Reflection – 27 March 2022

Here’s my reflection for Sunday 27 March.

Wherever you are in the world you can join in with the worship using this link to Zoom – https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84890359132 – worship starts at 11.00 British Summer Time (GMT+1).

Mark

Order of Service – 27 March 2022


We’ve come to worship God,

who loved us before we were yet born,

who knows us even better than we know ourselves,

whose presence never leaves us,

and whose love for us never ceases.

This is our God.

Let’s worship together!

Let’s sing our first hymn.

Be Still for the Glory of the Lord is Shining all around

Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One, is here;
Come bow before him now with reverence and fear:
In him no sin is found – we stand on holy ground.
Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One, is here.

Be still, for the glory of the Lord is shining all around;
He burns with holy fire, with splendour he is crowned:
How awesome is the sight – our radiant King of light!
Be still, for the glory of the Lord is shining all around. 

Be still, for the power of the Lord is moving in this place;
He comes to cleanse and heal, to minister his grace –
No work too hard for him. In faith receive from him.
Be still, for the power of the Lord is moving in this place

A Prayer for Ukraine

God of peace and justice,
we pray for the people of Ukraine today.
We pray for peace and the laying down of weapons.
We pray for all those who fear for tomorrow,
that your Spirit of comfort would draw near to them.
We pray for those with power over war or peace,
for wisdom, discernment and compassion to guide their decisions.
Above all, we pray for all your precious children, at risk and in fear,
that you would hold and protect them.
We pray in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Here’s my monthly quiz

Quiz answers are at the end

It’s Mother’s Day in the UK. Or Mothering Sunday as the Church likes to call it. I fear that’s a bit of a losing battle but here’s a bit of history anyway.

During the sixteenth century, people returned to their mother church for a service to be held on the fourth Sunday in Lent. This was either a large local church, or more often the nearest . In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother Church, usually with their own mothers and other family members. It was often the only time that whole families could gather together. But by the 1920s, the custom of keeping Mothering Sunday had tended to lapse

Here’s a picture of a blue plaque.

Do you know where this is?

It’s on the wall of the building in Newark on Church Walk – at the back of the Parish church near the war memorial. Have you ever noticed it before?

Constance Penswick-Smith started something in 1914 called the Mothering Sunday Movement, aiming to revive the tradition that had lapsed. She was the daughter of a vicar of Coddington.

And what many people, even in Newark don’t know is that Constance is now the Patron Saint of Interflora.

We’ve had some fairly heavy sessions in the last few weeks looking at the role of women in church and at homosexuality. We will return to our theme soon but just for this week I’m going to go off-piste and concentrate on mothers.

A warning – It may get sentimental.

I’m going to play a song by Abba. I think it’s the best thing that they ever did and that’s saying something for a group that came up with Dancing Queen.

This one is called ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ and it’s about a mother’s love for her daughter. This is the version from the film of Mamma Mia with Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried.

It usually makes me weep buckets every time I hear it.

You know when I looked at this clip a little more closely I realised that this was about a Mother’s love for her child, who she was about to lose.

And those of you that have seen the film will remember that the child’s father was a bit of a mystery.

And in the clip the child is riding away to face its future on a donkey.

And I thought about another mother. And her child.

And it’s Palm Sunday in a fortnight.

Time for a Mothering Sunday hymn – by Fred Kaan. God of Eve and God of Mary

God of Eve and God of Mary,

God of love and mother-earth,

thank you for the ones who with us

shared their life and gave us birth.

As you came to earth in Jesus,

so you come to us today;

you are present in the caring

that prepares us for life’s way.

Thank you that the Church , our Mother,

gives us bread and fills our cup,

and the comfort of the Spirit

warms our hearts and lifts us up.

Thank you for belonging, shelter,

bonds of friendship, ties of blood,

and for those who have no children,

yet are parents under God.

God of Eve and God of Mary,

Christ our brother, human Son,

Spirit, caring like a Mother,

take our love and make us one!

Now you won’t be surprised to know that I have it in mind for you to do a lot of the work this morning.

I’ve got some mothers for us to think about (one of them is actually a Mother-in-Law as it happens)

There are 4 mothers to look at in 3 readings. All from the Old Testament. So have a look at one or all of these readings and then think about what the passage has to say to you about being a mother

Hannah – 1 Samuel 1

Elkanah and His Family at Shiloh

There was a man named Elkanah, from the tribe of Ephraim, who lived in the town of Ramah in the hill country of Ephraim. He was the son of Jeroham and grandson of Elihu, and belonged to the family of Tohu, a part of the clan of Zuph. Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not. Every year Elkanah went from Ramah to worship and offer sacrifices to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Each time Elkanah offered his sacrifice, he would give one share of the meat to Peninnah and one share to each of her children. And even though he loved Hannah very much he would give her only one share, because[a] the Lord had kept her from having children. Peninnah, her rival, would torment and humiliate her, because the Lord had kept her childless. This went on year after year; whenever they went to the house of the Lord, Peninnah would upset Hannah so much that she would cry and refuse to eat anything. Her husband Elkanah would ask her, “Hannah, why are you crying? Why won’t you eat? Why are you always so sad? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

Hannah and Eli

9-10 One time, after they had finished their meal in the house of the Lord at Shiloh, Hannah got up. She was deeply distressed, and she cried bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. Meanwhile, Eli the priest was sitting in his place by the door. 11 Hannah made a solemn promise: “Lord Almighty, look at me, your servant! See my trouble and remember me! Don’t forget me! If you give me a son, I promise that I will dedicate him to you for his whole life and that he will never have his hair cut.”[b]

12 Hannah continued to pray to the Lord for a long time, and Eli watched her lips. 13 She was praying silently; her lips were moving, but she made no sound. So Eli thought that she was drunk, 14 and he said to her, “Stop making a drunken show of yourself Stop your drinking and sober up!”

15 “No, I’m not drunk, sir,” she answered. “I haven’t been drinking! I am desperate, and I have been praying, pouring out my troubles to the Lord. 16 Don’t think I am a worthless woman. I have been praying like this because I’m so miserable.”

17 “Go in peace,” Eli said, “and may the God of Israel give you what you have asked him for.”

18 “May you always think kindly of me,” she replied. Then she went away, ate some food, and was no longer sad.

Samuel’s Birth and Dedication

19 The next morning Elkanah and his family got up early, and after worshiping the Lord, they went back home to Ramah. Elkanah had intercourse with his wife Hannah, and the Lord answered her prayer. 20 So it was that she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel,[c] and explained, “I asked the Lord for him.”

21 The time came again for Elkanah and his family to go to Shiloh and offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and the special sacrifice he had promised. 22 But this time Hannah did not go. She told her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will take him to the house of the Lord, where he will stay all his life.”

23 Elkanah answered, “All right, do whatever you think best; stay at home until you have weaned him. And may the Lord make your[d] promise come true.” So Hannah stayed at home and nursed her child.

24 After she had weaned him, she took him to Shiloh, taking along a three-year-old bull,[e] a bushel of flour, and a leather bag full of wine. She took Samuel, young as he was, to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. 25 After they had killed the bull, they took the child to Eli. 26 Hannah said to him, “Excuse me, sir. Do you remember me? I am the woman you saw standing here, praying to the Lord. 27 I asked him for this child, and he gave me what I asked for. 28 So I am dedicating him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he will belong to the Lord.”

Then they[f] worshiped the Lord there.

Hagar and Sarah – Gen 16:1-16; Gen 21:1-10

Hagar and Ishmael

16 Abram’s wife Sarai had not borne him any children. But she had an Egyptian slave woman named Hagar, and so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Why don’t you sleep with my slave? Perhaps she can have a child for me.” Abram agreed with what Sarai said. So she gave Hagar to him to be his concubine. (This happened after Abram had lived in Canaan for ten years.) Abram had intercourse with Hagar, and she became pregnant. When she found out that she was pregnant, she became proud and despised Sarai.

Then Sarai said to Abram, “It’s your fault that Hagar despises me. I myself gave her to you, and ever since she found out that she was pregnant, she has despised me. May the Lord judge which of us is right, you or me!”

Abram answered, “Very well, she is your slave and under your control; do whatever you want with her.” Then Sarai treated Hagar so cruelly that she ran away.

The angel of the Lord met Hagar at a spring in the desert on the road to Shur and said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”

She answered, “I am running away from my mistress.”

He said, “Go back to her and be her slave.” 10 Then he said, “I will give you so many descendants that no one will be able to count them. 11 You are going to have a son, and you will name him Ishmael, because the Lord has heard your cry of distress. 12 But your son will live like a wild donkey; he will be against everyone, and everyone will be against him. He will live apart from all his relatives.”

13 Hagar asked herself, “Have I really seen God and lived to tell about it?” So she called the Lord, who had spoken to her, “A God Who Sees.” 14 That is why people call the well between Kadesh and Bered “The Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.”

15 Hagar bore Abram a son, and he named him Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old at the time.

The Birth of Isaac

21 The Lord blessed Sarah, as he had promised, and she became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham when he was old. The boy was born at the time God had said he would be born. Abraham named him Isaac, and when Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God had commanded. Abraham was a hundred years old when Isaac was born. Sarah said, “God has brought me joy and laughter. Everyone who hears about it will laugh with me.” Then she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

The child grew, and on the day that he was weaned, Abraham gave a great feast.

Hagar and Ishmael Are Sent Away

One day Ishmael, whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham, was playing with Sarah’s son Isaac. 10 Sarah saw them and said to Abraham, “Send this slave and her son away. The son of this woman must not get any part of your wealth, which my son Isaac should inherit.” 

Naomi – Ruth 1:1-17

1-2 Long ago, in the days before Israel had a king, there was a famine in the land. So a man named Elimelech, who belonged to the clan of Ephrath and who lived in Bethlehem in Judah, went with his wife Naomi and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion to live for a while in the country of Moab. While they were living there, Elimelech died, and Naomi was left alone with her two sons, who married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. About ten years later Mahlon and Chilion also died, and Naomi was left all alone, without husband or sons.

Naomi and Ruth Return to Bethlehem

Some time later Naomi heard that the Lord had blessed his people by giving them good crops; so she got ready to leave Moab with her daughters-in-law. They started out together to go back to Judah, but on the way she said to them, “Go back home and stay with your mothers. May the Lord be as good to you as you have been to me and to those who have died. And may the Lord make it possible for each of you to marry again and have a home.”

So Naomi kissed them good-bye. But they started crying 10 and said to her, “No! We will go with you to your people.”

11 “You must go back, my daughters,” Naomi answered. “Why do you want to come with me? Do you think I could have sons again for you to marry? 12 Go back home, for I am too old to get married again. Even if I thought there was still hope, and so got married tonight and had sons, 13 would you wait until they had grown up? Would this keep you from marrying someone else? No, my daughters, you know that’s impossible. The Lord has turned against me, and I feel very sorry for you.”

14 Again they started crying. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye and went back home, but Ruth held on to her. 15 So Naomi said to her, “Ruth, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her god. Go back home with her.”

16 But Ruth answered, “Don’t ask me to leave you! Let me go with you. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. 17 Wherever you die, I will die, and that is where I will be buried. May the Lord’s worst punishment come upon me if I let anything but death separate me from you!”

You might want to pause here and think about your responses before reading on

Some thoughts of mine

Hannah

  • Childlessness
  • Cruelty of those that can have children – or thoughtlessness
  • Thankfulness
  • Willingness to give up your child for God – echoes of Easter

Hagar and Sarah

  • Childlessness
  • Jealousy
  • Cruelty
  • Isaac also almost offered to God

Naomi

  • Dedication to a mother(-in-law)
  • Selflessness
  • Welcoming those from other cultures
  • Ruth was an ancestor of King David

There haven’t been any great theological insights in today’s service.

But your faith isn’t fed entirely by logic and reasoning is it? At least mine isn’t.

Sometimes we can learn about God by listening to our emotions.

And if you want to learn about a caring and loving God what better example can you look for than the love of a human mother.

Our final hymn is called a Mother’s prayer. If the Abba didn’t get you crying maybe this one will.

Before you close your eyes to sleep

I have a promise still to keep

As I hold you in my arms

I pray your little frame grows strong and that

Faith takes hold while you are young

This is my prayer for you

Hold my hand, I’ll teach you the Way to go

Through the joys, through the tears

The journey of these years

May you trust Him till the end

May you trust Him in the end

This world is not as it should be

But the Saviour opens eyes to see

All that’s beautiful and true

Oh

May His light fill all you are and the jewel of wisdom crown your heart

This is my prayer for you

Hold my hand, I’ll teach you the Way to go

Through the joys, through the tears

The journey of these years

He is with us till the end, He is faithful till the end

Close your eyes, oh child of my heart

My worldly joy, my treasure

Close your eyes, oh love of my heart

And you will get a gift tomorrow

You’ll travel where my arms won’t reach

As the road will rise

To lead your feet on a journey of your own

May my mistakes not hinder you

But His grace remain and guide you through

This is my prayer for you

Take His hand and go where He calls you to

And whatever comes, seek Him with all your heart

This will be my prayer for you

Father, hear my ceaseless prayer

Oh keep her in Your care

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

and the love of God,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all now

and for evermore.

Amen.

Quiz answers

  1. Brooklyn Beckham               2 Victoria Beckham
  2. Carrie Fisher                         10 Debbie Reynolds
  3. Melanie Griffiths                   6 Tippi Hedren
  4. Kate Hudson                         5 Goldie Hawn
  5. Dakota Johnson                   4 Melanie Griffiths
  6. Jamie Lee Curtis                  7 Janet Leigh
  7. Stella McCartney                  8 Linda McCartney
  8. Liza Minelli                            3 Judy Garland
  9. Kelly Osborne                       9 Sharon Osborne
  10. Zara Tindall                           1 Princess Anne

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