During the Coronavirus pandemic, one of the ministry team will provide a short devotional service on a Sunday. We commend it to you, alongside the various television and radio services, as you continue your walk with God. If you know somebody without access to the Internet, please print a copy for them.
MOTHERING SUNDAY SERVICE – 22nd March 2020
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.
“Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home” John 19. 25b-27
Today is Mothering Sunday, the day when traditionally we remember and give thanks to God for our mothers – all they mean to us, and all that they do and have done for us. It is a time of celebration and festivity, and, in days gone by, was often the only occasion when children working away from home could return and give their mothers some sort of present. This year the festivities have been marred by the onset of the coronavirus. For some life has become particularly difficult, even tragic, whilst for the rest of us the whole world seems to have changed: travel is restricted for all but essential reasons, gatherings are strictly reduced and all places of entertainment are closed – even church services have been suspended. It all seems very gloomy, especially since these restrictions are likely to continue for many weeks, and we probably don’t feel much in the mood for celebration right now.
However, it is precisely at times such as these that we need to remember the good things that God has given us, and how close he is to us in all this. And we have much to be thankful for:
- The beautiful natural world
- Our families (particularly mums)
- Friends and those who love us, care for us and support us
These are just potential examples and I am sure that there are many other things in our lives that we can think of that are good and for which we can be thankful.
This is not an exercise in positive thinking, though – a sort of “Everything will be alright if only I think it” scenario. We know that God cares for us, loves us and understands us because he has entered into our world to live with us for a time. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born, lived and died a human being just like us. It is God’s supreme “vote of confidence” in humanity and in this world.
As a human being, Jesus was born into and brought up by an ordinary family, with all its joys, happiness, tensions, worries and concerns. God was not and is not immune from the things that we face, be they good or bad. He knows what it is to be like us. And we can see his understanding of those cares and concerns in our Gospel today – from John 19 reproduced above. Even while he is dying on the cross he thinks about the immediate practical need of his mother, Mary, who after his death was likely to have become destitute.
Of course the Christian story does not end with the crucifixion. Jesus rose from the dead, showing that the forces of evil, sin and even death itself have not triumphed but that the love of God endures for ever. And God gives us his Holy Spirit – that person of God who is with us and beside us all the time in all that we do to give us comfort, guidance, strength and peace. He helps us in our prayers and allows us to do God’s work in the world.
So there is a huge amount for which we can be thankful in this life and it is all down to almighty God. This can be a real comfort to us in this time of anxiety and unease over the effects of Covid-19 and what it might mean for us, our family, our work, or our society. As we have seen, God does know and he does care, and he has given us an example of what we can do. Just as Jesus thought about his mother in the most appalling of circumstances, so we can, with the power of the Holy Spirit do our best to bring some comfort to those in need. There are practical limitations as to what we can do in the current circumstances, but there is always something, even if it simply a phone call, a message a smile and a wave. Above all we can pray. There may be no services in church but we can all join together in praying for others, ourselves and our world.
Jesus was always concerned with the “here and now” – what was happening to real people in the real world. He rarely talked about heaven or the afterlife and if he did it was usually to make a point about how we should live now. That applies as much to us today as it did two thousand years ago, and it ties in very much with the idea of “mothering”: the simple, practical getting on with things that need to be done, but with a spirit of care and of service. That is what we can celebrate today. It is something shown to us by the example of Jesus himself and in all his teachings, and which is seen in countless individuals. Many of us experience that most acutely in our homes and families, and often through our mothers. Of course there are those whose experience of family life is not so good, but the idea of mothering remains and of its importance for us.
So let us celebrate today. Let us praise God who has done so much for us and who knows deeply how we feel, and let us give thanks for all those who have done so much for us in the past and continue to do so now, especially our mums.
The Rev. Tony Bushell
Priest in Charge, Stanway
O heavenly Father, we thank you for all the happiness of our life. We thank you for our baptism and for our place in your family, the church. Especially today we thank you for our parents and for all those who have loved and cared for us in so many ways. Give us thankful hearts, we pray, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all this day and for evermore. Amen