The Rogation Days – traditionally the three days preceding Ascension Day – are a time for prayers of petition. The roots of these days in rural England is reflected in the timing of the days to coincide with the planting of crops in that part of the world, in prayers for the land and crops, and in the tradition of Rogation processions to bless the fields. In our current prayer book, readings and collects for the three days focus on these traditional rural concerns the first day, commerce and industry the second day, and stewardship of creation the third day.
Even though Rogation Days are ignored by many in the church today, we are blessed to have inherited the tradition of setting aside days to pray for the conditions we need to grow good crops, for industries and commercial ventures that are responsive to God’s will and that provide workers a just return for their labor, and for stewardship of creation. Rogation Sunday – the Sunday before Ascension Day – and the Rogation Days can be more than a wistful nod back to a charming tradition. This season of Rogation can be reclaimed to give us a time to talk about, think about, and pray about some vital issues.
The Collect for the third of the Rogation Days is “For stewardship of creation” (see below). Marion Hatchett’s Commentary on the American Prayer Book tells us (p. 214) that this is the new version of a collect called “For Faithfulness in the Use of this World’s Goods” that was included in the 1928 prayer book; that collect was based on a prayer that appeared in the Book of Offices proposed to the General Convention of 1889: “For the Rich”.
A prayer for the rich goes well with two of the lessons for Rogation Days III. The Gospel lesson (Luke 12:13-21 ) is the parable of the rich fool, the fellow who says he will build bigger barns and then “I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” The lesson from I Timothy (I Timothy 6:7-10, 17-19) is the passage that tells us that the love of money is “a root of all kinds of evil”. It advises those who are rich to look to God for hope, adding that “they are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.”
The idea of “storing up…a good foundation for the future” applies not only to eternal life, but to our future on earth. How we who, by the world’s standards, are among the wealthy use our wealth has a big impact on the planet. If we continue to “eat, drink, and be merry”, consuming vast amounts of resources while denying reality, our future is pretty bleak. A story from Reuters news today is headlined: Door to 2 degree temperature limit isclosing – IEA. It quotes Fatih Birol, the chief economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA) saying that with existing investments for more power plants being built, “we are seeing the door for a 2 degree Celsius target about to be closed and closed forever.” Scientists tell us that a global temperature rise greater than two degrees Celsius raises the likelihood of climate instability with weather extremes becoming common. Birol warns, “This door is getting slimmer and slimmer in terms of physical and economic possibility.”
The choices we make as consumers and investors are key components of good stewardship. The issues of agricultural stability, integrity, and justice that were raised by the lessons and collects of the other two Rogation Days come together when we consider stewardship of our resources.
For the Rich
O ALMIGHTY God, we beseech thee to send thy grace upon those whom thou hast entrusted with great possessions, that they may praise thee in their lives, honour thee with their wealth, and lead others by their example to seek for that inheritance which thy beloved Son will give to all those who have followed him. Have mercy upon such as neglect to minister to the wants of thy poor; and grant that, remembering the account of their stewardship which they must one day give, they may be faithful almoners of thy bounty, and so at last attain to thy heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (From the Book of Offices proposed to General Convention, 1889)
For stewardship of creation
O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit live and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 259)