Sunday at St Andrew's

Sunday 14 March 2021

Morning Worship 10 am on Zoom  

(Mothering Sunday)

Service led by: Phil Rodd 

 

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 Welcome to this service at St Andrew’s Eaton.

Today is Mothering Sunday, when we celebrate those who care for us.

In these times, it’s appropriate of course that we celebrate those who care for us in a more expansive way - not just our mothers, but those in the caring professions as well.

For many of us, this day brings a poignancy as we remember those who have cared for us - and the memory of our mothers may be in the dim and distant past.

But today let’s be inspired as we look at examples of some of those in the Bible who demonstrated God’s care – his loving care - and let’s commit ourselves to ensure that we will live out that same love today.

As we begin, let’s pray that God will still our hearts and minds and speak to us in this time today.

 

INTRODUCTION                

 

Leader:   Praise God who loves us.

All:        Praise God who cares.

 

Leader:   We praise you, our God, 

for all mothers who have loved and laughed 

and laboured as they cared for their children.

All:        Blessed be God for ever.

 

Leader:   We praise you, our God, 

           for all mothers who have wept in sorrow

and joy for their children.

All:        Blessed be God for ever.

 

Leader:   We praise you, our God, for Jesus,

born of a woman and nurtured in her love, 

and for Mary, a reminder of your patient, waiting love.

All:        Blessed be God for ever.

 

HYMN: Our Father God in heaven (words) (sung, three verses only)

 

CONFESSION AND FORGIVENESS

 

Leader:   Let us call to mind our sin, 

our failure to value the love of others

and our failure to love as Christ has loved us.

 

Silence for reflection

 

Leader:   Your love gives us life from the moment of conception.

             We fail to live as your children.

 

             Lord have mercy.

All:        Lord have mercy.

 

Leader:   You call us to do good. 

             We seek our own good.

 

             Christ, have mercy.

All:        Christ, have mercy.

 

Leader:   You hear us when we cry for help. 

             We ignore the cries of others.

 

             Lord, have mercy.

All:        Lord have mercy.

 

Leader:   May the Father of all mercies

cleanse us from our sins,

and restore us in his image

to the praise and glory of his name,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

All:        Amen.

 

Leader:   Praise God who loves us.

All:        Praise God who cares.

 

All:        Though the Lord is high, he watches over the lowly.

 

PSALM 131

 

All:        Though the Lord is high, he watches over the lowly.

 

All:        Glory to the Father and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning is now

and shall be for ever. Amen.

  

FIRST READING

 

1 Samuel chapter 1 verses 20-28 (NLT)

 

Samuel’s Birth and Dedication

 

This is the word of the Lord.

All:        Thanks be to God.

 

‘WHEN HOPE IS FULFILLED’ (Phil Rodd)

 

So, the last couple of weeks the star of the show was…(?) – Rahab, Rahab the foreign outcast with an ‘interesting background’ – but who was learning, learning fast what it meant to trust the true and living God.  

 

And today, it’s Mothering Sunday, so hardly surprisingly, the set readings for today bring us face to face with another woman – another desperate woman, Hannah.  Hannah, who’s desperate for a child – well, a son actually.  Because, in the culture of those times, for a woman to remain childless would have made her an outcast – just like Rahab.  

 

But Hannah does something about it.  She prays.  And how she prays!  I’m not sure she went to the same prayer course as the one we’re running, though.  Because there’s no session in our course that covers ‘Making Bargains with God’ – but that’s what she’s up to in her prayer.  We didn’t hear that part of the story, but in verses 10-11 of chapter 1, we read: 

 

‘Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.’ (1 Samuel 1.10-11).

 

We’ve probably all been tempted to do it in some way, haven’t we?  You know, to bargain with God?  ‘If you help me pass this exam, I’ll work really hard for all the others.’  ‘If you help me get this job, I’ll give you 10% of my salary.’  ‘If that boy/girl/man/woman will just notice me, I’ll help old Mrs Jones with her shopping for the rest of the year.’  ‘If you just make the kids sleep through the night, I’ll do anything.’  

 

The trouble is, when God keeps his side, we have to keep ours – and that can be more costly than we ever dreamed.  We can only imagine the heartache Hannah went through as she contemplated keeping her promise.  And yet, once Samuel was weaned, this extraordinary mother gave up the thing that she’d prayed for – she gave up motherhood itself, in an extravagant response to the God who’d blessed her.  

 

There’s an interesting comparison with another of the miracle babies in the Old Testament: Samson - who was also dedicated to the Lord and whose hair was also never to be cut.  But Samson got it easy - he lived at home with his parents and they had the joy of bringing him up. There wasn’t any reason why Hannah couldn’t do the same, but she didn’t.  In her thankfulness to God, this mother Hannah gave wholeheartedly, leaving her young son to be brought up in the house of the Lord, with no guarantee that she would ever have another.

 

If we read on into chapter 2, we find a prayer not of further heartache, nor of renewed pleading, but of total joy and thankfulness to God.

 

Hannah had sought, and prayed for, the gift, but in her waiting and hoping, and in her obedience despite the cost, she found her greater fulfilment in the giver – in God himself.

 

Hannah’s lesson is that as we ask God for the desires of our hearts, and cast ourselves on him, we discover that he is our true desire after all.  She says, ‘My heart rejoices in the Lord’ (v.1).  Truly God is the source of her soul satisfaction.  Truly, the gifts are good, but Hannah teaches us to hold them lightly, knowing that God is better by far, knowing that God himself is the absolute prize. 

 

HYMN: For the beauty of the earth 

 

SECOND READING

 

Colossians chapter 3 verses 12-17 (NLT)

 

The New Life in Christ

 

This is the word of the Lord.

All:        Thanks be to God.

 

‘WHO ARE YOU?’ (Phil Rodd)                

A student, a teenager, a parent, a worker, a thinker, a doer, an introvert, an extrovert…? ‘Who are you?’  It’s a question that has a thousand different answers.

 

Sometimes, the answers are tied up with what we do – I’m a banker, a teacher, a nurse, a writer, a volunteer. Other times, they’re linked to who we know, to the people around us – I’m an acquaintance, a friend, a neighbour, or particularly today of course, a mother.

 

Writing to the Colossians, Paul says that something is more important to our identity than what we do or who we know.  And that something is what we are.  And, says Paul, we are: ‘God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved’.  It is nothing to do with what we have done but with what has been given and done for us – we have been chosen, we have been made holy, and we are dearly loved.  Hannah seemed to know that, in our Old Testament reading, judging from her extravagant response to God’s gift to her of a son.  But, says St Paul in Colossians, this for us all, too, because our identity, too, is that of being God’s people, and of being holy and dearly loved.  

 

Out of that identity, then, comes how we live: we are compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient – qualities which are often associated with mothers – and some of us, if we’re lucky have seen them exemplified in our mothers.  But says, St Paul, there are no first and second class citizens among God’s people.  We all have the gift of the Holy Spirit, who makes us to be more like Jesus.  And over all these qualities, says Paul – covering them all – is love, that self-giving love which so many mothers show, but which is given to us in Jesus, because it’s only Jesus who gave his life for us so that we might live free from sin, free from guilt, free to live.

 

Sadly, though, so many of us – mums too – become over-burdened by all the things we must do.  And living the Christian life can so easily add to our list of things we’ve got to do: you know, go to church, read your Bible, pray, help people, volunteer, go to church again, offer to be church warden.  But what Paul is saying here is that our whole lives are our offering to God.  Everything about us is worship, because of what God has made us to be – our true identity: ‘God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved’ – which leads to a new motivation – ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ – in every situation – ‘whatever you do’.

 

So on this Mothering Sunday, let’s give thanks for our mothers, and for all those who have cared for us. And if they're with us, let's express our thanks to them - in a socially distanced way, of course. But whether we’re mums or not, or whether we have mums or not, let’s remember to offer everything we do as worship.  Not just Sunday morning services, but Monday morning meetings, Tuesday afternoon tea-breaks, Wednesday evening homework, Thursday lunchtime washing up, Friday night frivolities, and Saturday afternoons walk in the park – or whatever!

 

Whatever we do, in the name of Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

A version of this talk in video format will be available on the St Andrew’s channel on YouTube, from later on Sunday 14 March.  

 

HYMN: Christ be in my waking

 

PRAYERS (Lucy Stone)

 

Leader:   Praise God who loves us.

All:        Praise God who cares.

 

Please may everyone take a moment to think of someone who has been like a mother to them - who cares for them and loves them, or who has cared for them and loves them… 

 

Let’s now give thanks to God for these people…

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you so much for giving us these people. Thank you for all they have done for us. Thank you for their sacrificial love for us.  We hold them before you in our hearts… 

 

             Praise God who loves us.

All:        Praise God who cares.

 

Dear Father God, thank you for all the mothers in your world. For those who have become mums this year and have had a very different experience of those early days than they may have dreamed of, thank you for being with them and for the beauty new mothers hold. For those mums who have been home-schooling this year, thank you for their perseverance and strength. For those mums who have lost their child, young and old, expected and unexpected we pray for your comfort and peace, especially today. For those mums who have been separated from their children this year because of the pandemic, we thank you that they have still loved their children deeply and we ask that you come alongside them in the pain of not getting to hold their child. Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of mothers.

 

             Praise God who loves us.

All:        Praise God who cares.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, we pray for those who find this day difficult. Whether that be because they have lost a child or a mother. Whether they have been desperate for a child but never been blessed with one. Or because they have had a miscarriage or a still born. Or unable to be with their children or mothers, for whatever reason. Or because of a broken relationship with their mother or child. We grieve with them today, Lord Jesus. Please pour your peace and comfort over them. 

 

             Praise God who loves them.

All:        Praise God who cares.

 

Dear loving Father, please be with all the women here today. We thank you for the strength and wisdom they possess. We pray you, bless them today.

 

God of love, passionate and strong, tender and careful: watch over us and hold us all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

 

             Praise God who loves us.

All:        Praise God who cares.

 

The Collect for today

 

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.

All:        Amen.

 

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:

 

All:        Our Father in heaven, 

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come, your will be done, 

on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins

as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, 

and the glory are yours 

now and for ever. 

Amen.

 

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH

 

Leader:   We say together in faith:

 

All:        All We believe in God the Father,

from whom every family

in heaven and on earth is named.

We believe in God the Son,

who lives in our hearts through faith,

and fills us with his love.

We believe in God the Holy Spirit,

who strengthens us

with power from on high.

We believe in one God;

Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Amen.                                                        

      cf Ephesians 3

 

HYMN: Now thank we all our God 

 

THE BLESSING

 

Leader:   Praise God who loves us.

All:        Praise God who cares.

 

Leader:   May God, who gave birth to all creation, 

             bless us:

may God, who became incarnate by an earthly mother, bless us:

may God, who broods as a mother over her children, bless us.

May almighty God bless us, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

now and for ever.

All:        Amen.

 

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION

 

  1. How did Hannah demonstrate the love of God?

 

  1. In the light of what you’ve heard this morning, how might you now answer the question, ‘Who are you?’

 

  1. Is there someone you can thank today for showing you God’s loving care?  (If not, write a letter to God expressing you thanks for any examples of that love that you’ve experienced.)

  

 

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