WORSHIP AT HOME, 14 MARCH 2021
Prepared by Paula Littlewood
Welcome to this Act of Worship at Home for Sunday 14 March, the Fourth Sunday in Lent and Mothering Sunday. Here are the first three verses of Psalm 107, part of the lectionary readings for today:
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
Let us pray together
Loving God, we turn to you and find you already coming to meet us. We know that you are by our side as we worship you. We thank you that we are free to come to your Church without fear of persecution. Thank you for the assurance that we can know are part of your family, part of a community wherever we are and whenever it is that we spend this time in praise, prayer and contemplation, united through your son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
One of the lectionary readings for today is from Ephesians, chapter 2. Let us read verse 1 and verses 4-10.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins… 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
When I was young, Mothering Sunday was an institution. My father cut pussy willow, with its furry catkins, and put it in a vase with spring flowers from the garden. We would go to church and my mother would come home with a posy, probably of wild flowers and we children would be responsible for producing lunch. I remember a day of sunshine, love and laughter.
As I have become older, I have realised that Mothering Sunday is actually quite a difficult day for many, perhaps never more so than this year when we cannot gather together in celebration and we are still separated from loved ones. It is also tricky because not all women are mothers and some find the fuss made of Mothering Sunday quite offensive, especially those who do not have happy memories of their mothers. I have found it a tough day ever since my mother died because I feel a great sadness that I have no mother to treat. But then I think back to my dad cutting the pussy willow and feel that, really, this day is a wonderful opportunity to simply celebrate Spring or, in the wider context, to celebrate from death to life.
Mothering Sunday also invites us to reflect on the place of God as our mother, our creator. The 14th century mystic, Julian of Norwich, wrote of Jesus as our mother who feeds and nourishes our hearts, minds and souls. Humanity was in a sorry state before Jesus came; we had died and lost our fellowship with God through our sin. But Jesus came and took on our death himself. God in his goodness, through no effort of our own, has given us new life in Christ. Not our doing but a gift from God. So, come rain or shine, let us enjoy the immeasurable riches of God’s grace in kindness towards us. Let us remember, too, those words of Paul: that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works”. Amen.
Let us pray
God of grace, thank you that we can live in Christ, that your love and the gift of life that you offer us is free. Though we may try to prove our worth to you, we know we fail to meet up to your standards and feel we let you down. Yet your grace saves us, not our own strivings. God of grace, help us to hear your gentle words “I love you” and let that be enough for our own hearts. Let us remember that you created us for good and may our actions flow from your grace.
We pray for all those who continue to serve our community in these challenging times of Covid 19. We pray for those who are worried about money, those who have lost their jobs, those whose businesses are failing. We pray for all those working in the charity sector trying to help others. We thank you that people are starting to be vaccinated against coronavirus and we pray for all those working hard to produce the vaccine, the distributors and those who are administering the injections.
We pray for all those who are suffering with illness, those in hospital, hospices and care homes, many facing uncertainty over their futures. We bring before you the lonely and bereaved and those who live without hope. In a moment of quiet we pray for those close to our hearts and for ourselves …
Almighty and merciful God, you know our needs, our weaknesses, our concerns. Grant us the assurance of your love and peace. For we pray in the name of your son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and together we say the prayer that Jesus taught us: “Our father who art in heaven…”
Today’s hymn is “Come let us sing of a wonderful love” (443 in Singing the Faith)
1 Come let us sing of a wonderful love,
tender and true;
out of the heart of the Father above,
streaming to me and to you:
dwells in the heart of the Father above.
2 Jesus, the Saviour, this gospel to tell,
came with the helpless and hopeless to dwell,
sharing their sorrow and shame;
seeking the lost,
saving, redeeming at measureless cost.
3 Jesus is seeking the wanderers yet;
why do they roam?
Love only waits to forgive and forget;
home! weary wanderer, home!
dwells in the heart of the Father above.
4 Come to my heart, O thou wonderful love,
come and abide,
lifting my life till it rises above
envy and falsehood and pride:
seeking to be
lowly and humble, a learner of thee.
Our time of worship is ended.
Let us follow where the Spirit of Hope leads us.
Let us rejoice, as the Love of God embraces us.
Let us trust, as Jesus taught us.
Let us go now with hope, love and trust in our hearts,
and the blessing of Creator, Saviour and Spirit for ever within us.