Sunday, May 13, 2012

Rogate versus Mother’s Day

Today is The Fifth Sunday after Easter - Rogate.  Rogate is Latin for “Ask ye,” from today’s Gospel reading:

     And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, 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.  These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.  At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:  For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.  I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. 
     His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.  Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.
(John 16:23-30)

The Lord Jesus tells His disciples: “For the Father has affection toward you-all because you-all Me held in affection and have believed that I from God have come out.”

Love is not a very good translation for this is not agape but philos.  This is not agape.  It is not the unconditional unidirectional love of John 3:16 by which God was moved to give His only-begotten Son to save the world.  This is the relational response of communion.  This is the Fatherly attitude of God with His adopted children who have been regenerated into the life of the body of Christ, who live in His agape, abiding in His Word, being guarded and kept in His peace that surpasses all understanding.

This is a lot like the emotionalism of Mother’s Day, where children of all ages desire to demonstrate that inborn affection that they hold for their mothers.  When that bond that was created through nine months of gestation and then the tender care of nursing is not broken by various interfering factors, the children and their mothers continue to hold each other in affection, desiring to be close.  And even when this bond is stretched or even broken, there often remains the desire for the closeness to be reestablished.

In the case of the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, God the Father affectionately listens to the prayers of His sons, “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”   (John 1:13)

Within this holy household of faith, the Church of Jesus Christ, these beloved children whom the Father holds in deep affection are brought through the urging of the Holy Spirit into the unity of the one true faith.  They confess together the same doctrine.  They embrace the same practice.  They live and breathe and think and speak the same, in communion with their Lord Jesus.  They grow in this affection for their Lord and for one another until they truly think and speak as one.  They pray the very will of God that is has been made to be their own will.  And thus, God does and even must grant their requests.  After all, they are praying what He Himself has produced in them.

This is demonstrated in the Collect of the Day for this day of Rogate as well as last Sunday’s Collect.

     “O God, from whom all good things do come, grant to 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; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. ”

     O God, who makes the minds of the faithful to be of one will, grant unto Thy people that they may love what Thou commandest and desire what Thou dost promise that among the manifold changes of this world our hearts may there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

Notice what is prayed.  Notice what is taught.  Notice what is confessed.  Notice what is promised and granted.

Today I called a dear friend, a pastor in another state.  We spoke on the phone for nearly four hours.  In our conversation we each shared many things, things from our past, things currently taking place, things of deep theological nature, things of the life of the Church.  In our conversation we did not disagree on any point.  As we discussed very important and deep matters, we were in true concord.  He spoke of things that he learned and received from me and I spoke of what I learned and received from him.  Even as we each heard new things that we had not previously given proper attention, as we heard these things from one another as they flow from the Holy Scriptures, we readily agreed with one another.

This is what God promises.  His sons, His daughters, will hear and acknowledge together what He reveals as His Word and Will.  His children will readily move toward the unity of the true faith.

Afterwards I called my mother.  We do not share this unity together.  We hold each other with the affection of blood, but not of Spirit.  We do not even dare to converse regarding the deep things of faith, because we have not that common bond.  Over the years she has remained with the church body that has departed from that united confession and practice and faith.  She has moved in the same direction, a direction that no longer allows us to speak openly in full agreement.

I also encouraged my wife to call her mother, with whom we are estranged.  She, too, has chosen to remain with the church body that has drifted into the worldly and disintegrated ways.  My wife and her mother both expressed their desire to be close, but the discussion ended with acknowledgment that her mother no longer believes such unity to be possible.  Her mother openly denies that it is possible for the Church to have what my friend and I expressed in nearly four hours of intense theological discussion, true unity and agreement.

My wife and I were very saddened by this, but as we were expressing our deeply felt grief another dear pastor called to share the jubilant news of the baptism that he performed this very day.  A sweet newly born baby was baptized into the body of Christ from a couple who were unmarried and not members of Christ’s body when this baby was born.  But now the parents are eagerly receiving the pure Word from this pastor, and are excitedly growing in the faith that has been handed down by the prophets and apostles and the Church to this very day.  And so our hearts turned from sorrow to great joy in the Lord and His faithfulness.

It boggles my mind that my family and my wife’s family no longer believe this to be possible.  Once upon a time they professed this as their belief, but no longer.  They have chosen tolerance in place of unity and the pretense of not judging for falsely judging both us and the faith of Jesus.  But the unity that God promises does still exist in His Church, not only the Church triumphant, that is, not only the Church in heaven, but also the true Church on earth.  For where Jesus is truly confessed as Lord, that is, where the Word rules the Church, true unity is produced.  It cannot be otherwise.

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