St. Augustine of Canterbury Anglican Church
Bishop Peter F. Hansen
Sermon for Rogation Sunday, May 9, 2021
“Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”
THIS is the Age of Information. Type a few keys on your iPhone and it starts to suggest millions of references, opinions, sources: good, and bad, and ugly. It’s truly amazing, the speed at which we may find things out today. Type in your own name and see all the information offered to the world about yourself, and others with your name. Ask a question, get so many answers. If you dare.
It’s an education to be sued by somebody, or to sue somebody else. What you absolutely know is true has got to be proven to the judge, without a doubt, without any other plausible explanation. That’s harder than you think. You can allege anything you want, but you need to make your opponent your own witness; to get them to admit those facts your case needs to win. We watch lawsuits as courtroom dramas, but really they are tried in legal briefs called “discovery.” The suit is filed, hearing dates set, motions made: the games begin. Then come a flurry of briefs with deadlines: form interrogatories, special interrogatories, requests for admissions, document demands, and so on. Good discovery makes the other side prove each of its denials, with sworn testimony, documents and hard evidence—saying: prove that you’re right and I’m wrong. If they have no evidence, it strengthens your hand. There is an art to interrogation. You’ll seldom hear your case tried in a courtroom, but in a ruling for summary judgment, that the evidence proves your case beyond the need for a trial. Ask the question, get what you need.
Rogation is actually a four-day season of the year for us to ask God our requests. God is in the business of hearing requests all the time, not just the Sunday before Ascension. But it’s our day to remind ourselves to ask the Father for things. “Whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:23-25 He said this at His Last Supper, as He promised to send the Spirit to live in us.
People asked Jesus all kinds of things. His disciples asked Him to explain His parables. They asked Him how soon He was to return to establish His kingdom on earth. They asked Him to reveal the Father to them. They asked Him to send people away who bothered them. They asked if they should pray for fire to fall on an unfriendly town. They asked why a man was born blind. Others asked Him for healing. He raised people from the dead even without asking. He was a source of truth they had never known.
When Jesus answers, you get far more than you asked for. It’s challenging, even daunting, to get an answer from Him: He sometimes asks you questions in return. Now you must answer Him.
Some merely asked Him questions in order to confound or expose Him as a fraud. He gave brilliant answers, and refused to play games. At His trial before the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas asked Him bluntly, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Living God?” Pilate asked Him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Good questions, and Jesus gave good answers. Things would have been different if either wanted the truth He told. Be careful what you ask of God. He may answer.
Elijah was given power from God to withhold rain, or restore it for years to come, to ask for fire to come down from the sky—cool things like that. It gave the true believers in God hope against pagans who’d taken over the land. His protégé, Elisha, doggedly refused to be parted from him as he traveled. At the spot beyond Jordan where Elijah would be taken up into heaven alive, “Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?’ Elisha said, ‘Please let a double portion of your spirit be given to me.’” 2 Kings 2:9 Elijah answered, “If you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so.” The young prophet watched as Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind, and Elijah’s mantel fell to the ground at his feet. He took it, struck the river, and asked if the Spirit of Elijah, the Holy Spirit, was with him now. The river parted, and he’d gotten his request.
John the Baptist came in Elijah’s authority to Israel, making ready the way for Jesus. The same Holy Spirit empowered him to proclaim to a hungry, downtrodden nation their deliverance soon, and humble them into confession of sins and baptism for a new life of purity. They asked forgiveness and received it. When Jesus came seeking baptism, He dipped under the waters, and as He rose received the sign of the Holy Spirit descending from heaven to Him.
St. Luke recounts Jesus’ teaching on asking without ceasing: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks a fish, will he give him a serpent instead? Or if he asks an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, though sinful, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:9-13
We can always ask for specific needs to be met: a new car, a job, a sickness healed, forgiveness, deliverance from weakness. But the greatest and most efficacious answer God may give us is the Holy Spirit Himself. As babies, we ask for milk, a toy, a hug, nap time. But as adult believers it is high time we asked for the truth.
Jack Nicholson’s character, a Marine from Guantanamo, snarls, “You can’t handle the truth!” To be sure, truth is high octane, but if you can’t handle the truth, then you aren’t ready for heaven, for Jesus, for life itself. It’s time we knew the truth. And the Spirit of truth is the One Jesus promised was coming from the Father and Himself. We await the celebration of that event two weeks from this morning: Pentecost.
What will truth do to you? To some, it’s a scary proposition. Don’t ask, don’t tell: I don’t want to hear it. Like an ostrich with her head in the sand, we may think we’re protected by ignorance. Thousands of very nice people walk around the streets and shops of this city not ever wanting to know what happens when they die and whether they are ready to face the facts of their eternity. “Don’t tell me, I don’t want to hear about it. I’m a good person. Don’t give me a bunch of religious gobbledygook.”
Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32 Truth is light; it shows you what is there: in your life, in you. That troubles many who want to follow their own desires and agendas, but not to see the consequences of their acts and attitudes. It feels like freedom to do only what you want to do, to act like everything is your right, and therefore it is right. But your heart tells you otherwise. Something tells you you’re caught in a web of deceit, a lie you tell yourself.
If you’re honest, you know you’re trapped. Truth would be useful now. The trap is real. The Savior is available to take your call. He offers the only way out of the trap.
If your information superhighway, the internet, sends you a virus—your highway shuts down. You might ignore it, but sooner or later you can’t ask Google, can’t boot your programs, can’t do a thing. You’re infected. You need help. You call somebody—don’t you? Geeks on Wheels, or someone?
Wouldn’t you do as much for your own life? You can’t hear from God. You are helpless in the face of temptation. You’re depressed, unable to get up and get with it. The infection is spreading. You feel numb, and your heart is hot. It’s a virus. You need a doctor.
Now, I’m not talking about COVID. None of you is sick with that kind of bug, God willing.
I speak of a sickness that infected us all even as we entered life—the human condition, the fallen state, original sin, a break with God that happened to our race centuries ago.
And twenty centuries ago, the answer was given generously by the Creator of these wonderful bodies and souls.
It’s simpler than a phone call to the computer shop. It’s infinitely more valuable. Life abundant. Life eternal. Freedom from the guilt and shame of our sins, high crimes and misdemeanors.
Moreover, He will give us faith, hope and love—and all the power that the Lord Holy Spirit possesses, to live inside of us.
And, when it is the best for us, He will give us whatever we ask—a healing, a friend, a miracle, true relationships, the pleasures of real life.
He’s not short of gifts.
Jesus told us, “The Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.” John 16:27
The Father told Jesus, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession.”Psalms 2:7-8
The Father tells us, “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls.” Jer 6:16
When we receive the Holy Spirit, and listen to Him, we will know what to ask and it will come to us in His time.
St. John wrote, “Whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” 1 John 3:22
Interrogatories are questions asked in a lawsuit.
‘Rogare’ is Latin for the verb “to ask.”
Rogation is a time for asking.
Ask that your faith may be rewarded with the truth, and may that truth set you free.