Home Service for Sunday 27th March 2022, Mothering Sunday

Prayers of Approach

God, our father and mother, we quieten ourselves to be present to ourselves, to you and to each other. We come as we are, sometimes lost, because we choose our way and not yours, but still you love us. Thank you for your outrageous love, always and forever welcoming us home.

On this Mothering Sunday, we open our hearts before you, bringing those we love, and those we struggle to love, those we have lost, and those we are afraid of losing. We bring our tears and our joy, our disappointments and our hopes. We bring all that we carry and all that we long to lay down – you do not save us from our mistakes, but you release us to learn from them. Thank you for being there to welcome us back when we have lost our way, to challenge our resentment when we have lost our grace, to embrace our need when we have exhausted our self-sufficiency.

God of our families and our friends, we praise you for those who have inspired us, for those who have mothered us, for those who have been patient with us, for those who have nurtured our faith and shown us your love.

Amen.

Hymn For the beauty of the earth (R&S 41)

Readings: Exodus 2:1-10

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Introduction

The heroes of the story told in Exodus are all women. First, Moses’ mother who hid him for three months, floated him on the Nile (a dangerous thing to do with crocodiles about) and even got to act as his wet nurse until he was weaned. Next, his sister kept watch over the child and had the courage to approach Pharaoh’s daughter to suggest finding a nurse. Finally, Pharaoh’s daughter ‘took pity on him’, had him nursed and eventually adopted him. None of these women is named. The story is about how God protected the child and did so through these women whose names no one has remembered.

In our Gospel reading Jesus tells the religious leaders a parable about a father and his two sons, to demonstrate how God welcomes back those who have wandered far from him. An errant son comes to his senses and returns home. The son who has remained at home struggles with the welcome his brother receives. Their loving father goes out to meet each of them halfway, inviting them both to enjoy all that he has given them.

On Mothering Sunday, we appreciate the presence and importance of nurturing love for us. Life’s challenges can mean we forget this love. We can become lost through the mistakes and wrong choices we make, or perhaps by the pressure and responsibility we feel under to get things right. The joy is that God’s outrageous love is always there, welcoming us home again.

Hymn Bind us together Lord (MP 54)

Sermon/Reflection

Although Mothering Sunday is now very commercialised it didn’t start that way. When many people worked long hours as servants in large houses, on farms or in factories, Mothering Sunday was often the one day in the year when they were able to visit their parents. Sometimes they took a special gift, like a simnel cake, to say thank you for all their mothers had done for them. They also went with their families to their home church or cathedral, the ‘Mother Church’, to thank God.

Mothering Sunday is still an opportunity to visit parents and grandparents whom we don’t see as much as we might like during the year. It is also a time to thank God for our mothers and for God’s love for us. But Mothering Sunday is difficult for those whose mothers have died, or whose relationships with their parents are not happy, for those who would like to be mothers but can’t be, and those whose children have died.

Our Bible stories however give clues as to how God acts as a loving parent to us. At the time of Moses birth the Hebrew people were living in Egypt where they had become so numerous that they Egyptians were afraid that they might overcome them. To prevent this Pharaoh decreed that all Hebrew baby boys should be killed. The actions of three women, his mother, sister and Pharaoh’s daughter, saved Moses however and when he grew up God called him to lead his people to freedom out of Egypt.

Today’s Gospel reading tells a familiar story and If we look at how the father reacts with his sons, we learn about being a parent, both good and bad. The father loves his youngest son so much that he is willing to give up a third of the value of his property when his son asks for it but he worries about his son while he is away and watches anxiously for his return. When he sees him coming, he runs to greet him (not the action of a dignified Hebrew landowner), and kills the fatted calf, saved for a special occasion, to celebrate his return.

Whatever the son has done to hurt and disappoint him, he still loves, supports and forgives him. Good parents are like that. God is like that. But the father also has his faults, like most of us. He neglects to reassure his eldest son that he loves him, taking him for granted. In his joy at the younger son’s return, he doesn’t think of the effect this might have on his elder son. Nonetheless, he is right to celebrate the return. Nobody is perfect. If we have difficult relationships with our parents or children, then it is good to see how God can use the faults of the father in this story. Just as the father forgave his penitent youngest son, so God forgives us, when we don’t get things right.

Hymn God is love; his the care (R&S 274)

Prayers of Intercession

Nurturing God, who gave us an example of unconditional love, we give thanks for our parents, families and friends. Thank you for those who care for us, who sit by quietly, supportively and let us make our own mistakes, who are willing to forgive and encourage us.

Loving God, we pray for those who find Mothering Sunday a difficult day, those who have had difficult experiences of their mother or father, those whose homes are filled with conflict, and for all who suffer from domestic violence and abuse. Bring healing to those who bear the scars of the ways they have been treated, and enable them to experience love.

We pray for those whose relationships have broken down. May your love bring reconciliation, your peace dissolve bitterness, and your grace disperse anger.

We pray for those who find Mothering Sunday difficult because they have lost a child, or because they are unable to have children, and for those who struggle to bring up children alone. Be with all those who need you and assure them of your love.

Caring God, we pray for those throughout the world who live in terrible conditions, those who do not have enough water or food or shelter, those whose children die of starvation.

Gracious God, we pray that your reconciling love may bring harmony to our world. We pray for those caught up in conflicts between nations and states; for all who live in fear of the bullet or the bomb. May leaders of nations listen to each other, and commit themselves to peace.

We pray for all who seek to mediate, to bring reconciliation and peace, that they may have wisdom, patience and compassion.

We bring our prayers in the name of Christ, through whom all are reconciled to you, our God. Show us how to care. Amen.

Hymn Now thank we all our God (R&S 72)

Blessing

God of outrageous love! Thank you that we cannot fall out of your love, no matter what our mistakes, no matter how mean and grudging our love is. Bless us this day and always, and as you welcome us with ever open arms, enlarge our hearts and minds, that we too might serve faithfully and love outrageously! Amen.

Prayers and other material (adapted) © Roots for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.

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