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Sunday 22nd March 2020 “Mothering Sunday”
Welcome and Introduction
Welcome to our Mothering Sunday Service. Today is a special time to thank God for mothers and all who help our families to flourish and grow well. It’s also a time to celebrate our church family where we are all united together as brothers and sisters in Christ, with God as our perfect heavenly parent.
Call to Worship
We gather together to worship
our loving, nurturing God,
who, like a mother,
knows us intimately,
loves us unconditionally,
teaches us the way we should go,
and comforts us in times of need.
This is our God… Let us pray…
Loving God, on this special day we thank you for our own mothers and mothers everywhere.
We thank you for all they do or once did, all they give or once gave, all they mean and will always mean.
Grant to all mothers your wisdom, your guidance, your patience and your support.
We thank you for all the people in our lives, men and women young and old who have cared for us and helped us to be who we are today.
We thank you for all the people who are presently caring for us in all of the disruption and isolation that the Covid 19 outbreak has brought to our lives.
We thank you that you love us like a perfect mother and that you watch over us every moment of every day, seeking our best, concerned about our progress, equipping us for the journey of life.
Thank you that you are always there when we need you, ready to comfort, encourage and reassure, slow to punish and swift to bless.
Gracious God, we call you “Our Father” but equally you are “Our Mother”. Help us to learn what that means and to rejoice in that truth.
Lord of love, hear our prayer, for we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Join with me now as we thoughtfully and sincerely say the Lord’s prayer together. And so we say…
The Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
Introduction to bible readings
In light of the day that’s in it, I thought I would read you two passages of scripture which demonstrate for us what the spirit of mothering Sunday is all about. In the first passage from Exodus we see how the amazing compassion, courage and unselfishness of Pharaoh’s daughter causes her to rescue an abandoned Hebrew baby from the river to care for it as her own. She knew in doing so she would be going against the express wish of her father. What she didn’t know was that she would also be answering the prayers of the child’s mother and that one day this child would become a mighty leader of the nation of Israel.
In the second reading we see the care and compassion shown by the women in Jesus life along with his dear friend John. They all supported him right up until the end even when many of his oher followers had deserted him out of fear.
Bible Readings – Two Examples of Motherly Care
Exodus 2 v 1-10 The Birth of Moses
Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, 2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket[a] for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.
5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female servant to get it. 6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.
7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”
8 “Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses,[b] saying, “I drew him out of the water.”
John 19 v 25b -27 Care for Jesus at the Cross
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,[a] here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Reflection- What’s in a name?
Today is widely known in society as ‘Mother’s Day’. Having said that, within the Christian church, historically it is really supposed to be called ‘Mothering Sunday’. Now in one sense I personally don’t mind if we call it ‘mother’s day’ or ‘mothering Sunday’ as long as we remember that within the Christian church this day was never meant to be solely about mothers. The original meaning of mothering Sunday was to celebrate and remind ourselves of our privilege and duty of ‘mothering’ or caring for one another.
The day itself evolved from the medieval tradition of visiting your home congregation or mother-church and taking an offering for presentation at the altar there. This ‘Mothering Sunday’ was always celebrated half way through Lent and so it was also called ‘Mid-Lenting Day’. It was a special day off from fasting and so was known by a third title of ‘Refreshment Sunday’ or ‘Laetare Sunday’ from the Latin word for “Rejoice”. It was only in Victorian times that this evolved into the tradition where sons and daughters who lived and worked away from home visited their families for the day, and brought small gifts for their mothers.
Despite all that’s good about mothering Sunday it’s important for us to acknowledge that this is a day on which some people find coming to church at all very difficult. For some women and men this day will resurrect deep seated personal griefs and sorrows. Quiet tears will be shed by many today. Tears of those who never knew their mothers, tears for children who have died, tears of parents who have been rejected by their children, tears of children who were treated badly by their parents, tears for the relationships that never happened, tears for the children that never were. All in all, Mothering Sunday is always a day of mixed emotions.
Despite this, Mothering Sunday is a unique day in the church year when we celebrate and thank God for our mothers, for the churches we grew up in, and when we celebrate even more the huge army of people who have cared for and continue to ‘mother’ us.
There is an old African proverb which says, “It takes a village to raise a child”. Certainly this was the experience of the OT hero Moses. In our OT reading we see a picture of the infant Moses receiving love, care and nurture from not one, but three mother figures – All of us can relate to that as we think back over our lives. Each one of us needs so much love, care and encouragement. We are grateful for all the family members, friends, teachers and mentors who have helped us to become the people we are today. And I know, as a father, even though I do my best, my children would have a raw deal in life if they were solely relying on me. So it’s right to thank God for their mum, their grandparents, their friends, their Sunday school teachers and youth leader, coaches and teachers for all the ways they have helped in their development.
So much mothering given and received, - and that's just how it should be. Life is often messy, never perfect, - and families are just the same ...whatever the greetings card industry might like us to believe.
But the message today is that family exists where people are loving towards one another – not just where there are mum, dad and children.
Our gospel reading shows us how that sort of family can be created...as Jesus asks his mother to look after his best friend, and that friend to look after his mother.
He knows that he won't be there to care for either of them but wants the best for both of them...so here, even while he's telling John that Mary is now his mum, and Mary that John is to be her son, it's mostly Jesus that does the mothering.
You see, you really don't have to be a woman, let alone a mother, to share in this important work of caring and creating family and community. It's something we can all do...
Jesus brings a new family to birth through his loving care and the family he establishes is the family that's here today...the Church.
In this family, we can and should share in the work of mothering...
That is what we celebrate today.
Mothering Sunday is about all those who mother us, women, men and children – those who care for us, who teach us and help us to grow. We go on needing people like that whether we're 5 or 50 or 85.
So let's ask God to help us to share his work of mothering, of loving and caring for one another, especially at this time of worldwide upheaval that has been caused by the Corona virus.
Of course we have to keep our social distance to prevent the further spread of this virus and to ensure that those who are most vulnerable are kept safe.
But at the same time, there will be people who may be in particular need who may need some shopping done for them or who may be lonely or in self isolation and would appreciate a phone call.
On this mothering Sunday, thank God for all those who care for us and take a moment in prayer to ask, “Lord who are you calling me to care for at this time and how best might I do that given the circumstances and the restrictions that have been advised.”
If you are in particular need please don’t hesitate to contact me – my number is on the church website.
Let's make our church and our community a true family where all are welcome and all are cared for.
Introduction to prayers for others
We are going to spend a few moments now praying for others. Our focus will be particularly for those who are mothers, for those who have lost their mothers or have been separated from their children and for all of us to continue to show motherly care to each other particularly at this very difficult time of social distancing. Please feel free to include those people who you are particularly concerned about….Let us pray…
Prayers for Others
Gracious God, you know what it is to love your children – to watch over them tenderly, anxiously, proudly and constantly. You know what this means, for you have called us your children, and you care for each of us as deeply as a mother cares for her child. So now we pray for those entrusted with the responsibility of motherhood – all those who watch over their children in the same way, with the same feelings and intensity. Grant to each one your wisdom, guidance and strength. Lord of love, hear our prayer
We pray especially for single mothers – those faced with the challenge of raising a child or children on their own, with no one else to share the demands or joys of parenthood. Give to each of them patience, devotion and dedication. Lord of love, hear our prayer
We pray for those who have lost their mothers or never known them, those orphaned as children or given up for adoption, those whose mothers have died, or for whom this day brings pain rather than pleasure. Grant them your comfort, your support and the assurance of your love always with them. Lord of love, hear our prayer
We pray for those who are separated from their children – those whose children have moved far from home, those who have suffered a miscarriage or been through an abortion, those who have endured the agony of a child’s death. Give to them your help, your solace and a hope for the future. Lord of love, hear our prayer.
We pray too for all those who wish to be mothers or fathers but who have not been able to conceive. Heal their pain and comfort their sorrow. Give them grace, and show them a way forward.
Gracious God, you understand what mothers face, what they give, what they feel. Accept our thanks for them this day, and grant them your special blessing.
And on this day, inspired by the example of mothers throughout our world, we are reminded that we are all called to care for each other. So we ask that at this time of crisis, you will give us all wisdom to know how best to support, encourage and care not just for our families but also our neighbours, especially those who are most vulnerable.
We pray that you will give courage, protection and strength to everyone working within our GPs surgeries, our hospitals and in our care homes. Thank you so much for all that these people are doing and the great sacrifices that they are making on our behalf.
We think too of all those who are most vulnerable and who are fearful. Grant us wisdom to know what part we can play in bringing your comfort and help to those who need it most.
Continue to guide our government and senior health advisers in all the decisions they must make.
Give wisdom and special insight to those who are currently working to produce a vaccine for this virus.
What we pray for ourselves and our country, we pray for everyone throughout our world especially all who are anxious, vulnerable, grieving or sick at this time.
Lord of love, hear our prayers,
In the name of Christ. Amen.
It’s been a joy and privilege to share in worship with you this morning. Thanks for tuning in. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and found it to be encouraging. If you’re a mum may I wish you a very happy mother’s day. Don’t forget to look at our church website or on facebook for latest information and to log on to listen to another broadcast next Sunday when we will be eavesdropping on another amazing encounter in the life of our Lord Jesus. So let me close with a benediction after which I invote you to join me in saying the grace together…
Let us leave this time of quiet contemplation rejoicing in our family on earth and our family the church. As the children of God let us take his love into our world that others may also rejoice and be part of his family….
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore, Amen.