Sunday, May 25, 2014
Homily for Rogate - The Sixth Sunday of Easter (Easter 6)
John 16:23-33; James 1:22-27; Numbers 21:4-9
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
This Sunday in the Church Year has the Latin name Rogate, which means “to ask,” or, “to pray.” Traditionally, the Church has observed four Rogation Days, the Major Rogation on April 25, and three Minor Rogation Days, the three days before the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord, this coming Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Ascension on Thursday. Rogation Days are set apart as days of fasting and prayer, thus the Sunday before the Minor Rogation Days, that is today, came to be known as Rogate Sunday. However, while, traditionally, the theme of Rogate Sunday is prayer, I suggest to you that, if this day is about prayer, then it begs that you begin to think differently about what prayer is and about how you pray. For, when your Lord says to you “Whatever you ask of the Father in my Name, He will give it to you,” it begs the question, “Why?” Why will the Father give you what you ask in Jesus’ Name? What does it mean to ask in Jesus’ Name?
In this regard, it is no coincidence that the Minor Rogation Days precede the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord. The implication is that there is something about Jesus’ Ascension that moves the Father to grant what you pray for, that is, what you ask in Jesus’ Name. And, to understand the significance of this final event of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, His Ascension, it is necessary that you first understand the significance of the first event in His earthly life and ministry, His Incarnation. What happened in the Incarnation that changed how God the Father relates to you His creatures? What changed? I say to you, everything! Absolutely everything!
When the Word became flesh and made His dwelling amongst us, God entered His creation as one of His creatures. This is remarkable and astounding! When our First Parents sinned they rebelled against God. They made themselves unclean, unholy. They could no longer stand in the presence of the Holy LORD. Their sinful corruption affected a break, a separation from God. And, they knew it; they felt it in the very essence of their being. They hid themselves in the bushes and they covered their nakedness for shame in their guilt. They could sense God’s holiness all about them and they knew that there were not within it, that they were outcasts by their own doing, that they were wholly other. Holy God required, He demanded, that His creation be holy as He is holy. It was not meanness or bad will that cast them out, but it was the holiness and righteousness of God; it was light and darkness, the sacred and the profane. “What partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? What fellowship has light with darkness?”
And yet, the LORD did the unthinkable, the impossible; He penetrated His fallen creation and became a man. The Creator became a creature “born from the substance of His mother,” “perfect God and perfect man.” The LORD plunged Himself, His holiness and righteousness, into the muck and mire of man’s flesh and blood, sin and death. And that has changed every thing! No longer is there a separation between God and man, for God has become a man. No longer is flesh and blood barred from the holy presence of God, for God’s holy presence has tabernacled in the flesh and blood of a man, born of a woman, with men and women for brothers and sisters and neighbors. Thus, Jesus routinely taught both His disciples and His adversaries that the kingdom of heaven had come upon them and was in their midst, for wherever Jesus was, there was the kingdom of heaven and heaven’s King.
So, how does the Incarnation affect your prayer? There is no need for your prayer to ascend to heaven, for heaven has descended to earth. Heaven is present, God is present in the person of His Son Jesus. This is why the leper approached Jesus saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean,” and Jesus replied, “I will; be clean.” This is why the centurion approached Jesus saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly,” “only say the word, and my servant will be healed,” and Jesus replied, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” To ask Jesus is to ask God; to pray to Jesus is to pray to God; Jesus is God, in the flesh, His kingdom of grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness come down to earth to re-create, restore, renew, and to reign.
God had always been present with His people. He walked with our First Parents in the Garden before their rebellion. Afterward, He made covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to send one from woman’s seed who would fill our greatest need. In the Exodus, God tabernacled in the midst of His people, traveling with them in their pilgrimage, and making them holy through the sacrificial system of the tabernacle and then the temple. And yet, all this pointed to the greater tabernacle and temple made without human hands, Jesus. In Jesus are fulfilled the covenants, the tabernacle, the temple, the sacrificial system, and the priesthood, for Jesus is our Great High Priest and the holy and innocent sacrifice of God’s self-offering.
And yet, still there is more. In the Incarnation of Jesus, God had visited His people to redeem them. Mankind’s redemption was accomplished in Jesus’ death upon the cross. Then, the fruit of Jesus’ victory was borne; God raised Him from death to life. But, God did not raise His Son Jesus merely to live a holy life on earth; He raised Him that He might seat Him, in flesh and blood, as a man, at His right hand in heaven. Thus, in the Ascension of Jesus, God the Father elevated all humanity to a status higher than that of Adam and Eve, higher even than the angels of heaven: A man now sits and reigns at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. And, where He is, He has promised you shall also be.
Thus, once again, let us turn to prayer and ask, “What affect does Jesus’ Ascension have upon our prayer?” Well, what does Jesus teach? “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my Name, He will give it to you.” And then, Jesus explains why the Father will give you what you ask in His Name saying, “In that day you will ask in my Name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” Jesus is referring to His Incarnation. Because you have believed that He is God in the flesh, God will grant you whatever you ask in and through Jesus’ Name. However, Jesus’ Name is not merely a word, a phrase, or a sentence or statement of any kind, but Jesus’ Name is the holiness and righteousness of God. To pray in Jesus’ Name is to pray in accordance with who and what you believe and confess Jesus to be. To pray in Jesus’ Name is to pray in accordance with God’s Holy and perfect will manifest and revealed in Jesus. So, don’t pray for Cadillacs and winning lottery tickets, but pray for anything and everything that is in accord with God’s perfect and holy will manifest and revealed in Jesus.
“I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father,” Jesus taught. In sinful rebellion, man separated himself from God. But, in the Incarnation, God became a man and restored flesh and blood to Himself through the death, resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus. In God’s plan of salvation we see that it’s all about koinonia, communion fellowship, and the one-flesh union. Communion fellowship (koinonia) is akin to marriage, the one-flesh union. Sin breaks that fellowship. It creates a barrier, like a force field, separating us from God. But God, in Jesus, has penetrated the barrier we have created in our sin like a hole in the ozone layer and has plunged Himself into our humanity, taking upon Himself our sin and dying our death. But, because He was sinless, innocent, righteous, and holy, God raised Jesus from the dead and He has ascended out of this world to the right hand of His Father in heaven taking us with Him. He has promised that He will come again to raise us from the dead and take us to Himself in eternal communion fellowship with Him in heaven.
And, this is why God the Father gives you whatever you ask in Jesus’ Name – not because you pray so very eloquently nor because you are so very sincere, nor because you are so very pious, good, righteous, or holy – but, God the Father gives you whatever you ask in Jesus’ Name because Jesus is you, and through faith in Jesus’ Incarnation, death, resurrection, and Ascension, you are Him. God hears and answers you because He hears and answers Jesus, your Bridegroom and the head of His body the Church. You are one flesh with Him now and for eternity. Believe His Word and live, for Jesus’ sake.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.