Today started well with 2 of my 3 services. We lit candles to remember those who find the day difficult, which I think was appreciated. All my services today are family oriented and so the sermon was aimed at all ages. Although in the event there was only one child present at the 9am and the 10.30am children were out doing some presents to give at the end. However, I knew that might be the case and so I enlisted the child’s help with the box of bible verses to be read out. Not the world’s best all age talk, but nevertheless it seemed to be well received.
Mothering Sunday 2019 – Lent 4
Today I’m using the gospel reading for Lent 4 rather than the usual Mothering Sunday readings because the Lent course is following the Sunday readings. Today we have the parable of prodigal son. It’s very well known – one of the most well known parables of Jesus. Perhaps so familiar we take it for granted.
Have you ever run away from home? take any answers.
- When I was very young about 3 or 4??? I lived in Stanton Close and knew that I was only allowed to go as far as the end of the road. I can’t remember if I did go any further, but I do remember being frightened by a frog in a puddle. So I ran back home and anyway it was time for tea!
- When a teenager – I was being bullied at school, wasn’t getting on well with mum (nothing major, usual teenage “I hate you!!!”) So I didn’t tell parents about problems at school, didn’t know what to do. I got as far as Derby bus station (from Burton, so not very far). I had no money, I was cold, hungry and had smoked my last fag. What shall I do? I saw an advert for The Samaritans. I rang them and mum and dad came to fetch me. The problems at school were sorted out.
- When I was teenager I also left the home of my church and faith in God. NB Mothering Sunday is often a time of thinking about Mother Church. It wasn’t a sudden dramatic leaving – the vicar hadn’t done something terrible to upset me. I simply drifted away from church and drifted out of faith. I’m glad I drifted back, eventually. Looking back I could see myself as the younger son in this parable.
We can identify more with one son or the other in the parable. Are you the younger wayward, sinful one or the older, dutiful and obedient one?
Jesus was hanging out with the sinners – people who didn’t follow the religious rules. And those who did follow the rules had a go at him for it. So he told them 3 stories: (see if children identify and know them)
- Lost sheep – found by a shepherd who went looking
- Lost coin – found by a woman who searched until she found it
- Lost son – father looking out for him and rejoicing when he came home.
In the same way, Jesus said, there will be much rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who returns.
Those 3 parables of something or someone lost are important. So important, that the parable of the lost son has been described as the gospel within the gospel.
Jesus described himself as the Good Shepherd. He is the one who looks for the sheep who have wandered away from home. In the story of the lost son, God is the father and he acts as no father then would. He ran to greet his son. He didn’t wait for him to get to the house. He had been looking out for him. And when he saw him he behaved in a way that would normally have been humiliating. Running was not something a Father did. Running would have meant probably gathering up his robe. Have you tried running in a cassock? Not easy. He risked humiliation in order to be reconciled with his son.
In a similar way, Jesus suffered humiliation on the cross so that we can be reconciled with God.
God loves it when we come back to him. Jesus’ whole mission on earth was to get people – sinners and the good people who followed the religious rules – to come back to God and to know his generous love.
Sometimes people can follow the religious rules, or be good upright members of society, helping people and doing good deeds, and still not really know God’s love for them. They can be like the older brother. Dutifully doing what is expected and all the time not really knowing his father’s love and generosity. He could have had a party if he’d asked. But he didn’t ask.
God’s generous and giving love is there for us all – good or bad – respectable or a bit dubious…. all we need to do is turn to him and ask.
The bible shows us what God’s love is like …
Various bible verses – draw out of container in random fashion – congregation (children) to read them.
Female Images of God in the Bible
“Humankind was created as God’s reflection: in the divine image God created them; female and male, God made them.”
God said: “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.”
“Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and tear them asunder…”
“Like the eagle that stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young, God spreads wings to catch you, and carries you on pinions.”
“You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.”
God said: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
God said: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”
God said: “For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept myself still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labour, I will gasp and pant.”
“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.” (one of my favourite ones)
“As the eyes of a servant looks to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to you, YHWH, until you show us your mercy!”
Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34
Jesus said: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
Jesus said: “Or what woman having ten silver coins, is she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Jesus also shows us what God’s love is like.
What is God’s love like? Get congregation to answer. To hopefully include:
- Discipline and training
It that like a mother’s love? YES
Women and Men were created in God’s image and so we all show God’s love when we love.
“Humankind was created as God’s reflection: in the divine image God created them; female and male, God made them.” Genesis 1:27
I want to finish with a story I read yesterday morning in my prayer time. It comes from Open Doors – a Christian charity that supports Christians who are persecuted because of their faith.
ESTHER, NIGERIA: ‘I CANNOT DESCRIBE ALL THE GOOD THINGS GOD HAS DONE FOR ME’
Esther (20), from Nigeria, loves her daughter Rebecca very much. But her journey to love her baby wasn’t easy. Esther became pregnant with Rebecca when she was being held in captivity by Boko Haram as a teenager. She managed to escape – but when she returned home, her community was not as welcoming as she hoped they would be. “They mocked me because I was pregnant,” Esther says. “I cried many tears. I felt so lonely. What broke my heart even more was that they refused to call my daughter Rebecca. They referred to her as ‘Boko.'”
Esther wasn’t sure how she would ever be able to love Rebecca – but thanks to the prayers and support through the charity Open Doors, Esther was able to attend a trauma-care workshop run by partners of Open Doors.
“Before I came for this programme, if you called my daughter ‘Boko Haram baby’ I would fight,” she says. “Now, even if they call her that I don’t feel pain anymore because I know that’s not who my baby is. I know that God loves me, and I cannot describe all the good things He has done for me. God loves me so much, I think I am the one God loves most in the world!”
Esther’s journey towards healing is a beautiful story of redemption, and a reminder of the powerful love of a mother – and the all-encompassing, unconditional love that God has for each of us.
Open Doors ask for our prayers for Esther and Rebecca, that they would continue to experience God’s healing and His love. That Open Doors partners in Nigeria would be able to reach more women who have suffered sexual violence for their faith and gender through trauma-care programmes.
May we all know and experience the love that He has for us this Mothering Sunday.
This ending for the sermon felt a bit ‘heavy’ and so I continued to make the connection between God’s love for us and our need of healing of various types. Like a mother will do all she can to bring healing to her child, so too God will have that maternal love and desire for us to be healed of all that harms us. In the afternoon service I omitted the request for prayers paragraph, and that seemed to be better for the family congregation.
I received a small bunch of daffodils from the first church and a houseplant from the other one. When I got home from church I decided to sort out my houseplants that had been suffering from neglect. I also dusted off a wall hanging my daughters had made me for my birthday last year.
The 3pm service went well. We had simnel cake and I had a purple flowering plant for my mum because she kept African violets, and they are very similar. I have arranged them on a coffee table on the landing that up until today had lots of neglected plants put on there when we moved in 9 months ago. Their location onto window sills is well overdue. I also put the MUM that the daughters made me there. One day it will get on my prayer/art room wall – when I can find the special things I bought to do so. The small vase is one that I have had since I was a child.