The service was introduced by the Rector, Stephen Hills, he explained the origin of our Rogation service.  Its name comes from the Latin word Rogare ‘to ask’.  Traditionally in many rural parishes, a service would include a ‘beating of the bounds of the parish, so that parishioners would know its limits.  It is said that boys might be thrown into nettle or bramble patches to drive the lesson home.  I’m sure that never happened in Bidborough.  Now in May 2020, much of the world is in ‘Lock-down’ because of the Corona virus, churches are closed, and services conducted ‘on line.’  This is the outline of our service.  Each section was read by a young person ….

1) Photo of Village Hall….
A prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your care and love for all creation.
We pray for your continued blessing upon this good earth, our town and villages.
Forgive us we pray, for the many ways we spoil and destroy what you have made. Help us to understand better your way of love, shown to us through the cross.
Give us we pray, the ability to share with you in your work of creation –
for the shalom/ salaam, the Peace of all people, especially the poor and weak,
for children and old people.
Thank you, for all the good things you give us, above all
for coming to us in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and for the gift of your Holy Spirit to guide, encourage and strengthen us,
day by day. Amen.

2) Photo of cornfield, with young shoots appearing:
Jesus said: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
And from the Benedicite, and ancient hymn of the church: “O all you green things upon the earth, bless the Lord, praise him and magnify him for ever.”
Heavenly Father, We ask for your blessing upon all the work done, in the production of the food we and others need. We pray for the shop workers who bring it to us. We pray for crops grown in other parts of the world, rice, wheat, corn, for vegetable and fruit farmers. We pray for a fair and just distribution of the earth’s food resources. Help us not to waste food. We pray for the many in our world who are hungry, may we be able to control climate change, so that enough crops can be grown to feed all the world’s people. We pray that the right balance will be found between land for crops, and for our woods and forests. We pray for our gardens and allotments, thank you for all the pleasure and great benefit they give us.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

3) Photo of sheep field
Again, from the Benedicite: “O all you beasts and cattle, bless the Lord. Praise him and magnify him for ever. O all you birds of the air, bless the Lord. Praise him and magnify him for ever.”
Heavenly father, you give us animals to share with us our lives here on earth. Grant that we may show our gratitude to you, by treating with gentleness and consideration all living creatures entrusted to our care. Whether domesticated or wild, your creation is so wonderfully varied. Thank you for our pets and the lessons we learn from them. May future generations be able to look back on our generation, and give thanks for the way we achieved the right balance between the needs of humanity and the rest of your created world.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

4) Photo of Victorian pumping station:
This photo is of the old pumping station that was built in the lower part of our parish, where water was pumped up from a deep well, to the reservoir at the top of the village.
Jesus said: “Whoever drinks of this water, will thirst again. Whoever drinks of the water I give them, will never thirst. The water I give will be a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
And from the Benedicite: “O you wells, bless the Lord, praise him and magnify him for ever. O you rivers and oceans, bless the Lord, praise him and magnify him for ever.”
Heavenly Father, we thank you for those who supply clean water for us, as well as those who deal with waste water and its treatment. We pray for the many in our world who do not have clean water to drink, may this most basic of human rights be soon provided for all.  And we pray for our rivers and oceans. May the water that reaches the sea be clean, free of plastic and other pollutants. May the fish and all life in the sea be free from all that threatens and destroys their environment. And we pray for our fishing fleets, whether of this country or across the world, that we may learn better how to fish responsibly, providing food for this and future generations.
Lord, in your mercy, here our prayer..

5) Photo of Medical Centre
Jesus said to his disciples after healing: “Greater things you shall do than this…” and from the Benedicite: “O you servants of the Lord, bless the Lord. Praise him and magnify him for ever.”
Heavenly Father we thank you, for all our health and caring services. Thankyou for those who research the cure for disease and sickness, and healing for injury. Thank you for those who work in Care Homes, and in the Community supporting the vulnerable. Especially in these days of the Corona virus, we pray against its spread to the most vulnerable in our word, in the poorer countries and in refugee camps. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

6) Photo of traffic on the Medway bridge
From the Benedicite: “O you Children of men, bless the Lord. Praise him and magnify him for ever.”   And from the Epistle of James: “Now listen, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, carry on business and make money.  Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring…. you ought to say: “If the Lord wills, we will do this or that…”  ”
Heavenly Father, we pray for our world in this twenty-first century. Help us we pray to find good ways to share the world’s resources fairly, without destroying the environment. As we are learning now, help us to use the internet in ways that benefit all the nations of the world, even as we are drawn together into one global village. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

7) Photo of St Peters church
Reading: Matthew 5:25-34, followed by my summing up.  This is the text of the video at the top of this blog entry…..                                                                 The Benedicite concludes: “O Ananaias, Azarias and Misael, bless ye the Lord: praise him and magnify him for ever.” If we were together in one building, I would ask who knows who those three people were? The answer is, the three mentioned in the book of Daniel, chapter one, but better known by the names given them in Daniel chapter 7, Shadrach, Meshak and Abednego (or to bed we go?).

So this old psalm of the New Testament church finishes by naming martyrs of the Old Testament, those willing to put their lives on the line for God. It used to be said twenty years ago, that in the 20th Century, there were more Christian martyrs, Christians killed for being Christians, that in all the centuries before. I wonder how long it will be in this 21st century, before the number of Christians killed for their faith, outnumbers those from the last century?

This last week, my phone has kept beeping at me, because of my WhatsApp App keeping me informed about death threats to a Christian couple from Somaliland. During ‘lockdown’ with the Corona virus situation, most of us are using the internet more than ever, including of course the streaming of this service. But the internet also means that any innocent comment or picture can be misinterpreted, accidentally or maliciously. Our young people especially need to be warned of this. But also any statement of Christian faith can be held against us, by anyone who does not like what we say ‘on line.’

I ask for prayer, in the work I do, in trying to open the minds of Muslim friends that the Arabic of the Qur’an may not deny that Jesus died on the cross. I was only just got back from Oman before ‘lockdown’, I had gone there for the publication of an old book I wrote, just translated into Arabic which suggests this.

What is our prayer together, for the parish of St Lawrence and St Peters? As we come to terms with the new world of the internet, the World Wide Web, and a post Corona virus world, how does God want us to take hope of a new way to communicate eternal truth? Yes, applying it to our local community, not just the fields and woods, not just its community facilities, cricket grounds, community groups, village halls, but all the relationships now possible ‘virtually’, instantly?

I finish with the Prayer Book prayer for today, suggested 400 years ago, by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. It is why today is called Rogation Sunday, the Sunday when we bring our petition for the growing crops especially before God. But more generally, it applies to all that we ask for. What is your special prayer request, for yourself, your family, your friends, your enemy?, your church, your nation, our world? As I say this prayer, or as you read it, notice the phrase especially: “by your merciful guidance…” It seems that while most of the prayer is a Latin prayer, much older than 400 years, the word ‘merciful’ was added by Cranmer. And literally in Latin, it means ‘pilot.’ We are praying that God in Christ will be our pilot, our merciful pilot. We don’t deserve Him, but he loves us enough to give us what it best for us, like the pilot safely guiding our ship away from danger, and piloting us home.

O Lord, from whom all good things come. Grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration, we may think those things that be good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

Sunday before Easter April 5th 2020


If you would prefer to read it….. Text of sermon preached April 5th 2020, during ‘Lock-down’, when the Corona virus was spreading around the world.
Palm Sunday. Luke 19:41-44  “If only you had known”

If only you had known

I am not about to explain why God sent, or at least allowed to happen, the Coronavirus. The book of Job in the Old Testament explains that human suffering sometimes simply cannot be explained. If you are looking for good theological teaching, then I recommend Ian Paul’s blog, it has the strange name: Psiphizo. But. Just google ‘Ian Paul’ and you will find it. I for one, am happy with the thought that…. We are “in time” and of limited and finite minds, whereas God is outside time and of infinite mind… So I’m happy to come to a point where I say “This much I know…” and trust that is all I need to know for now, from God in Heaven’s point of view – because he hasn’t told us everything…

… and the human Jesus believed that too. He knew a lot, but not everything. This picture used to hang over the door of the study in Bidborough Rectory when dad was rector. I don’t know who the artist was, in the corner it is ‘copyright 1907.’

Jesus looks across a valley, to the artist’s impression of Jerusalem. On the back of the frame, just the words hand-written on the label of the Hastings’ framer: “If thou hast known.” Jesus could foresee the tragedy that was soon to overtake Jerusalem, as Roman armies destroyed it, utterly.

Sunday is Easter. But of course, you can’t have Resurrection without a death. The event at the very centre of all our world’s history is not Easter, but death, the death of Jesus. His resurrection followed of course, But you can’t celebrate Easter without first, the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ death is the most certain event of history. Some have tried to deny that it happened, for an increasing number of people in the West, they think of Jesus much like they think of Santa. Now, I believe in Santa Claus, or rather St Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, he lived 1,600 years ago. (See footnote 1 if you are interested). There is a historical root to the fable. But real history is as important, as science.

I don’t intend now, to go into the arguments for the four Gospels and the other books of the New Testament; or of the Old Testament being reliable history. But the evidence is as certain as any historical fact, that Jesus the boy was immersed in the Jewish scriptures, he knew them inside out, and as a man saw himself fulfilling them. And, that would mean allowing himself to be done to death by people who thought they were Godly. And, it was a most terrible death.

Behind the words: “If only you knew….” lies the anguish of the Old Testament prophets, who had such a profound effect on Jesus, as he grew to adulthood, and came to the agonising conclusion, that he was to be the answer:. The answer to selfishness, to putting self in the place of God, to working for the advantage of one’s own family or tribe against other families and tribes. The Bible word for all that is, sin . Jesus’ answer was the laying down of his own selfless life, allowing it to be (apparently) destroyed by sin, as he challenged death itself. And, then looking forward to life after death, sending his Spirit to all those who committed their lives as his disciples, and able to lead the world into real peace, Shalom/ Salaam, life at the very top of the scale, life in all its possible fullness.

So for us and our world, Passion Week2020, and the seven days between Palm Sunday and Easter Day. What challenges face us? I think of the village where my wife and I, and one daughter and her family live. Here, there are some promising signs, with no less than 80 volunteers to help with a ‘good neighbour’ scheme during this health crisis. And of course in the wider community, so many volunteers to help the National Health Service, in whatever ways they can.

What of the wide world? Nigeria and Africa, including the island of Madagascar where a daughter served as a missionary doctor for ten years. That continent is scheduled on present predictions, to see millions die in the coming months from Coronavirus. Unless that is, the call to the G20 nations is heard, from the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, for trillions of dollars to be committed to help the developing world combat the virus.

Maybe, just maybe, realisation is dawning, that it is simply not acceptable that the richest 10% in the world, own 85% of the world’s wealth. That means of course, 90% of the world’s population only have access to 15% of the worlds wealth to live on. Maybe even now, we can change our philosophy of life and our lifestyles. Do we hang on to old viewpoints and way of life, and live and die with the consequences? Or do we listen to the anguished words of God in Christ: “If only you knew…”?

It is the way of the cross. Thankfully, not as He faced it, but, empowered by the Spirit of God in Christ released through the cross, we stop living for ourselves, selfishly, sinfully, making ourselves to be God. Instead, we put Him and His Way first in our lives. Then, as He promised (in what is called His Sermon on the Mount – in chapter 6 of St Matthew’s gospel) “…all these things will be added to you”. Put Him First. It is “all or nothing.” How often do we settle for second best, for compromise. Sometimes in life we need to, but not with Jesus. “If only you knew… what makes for peace.” It has to be whole-hearted commitment., in order to live – life in all its fulness.

I dare to make the comparison: unless we follow the clear guidelines of how to fight this present health crisis, millions will die; but also, if we try to compromise with Jesus, we die, eternally. I urge you, stop playing games with God, God who in Christ laid down his perfect life, so that we might live. Please, pray with me, this prayer of commitment, or re-commitment. I prayed it, pretty much like this, age 12. It was a mission in Bidborough, led by someone called Ken Prior, and he put the challenge of the cross so clearly, that I was able to pray this prayer. Of course, I have back-tracked many times, but for you, let this prayer be, if not the first time you have prayed it, then a re-commitment prayer…….
“God in Christ, I am a sinner.
Thank you that You died for me.
Forgive me through Your Cross.
I come to You now, come into my life,
and live with me, for ever. Amen”

Ray Skinner:


The Man Behind the Story of Father Christmas/Santa Claus
St Nicholas was a Bishop who lived in the fourth century in a place called Myra in Asia Minor (now called Turkey). He was a very rich man because his parents died when he was young and left him a lot of money. He was also a very kind man and had a reputation for helping the poor and giving secret gifts to people who needed it. There are several legends about St. Nicholas, although we don’t know if any of them are true!

The most famous story about St. Nicholas tells how the custom of hanging up stockings to put presents in first started! It goes like this:
There was a poor man who had three daughters. The man was so poor that he did not have enough money for a dowry, so his daughters couldn’t get married. (A dowry is a sum of money paid to the bridegroom by the brides parents on the wedding day. This still happens in some countries, even today.) One night, Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold down the chimney and into the house (This meant that the oldest daughter was then able to be married.). The bag fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry! This was repeated later with the second daughter. Finally, determined to discover the person who had given him the money, the father secretly hid by the fire every evening until he caught Nicholas dropping in a bag of gold. Nicholas begged the man to not tell anyone what he had done, because he did not want to bring attention to himself. But soon the news got out and when anyone received a secret gift, it was thought that maybe it was from Nicholas.
Because of his kindness Nicholas was made a Saint. St. Nicholas is not only the saint of children but also of sailors! One story tells of him helping some sailors that were caught in a dreadful storm off the coast of Turkey. The storm was raging around them and all the men were terrified that their ship would sink beneath the giant waves. They prayed to St. Nicholas to help them. Suddenly, he was standing on the deck before them. He ordered the sea to be calm, the storm died away, and they were able to sail their ship safely to port.
St. Nicholas was exiled from Myra and later put in prison during the persecution by the Emperor Diocletian. No one is really knows when he died, but it was on 6th December in either 345 or 352. In 1087, his bones were stolen from Turkey by some Italian merchant sailors. The bones are now kept in the Church named after him in the Italian port of Bari. On St. Nicholas feast day (6th December), the sailors of Bari still carry his statue from the Cathedral out to sea, so that he can bless the waters and so give them safe voyages throughout the year.
in 1066, before he set sail to England, William the Conqueror prayed to St. Nicholas asking that his conquest would go well.

In the Netherlands it is St Nicholas, not Father Christmas or Santa, who brings gifts for children before Christm