A reflection for the 14th March 2021
'Fourth Sunday in Lent'

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Offered for Sunday 14th March 2021


Stephen

Reflections Script

'Fourth Sunday in Lent'

March 14th 2021


This week's reflection
is in two distinct parts.
Firstly a few thoughts around Mothering Sunday,
Secondly, the set Gospel Reading
for the fourth Sunday in Lent, John 3.14 to 21.

On the face of it different
but spot the connection!
This weekend we celebrate
"Mothering Sunday"!
However, I've a problem with
Mothering Sunday. It's not that I don't like
Mothering Sunday or
that I disagree with it or
that I dread it.
My problem is,
Mothering Sunday is perhaps, for me,
the most difficult sermon
to preach all year.

While Mothering Sunday can be
a very happy, joyous day for some,
it can also be a very challenging day,
a day of pain, a day of grief,
a day of regret,
a day of negative feelings,
so not everybody looks forward
to Mothering Sunday!

In our rush to purchase an
expression of love or recall
fond memories let's not forget
Mothering Sunday, as said,
is a day some find excruciating!

Someone I know refers to the day
as 'Disappointment Day !'
With late parents more concerned
about appearances than parenting
and children who are indifferent
showing limited affection
and only on their terms!

Scripture does not shy away from
difficulties and I offer the following
'Litany for Biblical Mothers'
and ask for your prayers for
those who find it all overpowering
and simply 'Step Away'!

Eve, mother of our humanity,
teach us true wisdom,
that all life is precious
in God's sight.
Sarah, Hannah and Elizabeth,
yearning for a child,
comfort and strengthen all
who know the pain of infertility.

Hagar, condemned to the harshness
of exile, sustain those who struggle
to feed their sons and daughters.

Rebecca, bride from a far off land,
welcome women who must bring up
their families among strangers.
Rachel, weeping for your children,
weep with all mothers whose
children have disappeared.

Jochebed, mother of
Moses and Miriam,
lend your ingenuity to women
who seek protection
for their children.

Naomi and Ruth, bound together
by a love greater than blood,
show us how bitter
disappointment can become
the sweetness of hope.

Mary, mother of Jesus,
share with us God's secrets
that you observed and felt and
pondered deep within your heart.
Amen.



Let us Pray


Lord God,
Creator and Maker of us all,
speak in the calming of our minds
and in the longings of our hearts
and in the thoughts that we form.
Speak, Lord,
for your servants are listening.
Amen.



Address


Three-year-old Grace knew
she was not allowed to touch the
aromatic sticks that gave her
grandparents' living room a sweet
fragrance of cinnamon.

She loved the scent,
and she loved her Grandparents,
especially her Granddad.
However, one afternoon,
thinking Grace was being very quiet,
her Granddad found her with
all the aromatic sticks
out of their jar,
and the oil spilled over the carpet.

It just took one look from Granddad
for Grace to burst into
inconsolable tears.
She thought he would never
forgive her and never
love her again.

In fact, of course, his love
for her was unchanged,
and he was as troubled by her
distress as she by what she had done.

After a few minutes Grace,
still sobbing, said sorry to Granddad.
The aromatic sticks were put back
in their jar and moved
out of her reach,
and the carpet was later sent
for a professional clean.

The relationship,
which in his eyes had never
been broken, was restored.

Today's Gospel reading contains
one of the most quoted verses
in scripture. John 3:16,
"God so loved the world that
he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes
in him should not perish
but have eternal life."

It's part of Jesus' teaching to
Nicodemus, a Pharisee who came
in the darkness of the night,
not wanting anyone to know
he was moved by this
new rabbi's teaching.

"Eternal" doesn't simply refer
to something to come;
It's about the life of God
in Christ by the power of the
Holy Spirit given to us now,
that we may live in God's
light and love,
empowered to do things;
like loving our neighbour;
that may be too hard
through our own strength.

The verse that comes straight after
is less well known,
but so important if we are
to understand anything about God.
Jesus didn't come to condemn,
but to save.
Saving is about pulling
someone out from danger,
so they are not hurt
or injured
and it is about healing;
deep-down healing;
that keeps our hearts steady
and assured even when life
is turbulent and
storms rage about us.

This passage continues to show
how much God understands the
human condition:
people love darkness rather
than light because their deeds
are against God.
Most of us live with a
degree of fear we will be
exposed for who we really are;
and our own self-judgement
is usually we are not
good enough in some way.

Sometimes other people have
damaged us so much we hide
the truth about ourselves
in order to protect our
vulnerable hearts.

We live in darkness,
hoping that no one will notice;
just like Grace,
quietly doing the one thing
she was not allowed to.

This is the darkness God
wants to save us from,
because in the end it is not
life giving for anyone and,
of course, it's the darkness
into which God sent his Son,
Jesus Christ,
not to condemn us by exposing
everything about us,
but to save us by revealing
the truth as the light illuminates
all that is happening,
and leading us away from
darkness and into eternal life.

This move from darkness to light
is a journey,
and it's an invitation.
For many of us,
our instinctive response to
God's coming into our darkness
is we will be condemned.

Grace assumed when her Granddad
caught her in her act of disobedience,
she would be punished
and the lovely relationship
they shared would be over.

She didn't understand Granddads
main concern was neither she
nor the furniture were covered
in the aromatic oil that
would stain and damage;
that he wanted to help
her to learn.

We can be just like Grace;
more afraid of God than
trusting that the eternal life
we are called to,
is about goodness,
love and mercy.

God in Christ by the power
of the Holy Spirit calls us always
to the continuing relationship through
all that lies ahead.
Our part is to acknowledge our need
for mercy, to learn that
we can depend on it and,
placing our hand in God's,
to come again and again and again,
back into his light and presence.



To Summarise

When we are caught
in the act of doing something wrong,
we assume we will be punished
and that relationship may be over.
The truth is that God sent Jesus
into the world to save people,
not to condemn them.
Salvation is about being pulled out
of danger so we are not harmed.

We can dare to trust in the
mercy and love of God that invites us,
whatever we have done,
into eternal life.



Our Blessing


Lighten and
come into our darkness,
we implore you, O Lord;
and by your great mercy
and all enveloping love
defend us from all perils
and dangers of this world;
for the love of your only Son,
our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

And the blessing.......


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