Easter 5/Rogation Sunday, 2019
The Epistle – James 1:22-27
The Gospel – St. John 16:23-33
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Just as a reminder and a refresher, today is Rogation Day as well as Easter 5. Rogation comes from the Latin Rogare, meaning to ask.
It was primarily created to be a specific day set aside to beseech or to ask God to turn aside His anger and to protect His Church.
It was later used in connection
with the planting season where the congregation and ministers would process around
the Church or a field that was newly planted to ask God to bring forth a good
harvest when the time comes and even for a good growing season in the meantime.
The Church bounds were marked, and the congregation would process around it.
We cannot do this because of a wall, so we do it inside the Church but for the same reasons…to bring those same ideas to mind and to ask God for the same things.
We do so because, though planting and harvesting here and in many advanced civilizations is much easier, more reliable and safer and it produces so much more than we can use…
…we do so to keep ourselves aware and in remembrance from Whom all blessings flow. We do so because though advances have been made, it is still God who gives the increase.
It is God who causes the growth.
It was also slipped into the Easter Season or placed near to it because of one of the analogies Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 15 about the resurrection being likened to a seed that goes into the ground.
So, it might be good to one last time, before the end of Easter Season, to spend some time on this important central doctrine of the Christian faith…the Resurrection.
Recall these words…Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 beginning at the 35th verse. He is in the midst of an argument defending the resurrection of Jesus and our own future resurrection.
This is a vital chapter to know to mine for a very good and clear understanding of what happens after we die and what sort of a future we will have.
He begins this way, “But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?”
This by the way, is sort of an ancient rhetorical technique. You set forth an argument and then you try to anticipate objections.
So Paul says,…. Ok so this might be new or novel. You are now going to ask me; what does this resurrection body look like that we will receive? …Paul says, “Well, I’ll tell you. I’ll give you a comparison. Take a seed for example.”
So, he then goes on to tell us how this resurrection body is raised. How is it buried and raised and what does it look like when it is raised?
Paul says, it’s like a seed that we plant in the ground.
He says, “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.  And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.”
Church Father Ambrose says it this way, “Some may wonder how decayed bodies can become sound again, scattered members brought together, and destroyed parts restored. Yet no one seems to wonder how seeds softened and broken by the dampness and weight of the earth grow and become green again. Such seeds, of course, are rotted and dissolved by contact with the earth. But when the generative moisture of the soil imparts life to the buried and hidden seeds by a kind of life-giving heat, they receive the animating force of the growing plant. Then gradually, nature raises from stalk the tender life called the growing ear, and, like a careful mother, wraps it in a sheath as a protection against its being nipped at this immature stage by the frost or scorched by the sun when the kernels are emerging, as it were, from early infancy. On His Brother Satyrus 2.55.
Seems they understood pretty well the process of planting even back in Amborse’s day, the 4th century, as well as in Paul’s day in the 1st.
Our bodies, just like a seed we plant, go into the ground.
The earth decays the body.
The earth decays a seed.
So we, like seeds, go into the ground.
There is a difference in that seeds break open, change and a plant grows out of the ground.
We don’t come out of the ground after death like a plant. We are raised from the ground by God and fashioned anew…but the analogy holds.
Both we and seeds go into the ground and decay.
Plants come out of the ground. They shoot out a little green
bud or small shoot and grow from there.
This is not what Paul says happens to us. We don’t become new in the ground.
God raises us up, though, to something new.
Paul argues here that for us, regardless of what sort of physical material remains of our bodies in the ground, at least the pattern of the old body is preserved in the mind of God for the new body He will give us.
No matter the condition of the body at death, God knows our form and can restore it.
Paul says, “…God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.”
We won't grow to be plants obviously. We will be resurrected according to our kind. Human, physical, flesh.
What we will look like and what age and what marks on the body, etc., we don’t know. What we do know, is that it is raised “imperishable.”
So, when we are raised on the day of the Resurrection we are raised never to perish.
Saints who have died in Christ have not perished. They are alive and with God.
They will be raised imperishable on the last day in a body that is at least patterned on what we have now, and it will not die again.
Paul says, “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.  It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.”
Sown in dishonor. Raised in glory.
Our body in death is sown in dishonor. It goes to decay…a dishonorable state. But, as it is raised, it will do so in glory, and all traces of dishonor will vanish away.
The new resurrected body will be glorious.
Paul then tells us that we are made up of two parts. Flesh and spirit. He says, “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”
He then goes on to explain how Adam…whom we all come from, became a life-giving spirit in that he was formed of the dust and God breathed life and spirit into him.
He became a life-giving spirit. He became the father of all mankind. We get our life from Adam and that life is passed down to us from him.
But it is a life that is going to end and go into the ground. The natural part goes into the ground, the spiritual lives on. …to be reunited to the natural body on the last day.
Yet, in Christ, as believers through faith, we are united to Christ, who is different from Adam. We are now in Him…which changes everything for us….we are in Christ.
The first man, Adam was of the earth, made from the dust.
The last man, Jesus, is from Heaven.
So, as we are in Adam we die.
In Jesus we are made alive again after death. We are “of heaven” as Paul says.
And he closes this section by saying, “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, (Adam) we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (Jesus)
To be born again. To be baptized means no longer are we in Adam.
Yes, we still bear the image of Adam in that we are human…we are of the dust. And we die.
Yet in baptism and the new birth we are now in Christ, so yes, we still die, but as Paul has explained, we will rise to newness of life in the age to come in glory.
The plant or agricultural analogies aren’t just used for end of life either.
When God spoke to the people both in the Old through the Prophets and Jesus in the New Testament, He used things that were familiar to them.
They lived with and among plants and farming and agriculture every day. Planting, sowing, reaping, gathering into barns.
These were used to help to explain spiritual things. Spiritual concepts.
From the very forming of mankind, the Bible says that God formed Adam from the dust of the ground.
So, from our very beginning, we can trace our own very formation from the ground…from the creation. We were not and still are not created out of nothing.
God uses the means of procreation to continue to bring people into the world.
Jesus tells parables such as The Parable of the Weeds.
Jesus says the “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field,  but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.” (ESV)
This is to describe members of the Kingdom of God contrasted with those who are impostors who are among the good seed but are really of the Kingdom of the evil one.
St. Paul says about his preaching the Gospel, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. (1 Corinthians 3:6–9, ESV)
Even Isaiah describes Jesus this way, “Isaiah 53:2a.
 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground…”
So, these are set in place not only for an audience of the first century but for us as well.
From birth to death, we can learn from what we plant in our yards or from what we place on our table or what we see out an airplane window.
The life of all men, from birth to death can be observed in the plants and seeds.
The life of the Christian, however, has an extended story because we like all in Christ, …after being placed in the ground, will rise again after dying and being buried… and will live for all eternity in the presence and the care of the Master planter, the Master Gardener Himself.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.