Rogation – Easter 6 – Rev Alison Way

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Rogation – Acts 17:22-31 and John 14:15-21

In the name of the Living God: Loving Father, Risen Son and ever present Holy Spirit, Amen

When I was at school I used to sing a hymn that started – Daisies are our silver buttercups are gold, this is all the treasures we can have or hold.

I don’t remember the tune very well, but the concept has been playing in my mind. One of a few good things that has come out of lockdown has been the chance to observe the spring moving rapidly towards summer. In my case also, the wonders of a new garden (and what pops up!). If you are my Facebook friend you will know this includes some seriously glorious roses!

Also I have been undertaking exploring walks in the beautiful local countryside. I have spent some time building a sense of how the land around us is used in farming. Lots of sheep and cows (and an occasional llama!), and pastures.

And due to the spell of dry and sunny weather we have been having – signs of the first cut of the year.

Also evidenced by large agricultural vehicles repeatedly thundering up and down Common Road at the end of last week!!!

On the 6th Sunday after Easter, it is traditional to mark rogation. (Rogation comes from The Latin ‘Rogare’ – to ask). The asking became asking God to bless the land, our farmers and all those who produce the food we eat. This has 2 distinct origins. The first is from the Book of Common Prayer. The gospel set for today in the prayer book, includes the following phrase: “Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give to you”.

The second origin of rogationtide is rather more surprising. Another case of us taking something left us by the Romans and using it – another of those what have the Romans done for us answers! Any way in this instance the Roman festival is of ‘Terminalia”, or “boundaries”. By the 17th Century this had been adapted by the church and served a practical purpose. In days before Ordnance Survey maps, sat nav or the “achurchnearyou web site”, there were not always clear lines of demarcation between the parishes, especially where there were open field systems. Instead at rogation they spent time walking the boundaries of the parish. Boundaries marked where it was safe for children of the parish to wander but no further.

Unfortunately for the young men of the parish, during the procession round, traditionally the boys were bumped on prominent marks and boundary stones, hence the phrase beating the bounds…. Bit more literal then! Or worse boys were rolled in briars and ditches, or thrown in the pond to ensure they never forgot the boundaries. The crowd would also be very exact about the boundaries and trample over anything in the way like hedges or houses built on the boundary.

This idea of Roman origin became, thankful to the Victorians, much more civilised by beating objects rather than people, and being less aggressive to hedges or houses built on the boundary! In the context of procession on rogation days the use of litanies was also developed and was common. The intercession for this week’s worship has included chunks each day of the latest rogationtide litany the Church of England has produced.

The purpose of any litany in our Church Is a structured form of prayer, consisting of a number of petitions and reasonably fixed responses for all to join in with. They are designed to have a natural rhythm and enable us to cover the height and width and depth of a subject. The word litany is derived from the greek meaning “supplication”. The church having litanies is an early tradition, originating in the 4th century in Antioch, as a way the early Christians worshipped together. For me there is something very inspiring about connecting with something Christians have been doing over hundreds of years.

The one we have been using during this week, if we have, was written in 2006. In an introduction to all the worship material designed to support the agricultural year it says that ‘the jewish and christian scriptures give eloquent expression to the creative power and wisdom of God’. Our first reading from Acts – has people describing God as the one who made the world and everything in it, and as Lord of heaven and earth.

I think it is a natural instinct for worshipping communities to develop patterns of prayer and worship around the agricultural year, particularly when living in more rural communities set in the midst of agricultural land.

At its most basic we need food for human life, but this should be accompanied by a sense of proper humility before God as the source of all things, gratitude for his goodness and taking responsibility for our stewarding of the resources of the earth. Our current circumstance has been making us think about this on a number of fronts. For example, the panic buying that characterised the weeks leading up to lockdown – Really not our finest hour. On a more positive front – we have been taken back to what is available locally and being more thoughtful about what we consume in every sense. The difference between what we want and what we need has been highlighted. Praying for all aspects of farming and those who produce and market our food is important. Especially things being undertaken now with significant risk involved to keep food in our fridges and on our tables.

The scope of our current rogation litany also includes in the latter stage of it petitions for the world of work. As we begin to take what the government is describing as baby steps towards more people working beyond the confines of their homes, I am very conscious of the difficulties this presents. Finding ways of doing things with social distancing, and without undue risk is going to be both challenging and difficult. The financial forecasts for our economy make very grim reading too, with an expectation of high rates of unemployment and rising levels of debt. It is hard to see how this can only make the road ahead difficult for many. I think it was very timely that we have prayed for the world of work this week as part of rogationtide prayers, and that we should continue to do that. It may very well be that we are very concerned for ourselves, for friends and families with livelihoods in jeopardy.

The litany also calls for the accountable stewardship that God will require of us. That we use our resources well, to the benefit of others showing love for our neighbours both near and far. Prayers for local communities whatever, size shape and density of population they represent again are really important in these uncertain times, and likely to be essential in the weeks and months ahead. Particularly that we pull together rather than just look after number one.

Thinking like this helps us to take stock, to re-assert God as the foundation of our being. In whom we live and breathe and have our being, and from whom all our blessings come.  From whom as Jesus said in our Gospel reading, from whom the Spirit of Truth comes – who abides in us and is with us and gives us the strength we need for the day. Fundamentally, even in these very difficult times we have much to be thankful for.

  • A loving God – who endures as long as the earth endures

  • There is seedtime, and harvest

  • Cold and heat

  • Summer and winter

  • Day and night

Let’s not forget this or get caught up in the delusion of being in control ourselves, but open our hearts to God’s way for us this day and every day. Asking God to pour down upon us the abundance of his mercy. As we remember that everything belongs to God and our need to be good stewards of our good earth. Keep praying, keep connected and stay safe. Amen

I suggest praying with the Rogation litany in full now.

God the Father, Lord of creation, All have mercy upon us.
God the Son, through whom all things were made, All have mercy upon us.
God the Holy Spirit, who renews the face of the earth, All have mercy upon us.
Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, creating and saving God, All have mercy upon us.
Remember, Lord, your mercy and loving-kindness towards us. Bless this good earth, and make it fruitful. Bless our labour, and give us all things needful for our daily lives. Bless the homes of this parish and all who live within them. Bless our common life and our care for our neighbour. All Hear us, good Lord.

For all cities, towns and villages, and for their well-being and prosperity, let us pray to the Lord. All Lord, have mercy.
For the rural economy and for its regeneration, let us pray to the Lord. All Lord, have mercy.
For those who tend the countryside and preserve its order and beauty, let us pray to the Lord. All: Lord, have mercy.
For traditional rural skills and crafts and for those who exercise them, let us pray to the Lord. All: Lord, have mercy.
For all farms, all who work them, and for the whole farming industry, let us pray to the Lord. All:  Lord, have mercy.
For those who make farming policy, and for all with authority in government, let us pray to the Lord. All: Lord, have mercy.

For a blessing on our land we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.
For healthy crops and abundant harvests we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.
For the care and welfare of animals and for the veterinary profession we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.
For the harvest of the soil and for the fruits of the earth in their seasons we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.
For seasonable weather we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.

For protection from blight, pestilence and disease we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.
For those engaged in agricultural research we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.
For the service industries that support rural life we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.
For the ministry of your Church in rural areas we pray. All:Hear us, good Lord.
For parts of the world where the harvests have failed we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.
For charities, aid agencies and overseas development we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.

For our daily bread: All: we pray to you, O Lord.
For all who work on the land to bring us our food in due season: All: we pray to you, O Lord.
For all who fish the rivers, lakes and seas: All: we pray to you, O Lord.
For all who process foods and prepare them for distribution and sale: All: we pray to you, O Lord.
For all supermarkets and shops, and for all who work in them: All: we pray to you, O Lord.
For those who work in food research: All: we pray to you, O Lord.
For those who distribute food to those in need: All: we pray to you, O Lord.
For the will to share your bounteous gifts: All: we pray to you, O Lord.

For the world of work in all its diversity: All: hear us, good Lord.
For the industry and workplaces of this parish and community: All: hear us, good Lord.
For the right ordering of work in time of technological change: All: hear us, good Lord.
For communities that have lost traditional industries, and for their regeneration: All: hear us, good Lord.
For all expanding industries and for the promise of new jobs: All: hear us, good Lord.
For small businesses and co-operatives: All: hear us, good Lord.
For local trade and commerce: All: hear us, good Lord.
For all service industries that provide for our daily needs: All: hear us, good Lord.
For the unemployed and for those living in poverty: All: hear us, good Lord.
For school leavers and all who are seeking to enter employment: All: hear us, good Lord.
For the retired and those unable to work: All: hear us, good Lord.
For all who work as volunteers: All: hear us, good Lord.

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray and to give more than either we desire or deserve: pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. All: Amen.

 Time of silent or open prayer

Grant favourable weather, temperate rains and fruitful seasons, that there may be food and drink for all creatures. Bestow your blessing upon the lands and waters, and all who work upon them, to bring forth food and all things needful for your people. Prosper all who care for the earth, the water, and the air, that the riches of your  creation may abound from age to age.
All: Hear us, good Lord. Amen

The Lord’s Prayer is said.

All: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

The Conclusion

All: God be gracious to us and bless us:
and make his face to shine upon us Amen

Copyright acknowledgement Some material included in this service is copyright: ©  The Archbishops’ Council 2000-2020

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995