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.

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