in prayer, is being described to us here by Jesus, as just as directly and as simply and as naturally as He was talking to them at the table at that very moment.
It is intimate. It is direct. It is naturally conversational.
“‘For, says Jesus, ‘in precisely the same way in which you have been asking questions of me during our time together, so shall you ask of God the Father after I return to heaven.’”
We also learn about the privilege of prayer. Some unfortunately treat prayer as a last ditch effort when they have done all that they can at the moment.
When emergencies happen, prayer kicks in with some. People want to pray with one another. They call all of their friends to pray with them or for them.
There is nothing wrong with this, of course, but prayer should be a daily and even more frequently than that sort of thing.
Prayer is a privilege because through our intimate relationship with Christ….or our relationship with the Father, to whom we pray, through Jesus Christ, we have access to God that others don't.
Though God is all-powerful and all knowing, He is said, in Scripture to not always hear or respond to the prayers of everyone.
Obviously the atheist does not pray, for if there is no one out there to hear his prayer, why do so? However there are of course atheists who are not very good at it or not very consistent at it…..and they break down in great times of need and try to call out.
But to anyone who calls upon God, there are many reasons why prayers are not heard.
Sometimes we ask out of selfish or personal motives. James addresses this one when he says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3, ESV)
He does not hear the prayers of those who stubbornly remain in sin. “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.” (John 9:31, ESV)
Or Isaiah says something similar, “Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2, ESV)
Even the self-righteous person. Recall this important Parable from Jesus…. “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’  But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:11-14, ESV)
So as you can see there are many hindrances to our prayer life. Many hindrances to reaching God in prayer.
But if we follow closely the words of Jesus here, we will surely be heard.
Whatever you ask the Father in my Name, He will give it to you. Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
This means that we may approach the Father…a privilege that not all enjoy but those of us who live by faith.
We may approach the Father in the name of Jesus Christ.
We are identified with Christ. When He saves us, and sets His seal upon us by His Spirit, and he justifies us, we become saved and redeemed people.
We are allowed to use the Name of Jesus to ask the Father for things. He is not only our substitute in His crucifixion and death, but He is also our only mediator and advocate.
He is our defense attorney. He clothes us with His righteousness and allows us to be loved by the Father on His account.
And we come to the Father on the merits of Jesus Christ.
Over and over we have to remember that he is not only a propitiation for our sins…meaning He turns the wrath of God away from us, but He also has another work that gets less attention.
He also accomplishes the work of expiation. Ex means out of. To expiate then is to remove something. Biblically it means that Christ removes our guilt by taking it away.
Our guilt is also a hindrance and a barrier in our relationship with God. But Christ has taken away our guilt by His substitutionary work for us as well. He has expiated our sins.
Finally to pray to God in the name of Jesus means learning to pray in the manner in which Jesus would have prayed in a similar circumstance.
It doesn't mean asking and getting anything we ask for no matter how useless or reckless it may be. He is not bound to help us make bad decisions through prayer.
Rather He gives us whatever we ask when we ask rightly and in line with His will. Our prayer is actually a character building and shaping practice.
The more we pray and ask for what is right, the more we are conformed to be like Christ and the more we will pray rightly.
In these verses today, Jesus is teaching the Disciples that through prayer to the Father in His Name will bring them spiritual understanding.
They had not always understood what He meant.
This would now be going away as they would be empowered by the Holy Spirit and He would guide them into all truth.
And it is where they and we derive our joy from. When we ask rightly in His name and He hears us, we can experience or be assured that we have asked in a pleasing way and that what we ask for brings glory to Him and what is necessary to us.
Now that prayer over a bowl of cereal becomes a bit more complicated doesn't it?
A bit more meaningful and a bit more important.
To Rogation Sunday, we are called upon to ask. Ask for what we need. Give us this day our daily bread.
All good things come from thee, O Lord.
Our Collect again: O LORD, from whom all good things do come; Grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same;
And this we pray, through the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.