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The 6th Sunday of Easter in Time of Quarantine

Rogation Sunday, Morning Prayer

 

Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Better are those who hide their folly than those who hide their wisdom.

Sirach 41:15

 

The Invitatory and Psalter

  1. O Lord, open thou our lips,
    R. And our mouths shall show forth your praise.
  2. Glory be to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
  3. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.

Christ our Passover          Pascha nostrum[1]     Hymnal 1982 #S49

Alleluia. Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us; *
therefore let us keep the feast,
Not with old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, *
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.

Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; *
death no longer has dominion over him.
The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all; *
but the life he lives, he lives to God.
So also consider yourselves dead to sin, *
and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.

 

Psalm 66: 8-20      

Bless our God, O peoples,

let the sound of his praise be heard,

who has kept us among the living,

and has not let our feet slip.

For you, O God, have tested us;

you have tried us as silver.

You brought us into the net;

you laid burdens on our backs;

we went through fire and through water;

yet you have brought us out.

I will come into your house with burnt-offerings; I will pay you my vows,

those that my lips promised when I was in trouble.

I will offer to you burnt-offerings of fatlings,

with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams;

I will make an offering of bulls and goats.

Come and hear, all you who fear God,

and I will tell what he has done for me.

I cried aloud to him,

and extolled him with my tongue.

If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,

the Lord would not have listened.

But truly God has listened;

and heeded the words of my prayer.

Blessed are you, O God, who reject not our prayer

nor take from us your steadfast love.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

   as it was in the beginning is now, and will be forever, Amen

 

The First Lesson:         Isaiah 41:17-20                  The Lord Will Answer

When the poor and needy seek water,

and there is none,

and their tongue is parched with thirst,

I the Lord will answer them,

I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

I will open rivers on the bare heights,

and fountains in the midst of the valleys;

I will make the wilderness a pool of water,

and the dry land springs of water.

I will put in the wilderness the cedar,

the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive;

I will set in the desert the cypress,

the plane and the pine together,

so that all may see and know,

all may consider and understand,

that the hand of the Lord has done this,

the Holy One of Israel has created it.

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

 

Hymn: O Jesus, crowned with all renown         Benson

Hymnal 1982 #292

O Jesus, crowned with all renown,

since thou the earth hast trod,

thou reignest and by thee come down

henceforth the gifts of God.

 

Thine is the health and thine the wealth

that in our halls abound,

and thine the beauty and the joy

with which the years are crowned.

 

Lord, in their change, let frost and heat,

and winds and dews be given;

all fostering power, all influence sweet,

breathe from the bounteous heaven.

Attemper fair with gentle air

the sunshine and the rain,

that kindly earth with timely birth

may yield her fruits again:

 

That we may feed the poor aright,

and, gathering round thy throne,

here, in the holy angels’ sight,

repay thee of thine own:

 

That we may praise thee all our days,

and with the Father’s Name,

and with the Holy Spirit’s gifts,

the Savior’s love proclaim.

 

The Second Lesson:           1 Peter 3:8-18                Repay With a Blessing

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. For  ‘Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit; let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.

But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

 

Hymn: As those of old their first fruits brought  von Christierson

Hymnal 1982 #705

As those of old their first fruits brought

of vineyard, flock, and field

to God, the giver of all good,

the source of bounteous yield;

so we today our first fruits bring,

the wealth of this good land,

of farm and market, shop and home,

of mind, and heart, and hand.

 

A world in need now summons us

to labor, love, and give;

to make our life an offering

to God that all may live;

the Church of Christ is calling us

to make the dream come true:

a world redeemed by Christ-like love;

all life in Christ made new.

 

With gratitude and humble trust

we bring our best to thee

to serve thy cause and share thy love

with all humanity.

O thou who gavest us thyself

in Jesus Christ thy Son,

help us to give ourselves each day

until life’s work is done.

 

The Gospel Lesson:              John 15:1-8                 I am the Vine

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

 

Sermon: So…What’s a Rogation?[2]

What’s a rogation? First of all, it’s not “a rogation” but “rogation.” In simplest terms, it means asking for something. The word “rogation” comes from the Latin word rogatio, “asking” and rogare, “to ask.” A Rogation Day is one in which the people “beseech… God for the appeasement of his anger and for protection from calamities.”[3] Rogation Sunday, coming between the Sundays of Easter, Good Shepherd, Ascension, and Pentecost, reminds us that for all God’s grace and redemptive glory, that we’re not out of the woods yet, and that waters as calm as a mill-pond can stir and roil again.

Rogation, rogatio: asking. Asking God for help, and imaging that God might be angry with us for some reason, has gone on for a while. We call it prayer, but it’s a particular kind of prayer, one we might also call supplication. Prayers can also focus on thanksgiving, blessing, dedication, invocation, acknowledgement, celebration, or remembrance. One does not always pray, for example, “Jesus, take the wheel” – but instead “Jesus, thank God you’re driving.”

Before people prayed as we now do to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one and undivided Trinity for release from calamity, they prayed to such gods as the ancient Romans’ Robigus, “the deity of agricultural disease” (ibid.) to do it. A Robigalia was a procession asking this god to remove various forms of wheat rust fungi, and involved sacrificing, of all things, a dog. Why? I have no idea. Nowadays farmers use and cultivate for rust-resistant genes to do the trick, though if the various dogs in your life make themselves scarce on Rogation Days, and particularly during Rogation Processions, which the church adapted from the Robigalia, now you know why.

Rogation Days make their appearance every April and May, much as do dogwood flowers, bullfrogs, and oak pollen. The first of those months, April, as T.S. Eliot wrote in The Waste Land, is the cruelest month. Why? Well, to him it was because that month breeds, as he put it, “lilacs out of the dead land,” returning life with all its pains and trials to a world that had been resting peacefully in the dead of winter, when there ain’t much goin’ on. While it may take a bitter or shattered mind to see in spring flowers a sign of the cycle of life-as-misery, rebirth and suffering, that is what he saw; all this has happened before, and all this will happen again.

One can see the point, as others have, in rage and grief. “Get thee to a nunnery,” Hamlet rails at Ophelia, his once and eternal beloved. “Why would’st thou be a breeder of sinners?” Well, when you look at it that way…but even Paul said it were better to marry than to burn – and where there’s life, there’s hope, even if also loss, grief, confusion, and tears.

April and May can be cruel months, if only because of the changeable weather and the pollen, but it is the absence or slowness of life in springtime that can cause the most suffering. In northern Europe, springtime wasn’t so much a time to worry about wheat rust, say, but famine – reminding me of Gandhi’s insight that “there are some people in the world who are so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”[4]. In the north, spring comes late, and in times of scarcity – almost every year, historically – food from the last harvest was running out, and none of the new crops had produced much to eat. Such food as there was, was young – lambs or goat-kids, if you were lucky – and scarce. Springtime was the time of famine – and, with rising temperatures, the time for diseases to burst their icy winter confines as well.

So, what to do? Figure out who or what is responsible and get them to fix it. Gods, particularly in their role as metaphors for things we can’t understand or control, are convenient to place in this role – though they can be hard to appease. However, one we find or imagine some wrong to be somehow the fault, or at least the work, of a god, we would naturally spend a lot of energy trying to figure out how to appease him, her, it, them, whatever. Perhaps for this reason Rogation Processions, and the various prayers and supplications offered on Rogation Days, go on. During these, priests typically wear violet vestments and go out to bless new-sown fields and crops, and walk about with sticks ‘beating the bounds,’ or boundaries, of the parish to ensure its protection for the coming year. Better beat the bounds than the dogs, I agree – but from what did the parish need protection?

You name it: angry gods, vicious pests, hail, fungi, bacteria, viruses, war, too much rain, too little rain, incompetent rulers, malevolent leaders, bad cooks, wild horses, banks calling loans in when people can’t pay —  and, perhaps most of all, human weakness, malice, and folly. Too many people live and work selfishly and to others’ harm – as armed and angry protestors of late have reminded us, people carrying signs saying “My freedom is worth more than your safety,” or forcing the legislature of Michigan to shut down with behavior that anywhere else and by anyone else would be treated as armed rebellion and terrorism. Too many live foolishly, crying out without any sense of irony, “Give me liberty or give me death” as they insist an ice cream parlor or nail salon reopen for their convenience, risking the deaths as well as the freedoms of those whom they’d force back to work. Too many live in hate, as those did who stalked and murdered a jogger out for a run near his own home – a man who was doing nothing wrong. Too many of us live in fear, not knowing what to do in the face of divisiveness and lies, of the politics of gaslighting, polarization, distraction, and division – in the face of those who have looked the unpleasant truths of this pandemic and the US response to it in the face and decided to pretend all is well and blame everybody else for problems they created or exacerbated and now refuse to solve or even address. We’ve done worse at this on the national level than almost any other country on earth, and those most responsible for this situation have (as far as I can tell) paid no price, given no quarter, suffered almost nothing, and show no signs of changing or trying to be helpful, honest, forthright, or even humane. If the gods were angry at us for tolerating all this, and had cursed us for it, one could hardly blame them. Yet viruses do not need the gods to help them do their dirty work – just human weakness, malice, and folly.

O Lord, make speed to save us, we pray during Compline. O Lord, make haste to help us. On Rogation Sunday, and every day, this is our prayer.

People of faith, or those who wish they had faith, have for centuries in times like these turned to prayer, asking whatever God or gods they believed in for help, and asking what they had to do to make bad things or people stop. Was God angry? If so, at what? Did God’s inscrutable will and mercy extend to allowing famines, pandemics, and other catastrophes to strike people – and, if so, why? What are we to do about it? If you’re trying to get our attention, Lord, you got it. But, please, when you have a moment, tell us: what exactly do you want us to do?

We confess each week, now, that “God is love.” When we read our questions in that light, they sound bizarre. Can Love be angry? If so, at what? Does Love will that we starve, contract diseases, suffer from earthquakes or fall down wells? Of course it doesn’t. Therefore, we understand, God doesn’t. We might rail with all propriety against weakness, malice, and folly when we see our loved ones suffer and die, or see the wicked prosper, justice fail, or the good done wrong. Love would have us do so, and therefore God would have us do so.

But the question remains: what else are we to do? One clue – actually, many clues – lie in the words of 1st Peter that we heard today:

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8

Or, as the Gospel of John has it: “Love one another, as I [Jesus] have loved you” and “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

We must build communities and relationships with all of this at their center. Cultivating this spirit and these virtues remains my highest priority, as does figuring out how to bear effective witness to it and to them, against those forces, be they malicious or despairing, that sap our strength and befuddle our will.

We start with something small. Here is a beautiful mask-wearing blessing which a parishioner shared online, and which I share here. It’s in a style typical of Jewish prayers; I’ll do my best with the Hebrew. It is always a mitzvah – a good thing – to do what we can to help people live well. It is always a good thing, as well as a command, to save a life where we can, or at least to try.

We have seen this various parts of the US and around the world lift some or all of the conditions of physical and social distancing that scientists and public health officials continue to warn us are essential to fighting the spread of Covid-19. This is happening even polls show most people want the protective measures to continue, and effective measures taken to make testing and contract tracing more widely available and to use our nation’s wealth to alleviate the suffering of those who are ill and of those who don’t have enough money right now to meet their needs. We are blessed that our state, local, and church leaders continue to maximize health and safety, trusting us and enabling us to protect ourselves as well as can from a disease with few effective treatments and no known cure. We must continue to do what we can to stay safe at home, and as safe as we can be when we must go out to work or shop or exercise, tend to those in need, or clear our minds, mindful that we do so to protect the most vulnerable among us, not only ourselves. We must strengthen our communities and relationships in ways that are compatible with doing so.

Also, as an article this week by George Monbiot in the British newspaper The Guardian said, as we live into the new realities of the pandemic and its aftermath, we may well need to change our ways of thinking, teaching, and training to better match reality and human needs.

He writes, “In an age in which we urgently need to cooperate, we are educated for individual success in competition with others.” Education, we’re told, is for getting ahead, individually and as a nation, and the devil take the hindmost. “But,” the article goes on, “nobody wins the human race. What we are encouraged to see as economic success ultimately means planetary ruin.”[5] The article goes on to say that a significant majority of people want education to “prioritize health and wellbeing ahead of growth when we emerge from the pandemic,” and to this end the author offers insights on how to craft an ecological education. The concept is to put “ecology and Earth systems at the heart of learning, just as they are at the heart of life,” and the focus is on “project-based learning, centered on the living world.”

We enjoy in the US and many other societies shaped by the Enlightenment a freedom of religion, and a freedom of speech, that are as welcome as they have been, historically, rare. This means we have the freedom to choose when to speak and when to be silent; which God or gods to worship, if any, and by what reasonable means we wish. This is in so many ways a blessing that it can make us forget an imperative that is at the heart of those freedoms: to treat one another as we would be treated, to use no-one as a means to an end, but to understand that each person has intrinsic value, inherent worth, is a person, not a thing. It is to remember that, though our lives are mortal, with their beginnings and their endings, no life is unnecessary, none expendable, none superfluous, and none worth risking so that others might live in ease or in murderous luxury. I am as guilty as the next person of wanting my ease and my creature comforts, and rationalizing why it’s alright for me to have them in a world where many cannot. Sometimes I am shocked by how quickly humor or solidarity in railing against what I cannot stand eases my mind and makes it easy to do no more than speak out in relative safety; laugh in scorn at things I maybe, just maybe could change if I wasn’t satisfied with just laughing; and in the privilege of staying-at-home in this sunlit, open space believe I’m making a difference.

To the extent that physical distancing helps slow the spread of the virus, I am. To the extent that our worship and gatherings help nourish all of you, I hope I am. Yet I am increasingly mindful of the many things in our society that this virus has revealed are not as they ought to be, and of how the faith we share and the Enlightened polity we inherited compel us to challenge and repair them.

For now, however, wearing a mask around others and keeping six feet away, staying aware of what’s going on and helping others do so, and reminding us all to love one another with a tender heart and a humble mind will have to do. It’s a start.

Let me end with a prayer: Almighty and merciful God, on this Rogation Sunday, I ask you for the strength to do as you command, to follow where you lead, to love our fellow human beings as you love us. As we beat the metaphorical bounds of our parish, let us flush out all manner of wrongs, reminding the world that we are here to serve you, whose love protects us, and whose grace makes us whole. Amen.

 

A Statement of Faith, A Song of God’s Love (1 John 4:7-11)

 

Beloved, let us love one another, *

for love is of God.

Whoever does not love does not know God, *

for God is Love.

In this the love of God was revealed among us, *

that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

In this is love, not that we loved God but that God loved us *

and sent his Son that sins might be forgiven.

Beloved, since God loved us so much, *

we ought also to love one another.

For if we love one another, God abides in us, *

and God’s love will be perfected in us.

 

A Collect for the 6th Sunday of Easter

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

A Collect for Vocation

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

A Collect for Rogation Days 

O God, who has placed us as your children in a world you have created for us and for all who live upon it: Give us thankful hearts as we work and as we pray. We praise you for the day of light and life, for the night which brings rest and sleep, and for the ordered course of nature, seedtime and harvest. We bless you for the joy of children and for the wisdom of age. We thank you for all the holy and humble of heart, for the love which shines forth in our lives, and above all for the vision of you, in loneliness and in fellowship, in Sacrament and in prayer, now and for evermore. Amen.

A Prayer after St. Alphonsus

O Jesus, you are present to us in the blessed sacrament. We love you above all things, and desire to receive you into our souls. Since we cannot at this time share your sacrament, let your spirit dwell within our hearts. Let us welcome you as one already with us, making us one body and one spirit, never to be parted from you. Amen.

 

Hymn: All creatures of our God and king​​        St. Francis​​    Hymnal 1982 #400

All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voices, let us sing: Alleluia, alleluia!

Bright burning sun with golden beams, pale silver moon that gently gleams,

O praise him, O praise him, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

 

Dear mother earth, you day by day unfold your blessings on our way, O praise him, alleluia!

All flowers and fruits that in you grow, let them his glory also show:

O praise him, O praise him, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

 

All you with mercy in your heart, forgiving others, take your part, O sing now, alleluia!

All you that pain and sorrow bear, praise God, and cast on him your care:

O praise him, O praise him, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

 

Let all things their creator bless, and worship him in humbleness, O praise him, alleluia!

Praise God the Father, praise the Son, and praise the Spirit, Three in One:

O praise him, O praise him, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Blessing

May the Lord God bless you and keep you, may he make his face to shine upon you, bless your comings and your goings, and guide your feet into the way of peace. Amen.

 

Hymn: Spirit of the Living God    Daniel Iverson, alt.

Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.

Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.

Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.

Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.

 

About Episcopal Worship and this Easter Service

The Sixth Sunday of Easter is also known as Rogation Sunday. The sermon text captures much of what this Sunday means, so there’s no need to repeat that here. On this day of asking God for release from afflictions and calamities, we remember that God is merciful, slow to anger and full of righteousness. When in doubt of what to ask God for, or whether to ask at all, remember to ask in love, and for the grace to love as he first loved us.

All Easter worship is designed to have the congregation gather for prayer, lessons, the Eucharist, and song. In times of contagion and quarantine, the community may not gather or share the Eucharist. We have adapted this service to the conditions of the time, celebrating Morning Prayer in the Presence of the Reserved Sacrament, honoring God with our daily office prayers, thanksgivings, lessons, canticles, and hymns.

This booklet is designed for you to use on your own, in addition to being a guide to worship online. The readings, prayers, and liturgies are taken or adapted from those in The Book of Common Prayer, The Book of Occasional Services, Enriching Our Worship 1, and the hymnals. You will find links to these resources below.

 

Resources (available for free online)

Book of Common Prayer, www.bcponline.org

Enriching Our Worship 1, https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-1/enrichingourworship1.pdf

Enriching Our Worship 2,

https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-2/enrichingourworship2.pdf

These resources contain the prayers and worship services used in The Episcopal Church and by Episcopalians in their daily devotions.

The Revised Common Lectionary and Daily Office, https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/

This source shows the readings assigned for use in Sunday worship and for daily office use for each day of the year, with links to online biblical texts.

Hymnal 1982: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/EH1982

Hymnal 1940: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/HPEC1940

 

The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org

Episcopal News Service: www.episcopalnewsservice.org

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington: www.edow.org

St. Mark’s, Fairland: www.stmarks-silverspring.org

 

A Prayer in Times of Sickness and Contagion

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health, source of all wisdom and peace: Comfort and relieve your servants who suffer from sickness or fear, give your power of healing to those who minister to their needs, and let your grace be with all those who work to protect us from contagion and disease. May we be strengthened against any weakness, sickness, fear, and doubt, and place our confidence in your loving care through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

[1] 1 Corinthians 5:7-8; Romans 6:9-11

[2] Sermon copyright © Christopher Wilkins. All rights reserved. Distribution is permitted so long as authorship is acknowledged.

[3] Cf. Wikipedia, “Rogation Days”.

[4]Cf. Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/40054-there-are-people-in-the-world-so-hungry-that-god

[5] George Monbiot, “Coronavirus shows us it’s time to rethink. Let’s start with education.” The Guardian, May 12, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/12/coronavirus-education-pandemic-natural-world-ecology.