4th Sunday of Lent

14th March 2021

4th Sunday of Lent
Mothering Sunday

Year B

 

Collect

God of compassion,  
whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary,
shared the life of a home in Nazareth,
and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself:
strengthen us in our daily living
that in joy and in sorrow
we may know the power of your presence
                   to bind together and to heal;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

 

Exodus 2.1-10

A man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, 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. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket 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. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. 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.

Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

“Yes, go,” she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 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. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

 

Colossians 3.12-17

As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

 

 

Luke 2.33-35

Jesus’ father and mother marvelled at what Simeon said about Jesus. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

 

Reflection by Rodney Fox

 

May I speak in the name of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit:  Amen

 

Today, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, is also kept as Mothering Sunday – which is not to be confused with Mothers’ Day.  The clue is in the name!  Mothering Sunday is about mothering or nurturing, and not just about mothers, as the everyday world tends to assume.  It is, of course, true that our mothers are, for most of us, the likeliest and principal source of our early nurturing, and so it is absolutely right that we should celebrate and be thankful for them on this day.  The great majority of us, however, are fortunate enough to have also had the benefit of ‘mothering’ or nurturing from a variety of other sources – fathers, grandparents, teachers, friends, church or work colleagues or even from kindly strangers – because mothering can come from unexpected sources, people aware enough to perceive a need and generous enough, like the good Samaritan, to try to meet it.

 

But let’s stick with mothers to start with because it is from their mothers that most people first experience the sort of self-giving, sacrificial love that Simeon was thinking of when he warned Mary that ‘a sword will pierce your heart too’ and that Michelangelo depicted so strikingly with his statue of Mary holding the body of her crucified son – The Pieta from St Peter’s in Rome.  Mothering usually brings great joy and fulfilment, but it also renders the mother vulnerable to anxiety, frustration and, at the worst, to serious suffering of the sort that Mary must have endured as she watched the crucifixion.  Of course, mothering can be a two-way thing – it was mothering, for example, that Jesus provided for his mother when from the cross he bade her a heart-wrenching farewell, saying to her ‘Here is your son’, and to John ‘Here is your mother’.

 

So, let’s hear some more examples of mothering.  Poppy, aged seven, who wrote in a letter to a national newspaper, ‘I love my Mum because she is kind, caring, wonderful, amazing, beautiful, gorgeous, lovely, fantastic, wicked, fabulous, pretty, loveable, awesome, helpful, helps me with my homework and is the best mum ever’, provided us with a fabulous picture of the ideal mother (even if Mum may have had a hand in composing the letter!).  Or (I’ll call him) Robert, a pupil who I taught for some years before discovering that he was the sole carer for his wheelchair-bound mother, who without any fuss went home from school each day to cook the supper, keep up with the housework and get his homework done before helping his mother into bed.  A teenage boy who had had to learn how to provide costly mothering whilst most of his contemporaries were still looking to receive it.

 

We all had a mother, even those who lost theirs when they were very young, and for most of us it was our mother who provided the unconditional, self-denying love that was crucial to our developing the self-confidence and self-esteem that formed us as people and which enables us to cope with the challenges of life.  We should be grateful to our mothers not just for giving birth to us and, with their care, sustaining and protecting us physically, we should be thankful too for the spiritual birth and nurturing to become a whole person that their unfailing love and support enabled.

 

And, of course, it doesn’t all come to an end as we grow older.  We go on needing love, support and encouragement to build us up and keep us going in our daily life and, I guess that for as long as they live, most of us go on turning to our parents, and especially to our mothers, for that – but, as we grow older, we learn also to depend upon a range of the other people around us to provide this support for us.  We all need the ‘mothering’ of those about us in order to flourish because, as John Donne so shrewdly pointed out, ‘no man is an island entire of itself; every man is a part of the continent, a part of the main’.

 

So, Mothering Sunday reminds all of us that one of the things that good mothers teach us is how to care for other people, how, as St Ignatius taught, ‘to give and not to count the cost’, how to be a mother.  Because the environment in which each of us live is created by the consideration, the kindness, the care, and the willingness to put themselves out for us of those amongst whom we live.  As St Paul instructed the Colossians in our first reading, each of us has an important responsibility for the quality of life of our family, friends and neighbours through the care, the encouragement, and the ‘mothering’ that we provide for them.  So, not only do we owe thanks to our mothers for providing the love that enabled us to thrive and to develop into adulthood, we also owe them thanks for teaching us how to love, for giving us the foundation upon which most of our adult relationships and responsibilities are built – as partners and parents, as friends and colleagues, as neighbours and acquaintances.

 

At the heart of Christianity is the belief that Jesus came to show us that God’s love is very like that of a mother – a love that is given without pre-conditions, that accepts us as we are, warts and all; a love that is prepared to give of itself rather than to make demands on us; and a love that is ready to sacrifice even to death in order to save us from our own folly.  As Christians we believe that it is the confidence and self-value that we gain from the knowledge of God’s unfailing love for us that re-form us as people and inspire us to live full and satisfying lives, founded in our relationship with Him.  No wonder that some people find that it makes sense to them to pray to ‘our mother God’, because the love of God has so much in common with the love that a mother gives her children. 

 

So, on Mothering Sunday we recognise and give thanks for all that our mothers give us – and we remember that they too need our love and support, our ‘mothering’ of them, to sustain and encourage them in their lives.  We recognise and give thanks for all those around us who, by their presence and their love, enrich and encourage our lives, offering us a form of mothering, and we pray that we may never take them for granted but may ourselves be a source of love and inspiration and mothering for them.  And we recognise and give thanks for the mothering that the church provides by nurturing our faith and encouraging us on our Christian journey all through our lives. 

 

Thanks be to God.  Amen

 

May I speak in the name of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit:  Amen

 

Today, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, is also kept as Mothering Sunday – which is not to be confused with Mothers’ Day.  The clue is in the name!  Mothering Sunday is about mothering or nurturing, and not just about mothers, as the everyday world tends to assume.  It is, of course, true that our mothers are, for most of us, the likeliest and principal source of our early nurturing, and so it is absolutely right that we should celebrate and be thankful for them on this day.  The great majority of us, however, are fortunate enough to have also had the benefit of ‘mothering’ or nurturing from a variety of other sources – fathers, grandparents, teachers, friends, church or work colleagues or even from kindly strangers – because mothering can come from unexpected sources, people aware enough to perceive a need and generous enough, like the good Samaritan, to try to meet it.

 

But let’s stick with mothers to start with because it is from their mothers that most people first experience the sort of self-giving, sacrificial love that Simeon was thinking of when he warned Mary that ‘a sword will pierce your heart too’ and that Michelangelo depicted so strikingly with his statue of Mary holding the body of her crucified son – The Pieta from St Peter’s in Rome.  Mothering usually brings great joy and fulfilment, but it also renders the mother vulnerable to anxiety, frustration and, at the worst, to serious suffering of the sort that Mary must have endured as she watched the crucifixion.  Of course, mothering can be a two-way thing – it was mothering, for example, that Jesus provided for his mother when from the cross he bade her a heart-wrenching farewell, saying to her ‘Here is your son’, and to John ‘Here is your mother’.

 

So, let’s hear some more examples of mothering.  Poppy, aged seven, who wrote in a letter to a national newspaper, ‘I love my Mum because she is kind, caring, wonderful, amazing, beautiful, gorgeous, lovely, fantastic, wicked, fabulous, pretty, loveable, awesome, helpful, helps me with my homework and is the best mum ever’, provided us with a fabulous picture of the ideal mother (even if Mum may have had a hand in composing the letter!).  Or (I’ll call him) Robert, a pupil who I taught for some years before discovering that he was the sole carer for his wheelchair-bound mother, who without any fuss went home from school each day to cook the supper, keep up with the housework and get his homework done before helping his mother into bed.  A teenage boy who had had to learn how to provide costly mothering whilst most of his contemporaries were still looking to receive it.

 

We all had a mother, even those who lost theirs when they were very young, and for most of us it was our mother who provided the unconditional, self-denying love that was crucial to our developing the self-confidence and self-esteem that formed us as people and which enables us to cope with the challenges of life.  We should be grateful to our mothers not just for giving birth to us and, with their care, sustaining and protecting us physically, we should be thankful too for the spiritual birth and nurturing to become a whole person that their unfailing love and support enabled.

 

And, of course, it doesn’t all come to an end as we grow older.  We go on needing love, support and encouragement to build us up and keep us going in our daily life and, I guess that for as long as they live, most of us go on turning to our parents, and especially to our mothers, for that – but, as we grow older, we learn also to depend upon a range of the other people around us to provide this support for us.  We all need the ‘mothering’ of those about us in order to flourish because, as John Donne so shrewdly pointed out, ‘no man is an island entire of itself; every man is a part of the continent, a part of the main’.

 

So, Mothering Sunday reminds all of us that one of the things that good mothers teach us is how to care for other people, how, as St Ignatius taught, ‘to give and not to count the cost’, how to be a mother.  Because the environment in which each of us live is created by the consideration, the kindness, the care, and the willingness to put themselves out for us of those amongst whom we live.  As St Paul instructed the Colossians in our first reading, each of us has an important responsibility for the quality of life of our family, friends and neighbours through the care, the encouragement, and the ‘mothering’ that we provide for them.  So, not only do we owe thanks to our mothers for providing the love that enabled us to thrive and to develop into adulthood, we also owe them thanks for teaching us how to love, for giving us the foundation upon which most of our adult relationships and responsibilities are built – as partners and parents, as friends and colleagues, as neighbours and acquaintances.

 

At the heart of Christianity is the belief that Jesus came to show us that God’s love is very like that of a mother – a love that is given without pre-conditions, that accepts us as we are, warts and all; a love that is prepared to give of itself rather than to make demands on us; and a love that is ready to sacrifice even to death in order to save us from our own folly.  As Christians we believe that it is the confidence and self-value that we gain from the knowledge of God’s unfailing love for us that re-form us as people and inspire us to live full and satisfying lives, founded in our relationship with Him.  No wonder that some people find that it makes sense to them to pray to ‘our mother God’, because the love of God has so much in common with the love that a mother gives her children. 

 

So, on Mothering Sunday we recognise and give thanks for all that our mothers give us – and we remember that they too need our love and support, our ‘mothering’ of them, to sustain and encourage them in their lives.  We recognise and give thanks for all those around us who, by their presence and their love, enrich and encourage our lives, offering us a form of mothering, and we pray that we may never take them for granted but may ourselves be a source of love and inspiration and mothering for them.  And we recognise and give thanks for the mothering that the church provides by nurturing our faith and encouraging us on our Christian journey all through our lives. 

 

Thanks be to God.  Amen

 

Post Communion Prayer

Loving God,
as a mother feeds her children at the breast
you feed us in this sacrament with the food and drink of eternal life:
help us who have tasted your goodness
to grow in grace within the household of faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):

Colossians 3.12-17 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Exodus 2.1-10 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Luke 2.33-35 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Some material included in this service is copyright: ©  Michael Perham