Sermon and Readings for 4th Sunday of Lent, Mothering Sunday
by Serena Josolyne
In the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Continuing in our Lenten Journey we have now reached the 4th Sunday in Lent. This is the time that we always celebrate Mothering Sunday. Because the date of Easter depends upon the first full moon after the Spring equinox, the actual date moves around each year. Unfortunately, the moon is totally unaware of our calendars, so it makes no attempt at corresponding to any recurring dates on them! Fortunately, our diaries can let us know the dates of Easter, so we don’t have the problem of having to perform the calculations for ourselves. In the sixteenth century, time was given to domestic staff to attend their mother Church for a special family service on the fourth Sunday of Lent. The tradition of this special service continues to this day but that special permission is rarely needed. Having just one day in the year to remember our mothers would be underestimating the debt that most of us owe to them, so it is not surprising that in 1876 a group of mothers got together to form the Mothers Union. Unlike most unions, this one did not limit the help it gave, just to its paid-up members, but to all mothers everywhere throughout the world: an enormous task! Although it is a Christian movement it does not limit its help to just any one faith. To quote from the Mothers Union website:
We are an international Christian membership movement supporting families and communities in need of support in the UK and worldwide since 1876. Our members are active in 84 countries and work tirelessly to serve their communities whilst offering Christian care for families, regardless of faith or background.
Followed by this statement:
Ending violence, ending poverty, ending injustice. We are a truly worldwide Christian movement.
Our St James’ Church branch of Mothers Union started 40 years ago and it is still going strong and Mothering Sunday is usually a day in which it takes a particularly active part, including the presentation of daffodils to all mothers in the congregation, via their children. Unfortunately, this year’s Mothering Sunday will be like no other one that we have experienced! Our church is not yet open to our parishioners or to the Mothers Union and full family gatherings (even in our own homes) are still not advised. Sadly, many Mums will be missing the closeness of their families. I’m luckier than some; living within a short distance of my daughter, we are still able to go on outdoor walks together, but we aren’t meeting indoors yet. Unfortunately, my son lives further away and so we have to be content with regular video link meetings instead of meeting up.
Over the centuries there have been very many pandemics that have spread across the world. The interesting thing is that the more advanced we become in knowledge, the things that threaten us also become more advanced and more difficult to combat. Sometimes it almost seems as if these life-threatening perils are being sent to test us. Fortunately, with knowledge gained over the centuries and with God’s help, there have been dedicated people who have been able to work out ways of dealing with the pandemic. These ways include the advice given on self-protection and isolation (unknown in biblical times), the selfless caring by so many medical staff and the fantastic work of those producing vaccines. In today’s Old testament reading, many Israelites, during their escape from Israel, were dying, not because of any pandemic, but from an attack by a plague of poisonous serpents. With God’s help, Moses devised a way of dealing with this; not by a logical method that would work in our modern world, at that time there was no knowledge available for producing antidotes; the only protection available to them was a belief and a faith in God and of course in their leader Moses, who was their acting spokesman for God.
Although many have died, can we doubt that the enormous advancements in finding an answer to this pandemic have been with the help of God. We must now have faith that the spread of this disease is coming under control at last. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he says: [‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:08].
Finally, in todays Gospel reading, we heard Jesus debating with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and leader of the Jews.
Jesus had no intention or expectation of redeeming himself to the Pharisees, and he was totally fearless in calling their practices and their understanding of the scriptures into doubt. Jesus knew the path that he was taking as we do. I would like to finish by repeating the words that he said to Nicodemus: [And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. John 3:14-15].