Mothering Sunday

Circuit Zoom Worship - 22-3-20_for videoYesterday was our first session of Zoom worship. Apart from a few technical hitches, which are a learning experience for next week it was very well received. Here are a selection of the comments we received.

“Well done today. You dealt with our joint learning curves very well.”
“Thanks for the service this morning.  I thought it worked well, and nice to see people!!”
“We thought this mornings Service was helpful and good to share”
“Good effort Phil. Nice to feel part of the Circuit. Thought the prayers particularly helpful.
“Thanks very much for the service this morning, we found it very helpful at a difficult time. It brought home the meaning of motherhood in all senses.”
“It was OK but we’re on a steep learning curve and we will all get better.  Definitely worth the effort. Thank you.”
“Thank you very much for the service this morning.  I thought it was well organised and very much to both points of Mothering Sunday and ‘The Virus’. I particularly enjoyed joining in the singing with everyone else on the screen when the congregation was shown rather that just the piano playing.  It felt much more as if you were part of a ‘proper’ service.”

If you want to watch the reflection, click here.
If you want to watch the whole service, click here.

To prepare for next week, if you had problems then visit www.zoom.us/download
Please note that you do not need to set up an account.
You can then phone Phil or Angie and we will walk you through connecting.

Here are the readings:-

Hosea 11:3-4

John 19:25-27 

The text of the reflection is here: –

So here we are on Mothering Sunday 2020, a day that seems ever so weird, and a day of many firsts. According to our preaching plan, I was meant to be at St John’s in Hereford this morning, instead I find myself preaching to a web cam on my own, and I am conscious that many of you this morning are on your own, or its just the two of you together. All of this is going to take some getting used to, but lets concentrate on the positives, and what we can do as church in isolation. I read on Facebook this morning (Not sure whether it’s true or not!) That Isaac Newton discovered Gravity when he was isolated from his university because of the Bubonic Plague – ?What can we discover about ourselves, or about our life as Christians or our mission as church in isolation?

Mothering Sunday sermons, or children’s addresses traditionally start with an explanation of the origins of Mothering Sunday, and the source of all this knowledge comes from a now archived BBC Religion web page. It’s a little twee, but let’s run with it:- Most Sundays in the year churchgoers in England worship at their nearest parish or ‘daughter church’. Centuries ago it was considered important for people to return to their home or ‘mother’ church once a year. So each year in the middle of Lent, everyone would visit their ‘mother’ church – the main church or cathedral of the area. Inevitably the return to the ‘mother’ church became an occasion for family reunions when children who were working away returned home. (It was quite common in those days for children to leave home for work once they were ten years old.) And most historians think that it was the return to the ‘Mother’ church which led to the tradition of children, particularly those working as domestic servants, or as apprentices, being given the day off to visit their mother and family. As they walked along the country lanes, children would pick wild flowers or violets to take to church or give to their mother as a small gift.

Today as the theme of our reflection, I want us to consider what “Mother Church” means to us today during this challenge of isolation and social distancing.

But first let us consider Mothers, and I know I need to be a little cautious here, as there will be people watching or listening that never knew their mother, or do not or did not have good memories of their relationship with their mother, and we think of you this morning, and would wish to share our love with you.

If this was a family service, at this stage, I might have wandered around the congregation asking the children and yourselves for the general attributes of a mother, I could turn on your microphones and ask you, but this morning, lets just go with my shortened list, and you can message me later to tell me all the other ones I have missed.

So, here we go, here is my quick list. Mothers birth us, love us (even when we’ve been bad), care for us, discipline us, provide for us, teach us, sustain us, cook for us, be our nurse, and our taxi driver.

It’s comforting to see in our Gospel reading today, Jesus caring for his mother even in his dying moments from the cross, and asking John to take her into his home.

Today, in our own way, and in our own time, we give thanks for our mothers, and for those of us who are fortunate to have our mothers still with us, take a moment to connect with them and say hello, and thank you.

We are so used to Jesus calling God his Father, that often we consider God as solely paternal. However, if we remember in Genesis, male and female are both made in the image of God, God can be Mother and Father to us all. On Saturday I was searching for a particular passage that I thought was in the Old Testament, and realised I was conflating 2 memories of bible passages. I had this image of God as a mother hen, sheltering her brood under her wings. After much searching, as I was convinced it was in the Psalms, I found it in Matthew and Luke (Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34 if you want to look it up later). The context of those readings doesn’t fit too well with mothering Sunday, but the image of God as a Mother Hen remains. “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” During the search for this passage, I found at least 10 instances in the OT of God being imagined as a mother. I will upload a link to the list in my blog later. (https://www.womensordination.org/resources-old/female-images-of-god-in-the-bible/)

The one I want us to concentrate on this morning is from Hosea, it’s the first of 2 such images in Hosea. God says: “Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I who took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.”

It has been wonderful to see our eldest daughter become a mother, and watch her teaching first Eric and then Flynn to walk. Flynn has now learnt to ask to be kissed if something hurts. He also makes us all smile when he asks for “boob”, but perhaps I shouldn’t mention that in a sermon!

Today I have challenged you to think of God as our Mother and Father, and I hope you can see that this is well referenced in our bibles.

Now, I’m not for one moment suggesting that God or the church can replace your mother, or father, but let’s consider the attributes I mentioned earlier.

Does the Church, like a Mother, birth us, love us (even when we’ve been bad), care for us, discipline us, provide for us, teach us, sustain us, cook for us, be our nurse, and our taxi driver? Remember, when we talk about the word “church”, I’m not meaning the building, but us God’s people. Ecclesia – the Greek word rendered into Church in our bibles literally translated means a “called out company” or “assembly”.

Certainly it was the church that birthed me as a new Christian, a number of differing churches teaching me, even taking me on a bus to the Billy Graham, Mission England rally in Bristol, all those years ago. The people of the church love us, yes, even when we’ve been bad – they’ve learned from Jesus to forgive! The church has taught me a lot, I can reflect back in that I know the things I learned as a young local preacher, helped me to be confident in speaking to large groups of people in my engineering job, and being able to train customers to use our machines. (Skills from my engineering job now help me in my vocation). Does the church discipline us? I hope so, I know I’ve been told off by church folk quite often, even this week! Provide for us – for certain the church provides a stipend and a house for us, donations and time to many charities and good causes and food banks. Teach us? Sunday Schools, Sermons, House groups – all sorts of short courses, and even a BA (Honours) Degree for me. Sustain us – yes, and this is one the easiest things we can continue during this isolation period – by pastorally caring for each other, by phone, by delivering items. Cook for us – lunch clubs and tea services. Be our nurse – first aid kits, counselling and now, caring for each other over the phone. Our taxi driver? – lift sharing, taking people to church – Sunday school outings! I could go on and on and on listing all the church does as a mother to us all.

An important thing for us to think about at this time, is that the church is not closed, its our buildings that are closed. We the church are still open for business. Lets keep on mothering.

As a church we have been so much, now we face an uncertain time, a huge change in our circumstances, and it is a challenge we all face together. So what I want us all to reflect on this week is how we “be” church, how we remain “open” in this time of isolation and social distancing. What can each of us do, what can your ministers do for you?

If you are not rushing off anywhere at the end of the service today, I’m going to put you into break out rooms with a few others, take a moment to get a cup of coffee or tea, come back and chat to each other, and reflect on this challenge, and can I ask that one person in each break out room sends me a message in some format or another with some ideas of how we face this challenge, or how helpful or not the things we have been doing so far.

Don’t forget the time of candle lighting and prayer tonight at 7pm, and let’s remember during this time to Keep Safe, Keep Caring and Keep praying.

Amen.

 

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