The needful thing: Meditation for the rogation sunday
“Rogation” is derived from the Latin word “Rogare” which means “Asking”, and has come to mean a time in the church calendar for special prayers for God’s blessings on our farms, industries, works of our hands and other endeavours.
Traditionally, the church congregation would proceed around the boundaries of the church and to farms and factories “asking” God to bless the crops being sown, send rain, grant us good harvest later in the year and bless the works of our hands.
Rogation Sunday is thus one Sunday that points us to our dependence on God. We can do many things to survive in this earth. But we are to realise that, as the Psalmist says: “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labour in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psa. 127:1). By underscoring prayer and God’s place in our lives and endeavours, Rogation tide points us to the need to never neglect the needful in every situation of life. It’s God, first.
We live in a world where people are always “doing” and “doing” and are overwhelmed in “doing” without due prioritisation. Wearing oneself out in many toils and activities without the main thing is futile, and like leaving substance to pursue shadow. One can be very busy, yet, doing little or nothing, and it’s better doing nothing than busy doing nothing.
Every effort, energy or resource spent at the expense of “the needful thing” is wasted. Paul compares it with running aimlessly or beating the air with which one can preach to others and will himself be a castaway (1Cor. 9:26-27).
There are many things that can be done in any given situation both for God and ourselves. Many of them are not bad in themselves. They may in fact be actually desirable. But they are not essential.
As Paul puts it: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient…” (1Co 6:12). The needful thing is the expedient thing. It is what is actually required of us – the core thing and the substance of the matter. It encompasses other things. But other things, in themselves, do not encompass it. The other things should derive from or follow the needful thing and never be done at the expense of it. That is why Jesus condemned the Pharisees: “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Matt 23:23).
Reflections on the Bible Readings for Day
The First Lesson passage (Deut. 28:1-14) enumerates the promised blessings of God. But the key to the blessings is given at the opening and closing verses, namely obedience and faithfulness to God’s commands.
Today, being Rogation Sunday, we pray for God’s blessings. We all desire the blessings of God and do many things to get them. We work, pray, claim the blessings, declare or “prophesy” them to our lives. But sometimes, we fail to do the required/needful thing, which in this case is obedience/faithfulness.
The NT passage (Luke 10:38-11:13) contains Jesus’ visit to his Bethany friends, Mary and Martha. Martha was preoccupied with catering for Jesus and making every necessary arrangement and provision for His comfort and hospitality. But her sister seemed not bothered as she just relaxed at Jesus’ feet. Martha had to complain. But surprisingly, Jesus completely disagreed with her – charging her of being worried and troubled about many things whereas one thing was needed. Jesus even went further to commend Mary for choosing that good part, which would not be taken away from her. That’s the needful thing.
The Venerable Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba is the Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.