Reflection for Rogation Sunday.
“The earth has yielded its increase and God, our God, has blessed us. May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him.” From Psalm 67.
The conflict, combined with climate change and the pandemic, “threatens to tip tens of millions of people over the edge into food insecurity followed by malnutrition, mass hunger and famine…. There is enough food in our world now if we act together. But unless we solve this problem today, we face the spectre of global food shortage in the coming months,” Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations.
The Sunday before the Rogation Days is Rogation Sunday, from the Latin ‘rogare’ meaning ‘to ask’. It’s an ancient church festival, asking for the blessing of crops and communities and for safety at a time when hardship might follow if the harvest failed. Traditionally, the boundaries of the parish were walked so that youngsters might learn to know their ‘patch’ as the beating of the bounds took place. Fences and walls along the way were repaired at this time to keep the boundaries secure and it was a time of prayer and hope as God’s blessing was asked on the seed time and the harvest, whether the crop was agricultural or industrial. It involved all ages in the care and wellbeing of the people as well as the crops and their provision, at a time when they were dependent upon their land and its produce.
Today, with the worldwide shortage of wheat, oil, fuel due to the war in Ukraine, climate change and the rising cost of living, many people are having to think again about their relationship with the land and use of it. Recently, I bought some cheese biscuits under the impression from their labelling that they were Cornish but, when I read it later, the packaging stated they were actually made abroad using milk from the Netherlands and only the cheese topping was from Cornwall. The complexity of food production today as well as the air or sea miles travelled now that fuel costs are rising so dramatically is creating change which will have lasting effects as we reassess what is important and how costs can be reduced. The recent scenes of the awful waste of Ukrainian grain unable to be exported to people who need it is causing concern about possible famine and the risk that it will soon grow mouldy before it can be used – already, the UN has warned of 20 million tonnes of garnered Ukrainian grain being unable to be accessed and a worldwide food crisis possibly resulting.
Global food prices are almost 30% higher than this time last year and the stark contrast of what is faced now with the Psalmist’s comments of the earth’s bounty increasing is a sharp reminder to us all that action has to be taken. The World Bank has created £9.7bn of extra funding to address food insecurity caused by the war between Russia and Ukraine which previously produced 30% of the world’s wheat supply. However, as Secretary Guterres also said, “The complex security, economic and financial implications require goodwill on all sides.”
We may think that there is little we can do as individuals in the face of such complexity but, at the birth of Jesus, the angels sang of peace and goodwill on earth. Perhaps, this Rogation Sunday, we can begin by doing what we can to show goodwill, care for the people and land where we are, repair what is broken, assess the boundaries and ask for God’s blessing that the earth may be enabled to bring forth its increase?
With my prayers; pob bendith,