Saturday, 23 April 2011

Intercessions for Palm Sunday

INTERCESSIONS – Richard Foster

Let Us Pray

On this Palm Sunday, as we celebrate our Lord's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, we ask that he may triumph also in our hearts. Let your grace and mercy enter us and let us give joyful thanks to all that he has done for us, this week and for ever more.

In your mercy
Hear our prayer

Let us pray for Our Church

Dear and Merciful Lord,

As we enter Holy Week we pray for all those who minister to us at this special time – especially Derek, Robert and Roger. We thank you for their hard work and commitment, and pray that those who attend special services will receive your spirit and be filled with your love.

As the mystery and beauty of your love for us becomes revealed through the death, resurrection and triumph of your Son, our saviour, Jesus Christ, help us all to proclaim your word and to use this time to demonstrate the meaning of your gospel message to all we meet.

In your mercy
Hear our prayer

Let us pray for Our world

We pray to you, Dear Lord, for the world around us, for your creation and for all humanity.

We pray for the work of everyone who strives to bring love, safety and comfort to other people.

Our world seems at time to be utterly without peace or sanctuary. We are forever assaulted by images and stories of war, terror, injustice and fear.

So we pray to you, merciful God, that you will help us see the good in all things

To see the peace that is possible in situations of violence and conflict

To see the love that can triumph over hatred

To See the hope that comes from doing your work

And to see the beauty of your creation in situations that seem to be only dark and forgotten.

In the war-torn parts of this world, in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Palestine, in the Ivory Coast and in Libya and many other places we pray that you will send your spirit and your light to those who cannot yet see it, and that you will guide those who have the power to act, to act in your name, for the sake of all humanity and not simply for their own benefit.

Strengthen our faith that your Kingdom will come, that we can build a peaceful and harmonious world through proclaiming your name and acting according to the message you taught us through the Gospel.

In your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Let us pray for our village

All knowing, all seeing Lord, we bring before you the hopes and fears of our own neighbourhood, that you may bless our lives and give us all strength and inspiration as we go about our daily lives.

Guide us as we grow and have to make choices.

Sustain those who's jobs may be under threat.

Help our young people as they embark on a period of exams: we ask that you help them all focus on their revision and encourage them in their hard work at this important time for then

Shine your light on all our lives as we seek to know you and share your love. We pray that you will help us live and work in our diverse culture and to include everyone in proclaiming your name.

In your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Let us pray for The sick and departed

Dear and gracious God, we pause to think of those in our lives who experience suffering, ill health, isolation and loneliness.

Help those in difficulty feel your love in their hearts, that they may not fear the future.

Comfort them and sustain them in their need.

We pray for                                                               .

And for any others we know

Let us pray for the souls of those who have died and for the bereaved

Dear Lord,

You sent your son to shine as a light in our lives. Help us to see that this light shines eternal, and that death cannot extinguish it.

We remember those who have died and who now see your light in its full glory, and our prayers go to those who grieve for their loss. Help them to see your light

We think especially of                            and family as they mourn the death of                                  .

And for any others we know.

And also those for whom this is the anniversary of their death

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Dear Lord,

As we celebrate Palm Sunday,

Inspire us to see hope in ourselves and our lives and to glorify your name

As we struggle to make sense of the choices life lays before us, guide each one of us and teach us that the future is filled with potential, that what may seem futile can bring forth beauty and love, and that there is always a light shining for us, even when our lives can seem darkened by worry or fear.

That with your light and in your name we can build your kingdom.

Merciful father
Accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our saviour
Jesus Christ.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

A new command I give you

Liturgy for Maundy Thursday – St Giles Church, Cheddington 8pm

Gospel John 13.1-17,31b-35

Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet

1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

   Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Sermon notes

Maundy Thursday – two primary traditions in Scripture. One – Jesus took bread – institution of Eucharist. Two – a new command I give you. Year of Matthew – synoptic gospels recount last supper – familiar words echoed in Eucharistic prayers. Matthean gospel read in full during Easter, so Johannine account set by lectionary for Maundy Thursday.

Meal John describes – not a Passover meal. In John – Jesus dies on Day of Preparation for Passover. This is when Passover lambs are killed. Chronology is less important than what is being said.

Lovely phrase – offers comfort to us. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. Jesus knows time has come. Return to Father. Prepares disciples for crucifixion. John prepares readers for death of Christ.

New command – mandatum. Derivation of Maundy. This new command only understood in context of Jesus’ relationship with disciples. Us.

John says Jesus knows all power given to him by Father. How does he wield? …so he gets up from table and takes off outer garment. Fastens towel and washes feet. Like – receives all power, divests, becomes servant of all. Acts as only a slave could. Not even a servant would touch feet, let alone a master.

Deliberate. Hour has come – but John is clear Jesus is in control. His actions measured, meaningful. Told in the way we can learn from the symbolic act – and put what we learned into practice for ourselves.

A new commandment I give you. Acted out. What is it? Love one another – but in special way. His actions all dictated by love. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

Meal is a love feast. Agape. Love does not stand on ceremony. Does whatever needs be done. Service. Humility. Debasement, even. Ultimately, the cross.

The is salvation played out before our very eyes. Arms open wide on the cross. God’s arms embrace hostile world. Everything turned upside down. Power displayed through weakness. Authority and dominion through humiliation. Grace – the word we use for it. Amazing grace.

As one theologian has said:
This night, then, not only introduces to the meaning of the Lord's Supper, but indeed the whole Passion and is therefore worthy of remembrance and proclamation as we listen to, wait, and watch for the promised deliverance of the nations that Jesus' death and resurrection are about to accomplish. Amen

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Palm Sunday

First Reading Isaiah 50.4-9a

The servant of the LORD said:

4The Lord GOD has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens –
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
5The Lord GOD has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backwards.
6I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.
7The Lord GOD helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
8he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
9It is the Lord GOD who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
All of them will wear out like a garment;
the moth will eat them up.

Gospel Matthew 21.1-11

Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory.
Christ humbled himself and became obedient unto death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him
and given him the name that is above every name.
All Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory.

When the Gospel is announced the reader says
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.

As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to the Daughter of Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.


Palm Sunday.
How many Palm Sunday sermons have we all heard? How many times have we sat in the pews, at the start of Holy Week, hearing a story we have heard so often, yet wondering if, this year, God will say something new to us?

For me, I try not to look back at what I said last year, or the year before. It doesn’t help, and it doesn’t encourage me to start afresh and see the Triumphal Entry from a new angle. So I thought I would do two things: one – forget about what we now know, and think about what seemed to be happening at the time; and two, look at the events from the point of view of the minor characters, like the man who owned the donkey, the disciples told to go and fetch it, or the onlookers.

Why do we the events of Palm Sunday seem cosy, non-threatening, almost like a street carnival with a donkey for a float, a cheerful man waving to the crowds, and everybody cheering? Is it our sheer familiarity with the narrative, the presence of the donkey, the chant-like shouts of Hosanna, or the absence of any mention of opposition? What were the Romans doing? What about the Temple police and the authorities?

This was no carnival. This was a demonstration by rebels who wanted to overthrow the unholy alliance between Rome and the self-serving Jewish authorities. This was an invasion.

We’ve heard of many invasions in our lifetimes, however old or young we might be. In fact, since WW2 there has been an average of one major invasion a year. Jerusalem, the heartland of the Roman province of Judaea, the boiling cauldron of dissent, the tinderbox of uprising, was being invaded by a troublesome faction of religious fanatics.

Or perhaps you might prefer to call it an uprising. Like Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, or China. Think of how repressive regimes deal with threats to their power. Then consider that many of the world’s most cruel modern day powers don’t even approach the worst excesses of Rome, where thousands of crucifixions took place in a single day.

Jesus and his followers were already condemned. They were marked men. It was only that, in the full light of day, a worse insurrection would have resulted from his arrest as they entered Jerusalem peacefully that held the authorities back from intervening.

Suddenly the story of the donkey and the Hosannas doesn’t sound so friendly, does it?

Minor characters
Just think of the risks taken by anyone in any way associated with the one who claimed to be Messiah, the anointed one, who would overthrow the occupying forces and return Israel to its former glory.

The man who owned the donkey, and secretly provided it for Jesus’ use in fulfilment of the prophecy of Zechariah. Someone might have recognised whose animal it was. If the disciples had been stopped, they were to declare that it was Jesus who wanted it.

Think of the words of the prophet. “See, your king comes to you...” Everyone in Jerusalem would have understood the symbolism of the colt. No one would have been in any doubt about what Jesus and his followers were claiming to be.

The inner circle of disciples were fired up to expect war. A war the prophets had predicted would be won. It was only a day or so beforehand that the wife of Zebedee had come to Jesus asking for her sons to sit at his right and left hand in his new kingdom.

The people who shouted hosanna and lined the processional route into Jerusalem risked arrest if things turned nasty. There must have been guards and soldiers on duty. What happened in Parliament Square was nothing compared with the might of Rome turned against a factious mob.

The dark side of the gospel
The trouble is, and always has been the way Easter falls, many of us who faithfully attend church on Sundays but miss out on Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday pass directly from the hosannas of Palm Sunday to the light and clamour of Easter Day. From rejoicing to rejoicing. From light to light – without any of the darkness in between.

This tends to distort our perspective on the dark side of the gospel. The Passion of the Christ came close to pornography in my view when it spent so long graphically depicting the scourging and torture of Jesus prior to his execution, but still I can see what Mel Gibson wanted to achieve, and the balance he sought to redress.

My challenge this year
So my challenge this year is that we should all try and come to one of the Holy Week services, in addition to today’s service or Easter Day itself.

There’s a short communion service at 8pm on Maundy Thursday. On Good Friday there’s the all-age service with a dramatized gospel play told from the perspective of Claudia, the wife of Pontius Pilate. Then in the afternoon there’s the wonderful choral offering by the Camerata Choir made up of 16 – 18 year olds that had such an impact on us all last year.

Jesus the prophet
The main point of this all is to move us on from where we are to where we might be. Like the crowds who shouted on Palm Sunday. When asked who this was, they said “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. “ By Thursday, they were calling for his execution.

Today we are celebrating Jesus the coming one, the Messiah. How will we move on come Thursday or Friday? And what will we say, in answer to the same question, by next Sunday? Amen

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Love and Death

St Giles Cheddington 10 April 2011 LENT 5

First Reading Ezekiel 37.1-14

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me to and fro among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’”

Gospel John 11.1-45

Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory.
Christ humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him
and given him the name that is above every name.
All Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory.

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.

Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.”

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

Jesus wept.

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.”

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.


Our society obsessed by death. News. Detective, crime series. CSI. War.

Ezekiel little read. Full of macabre stories. Strange, violent, incomprehensible, even offensive. No wonder that Christians are mainly only aware of Dry Bones. Even immortalised in song. Dem bones hear the world of the Lord.

Ezekiel also misunderstood by contemporary audience. Spoke in parables and riddles. And in Valley of Dry Bones God poses his own. “Can these dry bones live?” Ezekiel sounds exasperated. “O Lord God, only you know.”

Why these bones?
We ask – why is valley full of bones? What did they die of? Why unburied? Ezekiel’s time desperate one. Famine, torture, despair. Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem – 2 years. Destroyed city, Temple, carried off into exile.

Bones belonged to those slain – described as sufficient for a vast army when life returned to them. May have been massacred, or ambushed, or confined in a defile and starved.

Horrifying picture – but, like Lazarus, symbolic – illustrates that, to God, new life can come about even in the face of total loss and despair.

Appropriate readings for Lent. We have to experience the troughs of seeming hopeless abandonment before we can appreciate and understand rising to new life.

Trouble is, many of us come to worship on Easter Day, having not attended any services on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday. We rejoice in resurrection and salvation without ever experiencing the anguish through which that new life came to fruition. Surely unless we go through the pain of loss and take up our cross with Christ during Holy Week, we have no contrast between the darkness of degradation, humiliation and pain and the light coming into the world post-resurrection? Maybe we can do better this year? Maybe we can sit for a short while in vigil as we contemplate the enormity of what we as a human race have done?

In John’s gospel, death and love woven together. John 15 for example:
12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

Or this from John 3:
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Story of Lazarus illustrates this. Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters. Yet seems to have deliberately delayed return when message came about his serious illness. Seems to have let them down at time of worst need.

Mary and Martha both love Jesus. Berate him each in their separate ways.”If you had been here, our brother would not have died.” They mean that Jesus could have healed him, had he returned in time.

Delay is understandable. Disciples did not want to return to Jerusalem at all. 2 attempts had already been made on his life by stoning him. Love and death inextricably linked. By coming to Bethany to visit his friend whose life is threatened, Jesus risks his own death.

But death did not overcome love. Jesus himself travelled in the light of day, and no one sought to arrest him. Nor did Lazarus remain in the tomb. Like Ezekiel’s dry bones, against all the odds Lazarus is called back to life.

Lazarus will die again. So will all humans. Jesus will not. In response to Martha, he says:
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
I AM – the name of God. Blasphemy to the Jews. Jesus is not only asserting what he will be, but claiming divinity. Do you believe? He asks. Yes, says Martha, you are the anointed one, the Christ.

This same love in the end leads to the cross. After this miracle, bystanders report Jesus to authorities. From this point, they start to plot his death. So love leads to death. One tomb to another. That’s the way of the cross.

Death and Life
Like Martha, Mary and Lazarus, we are in our own relationship with Christ. This means facing grief and death with him. Being there in the week before Easter, not just on Easter morning.

Yet we know, like Ezekiel and Lazarus, nothing is final, even in the complete absence of all hope. Nothing is ever dead for good. For the Christian, there is always hope in the future. Abundant life is always there in the end.

But we still have to endure. Endure the garden of Gethsemane. The torture. The cross. Knowing that if we endure with him, Easter will surely come. That’s our assurance. That’s our comfort. For if we walk with him in the garden of our own griefs, we will in the end meet with him again. Amen

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Mothering Sunday

First Reading Exodus 2.1-10

1A man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. 2The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him for three months. 3When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. 4His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him. 5The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. 6When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, ‘This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,’ she said. 7Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’

8Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Yes.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed it. 10When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, ‘because,’ she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’

Gospel John 19.25-27

Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory.
The Lord is a great God, O that today you would listen to his voice. Harden not your hearts.
All Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory.

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.

25Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ 27Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.


Mothering Sunday
What new to say that has not been said before?

Today we affirm the importance of motherhood, not only in our own lives but as the essential building block our family life, our society and our wellbeing and our flourishing as human beings.

Few things could underline the importance of motherhood as much as today’s gospel reading. John 19 – virtually last page of John’s gospel. Last para. before the one headed The Death of Jesus. It witnesses to his very last act on this earth. His last thought before saying “It is finished. “

Seeing his mother Mary standing near the cross, with her sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene and John – Jesus provides for her future by asking John to take her into his home and care for her. This would have been vital, since the fate of a widow unprovided for and without the protection of a husband or son was a bleak one in those days.

We all have mothers. Their relationship with us is bound to be closer than any father, however dear. Their commitment to us spans many years and is especially intimate. Their sacrifice to give us life and sustain it is unmatched by any other human being. So it’s right we should celebrate and mark Mothering Sunday. It’s appropriate we give thanks for our mothers.

Mother God
These very characteristics of motherhood mean that for many of us the love of a mother for her child is the closest human love we will ever know that is truly like the love of God for us, his children.

You may be shocked and recoil when occasionally some Christians refer to God as Mother. Of course, there’s no reason for the divine to have any gender assigned. In fact, there’s every reason for us not to think of God as either male or female for that matter.

But sometimes, our understanding is helped by making the link between God and the love of a woman, whether as mother or wife, sister or friend – whatever. The Bible does it often. There are far too many to list each one.

In Genesis, the Spirit of God broods over the waters in creation. In fact, the Holy Spirit is feminine throughout Scripture. In Isaiah, God is likened to a nursing mother. In Hosea, God is a mother caring for a difficult child. The Psalms are full of allusions to feminine characteristics for God. In one, we are portrayed as slave girls whose eyes are fixed on their mistress who is God.

Throughout Proverbs, Job, and in the Apocrypha and elsewhere God is Wisdom, and wisdom (Sophia) is feminine.

It’s not just the OT. In the gospels, Jesus likens his Father to a mother hen gathering her chicks, or a woman who sweeps the room to find her lost coin.

Some observers have suggested that whilst motherhood is honoured, it’s the traditional role of fathers that is under threat. In the UK, over 90% of lone parents are female. Psychologically, so much of what we become depends on the quality of our childhood, and for many of us the predominant role model is that of our mother.

In the church’s calendar, Mothering Sunday is a religious festival, whereas Father’s Day is merely commercial. It explains why most churches seek to make Mothering Sunday into much more of a family celebration than one centred on motherhood alone. It also seeks to involve those of us who no longer have mothers who are still living.

Mother and Father
Much of the Bible’s teaching applies equally to fathers and mothers. Honour your father and mother is 5th commandment in Exodus 20. Jesus repeated this commandment in the gospels – honour your father and mother, and love your neighbour as yourself.

Even so, Jesus’ own mother was not allowed to divert him from his mission. In Mark 3:

31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mother Church
Coupled with our celebration of motherhood, and refreshment at the mid-point of Lent is our place in the mother Church of which we are members. This is the church that is both the bride of Christ, and our spiritual mother. Today we honour both, as we gather round the table in our shared communion.

Let us pray
“O Lord Jesus Christ, Who came to live among us as the child of an earthly mother: Bless us, we pray, as we gather in your house, the mother Church, to worship you and to give thanks for our mothers. May all our children be nurtured in your love, and our homes be havens of peace and joy, filled with your presence. Amen.