Monday, 12 April 2021

A Vision of Jesus

 A sermon for Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church

18th April 2021



Acts 6.7-15; 7.1-2a, 51-60


Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads as follows:

 

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;

           this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom,

                     either alone or in community with others and in public or private,

           to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

 

And yet persecution remains a very real and present reality

           for many Christians, and also many people of other faiths, around the world.

 

I can still remember my visit to Bucharest in Romania, back in 2000,

           when we went to stand at the place on the street

                     that was directly above the underground cell

           where Romanian pastor and long-term prisoner Richard Wurmbrand

                      was imprisoned and tortured

                     during the Cold War years of the 1950s and 1960s.

 

On his release, he inspired the founding of Release International

           which, alongside other organisations such as Forum 18

           seeks to highlight the plight of persecuted Christians

                      and other minorities around the world.

 

Their websites offer a depressing and distressing picture of international persecution,

           from Islamic State in the Middle East,

           to Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria

           to Hindu extremists in India.

 

Countries where freedom of religion is officially restricted include

           Azerbaijan, where prisoners of conscience jailed and tortured

                     for exercising freedom of religion and belief, and

           Tajikistann, where there is a ban on and punishments for

                      all exercise of freedom of religion or belief without state permission;

           together with severe limitations on numbers of mosques,

                     and the jailing of Muslim, Jehovah's Witness and Protestant prisoners of conscience

                                on alleged "extremism" charges.

 

And I could go on, and on, citing further examples

           from Georgia, Belarus, Turkey, and many, many more.

 

And those of us who live in a relatively tolerant country like the UK

           can struggle sometimes to realize the horrific truth

that persecution on religious grounds is a daily reality

           for so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.

 

And yet, this is the background against which

           much of the New Testament was written!

When we read of Stephen being stoned to death

           or Paul facing beatings and floggings

           or John in Revelation speaking of hardship and martyrdom,

we need to realize that for those in the early church

           imprisonment and death for their faith was very much a reality.

 

And we therefore need to read the stories that are told in the New Testament

           against this background,

           in order to appreciate the context for what we are hearing.

 

Something which fascinates me in this story from the book of Acts,

           is what happens to Stephen as he is about to be stoned to death.

 

Did you notice it? – it was something very strange indeed…

           something which has never happened to me

           and something which I’d be surprised if it had happened to anyone else here this morning,

                     (although I could be wrong about that).

 

The strange thing that happened to Stephen was that as he faced his moment of death,

           he was filled with the Holy Spirit and saw heaven opened,

                      with Jesus, referred to as the son of man,

                     standing at the right hand of God.

 

In other words, just before Stephen was called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice,

           just before he had to remain faithful unto death,

he had a vision of heaven, in which he saw God seated on the heavenly throne

           with Jesus standing alongside him.

 

Now, strange though this vision is, it is not unique either:

           The author of the book of Revelation reports a very similar experience

           which we’ll read together in a moment

 

The book of Revelation was originally written to Christians living in seven cities in Asia Minor

           at the heart of the Roman empire

By a pastor called John who was himself imprisoned for his faith.

 

Only a few years before it was written, the people he was writing to

           had been subjected to some terrible persecutions,

           with the Emperor Nero taking Christians and tying them to stakes

                     and setting fire to them to light his gardens,

           or throwing them to wild animals in the amphitheatre.

 

So it was in that context that John wrote the following:

 

Revelation 1:9-18  I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.  10 I was in the spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet  11 saying, "Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea."  12 Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands,  13 and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest.  14 His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire,  15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters.  16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force.  17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,  18 and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.

 

Do you see the similarity

           between the vision Stephen received just before he was stoned to death

           and the one which John speaks about in his context of persecution?

 

In both visions, heaven is opened, and Jesus, described as the ‘son of man’

           is seen standing in glory…

 

Now, why is this, I wonder?...

           What is it about a vision of Jesus standing in heaven

           that is so appropriate in a context of extreme difficulty?

 

Well, I think the answer has something to do with the way in which Jesus himself died…

           As the gospels tell us, Jesus was the victim of torture,

                     and then he was murdered

                      for no crime other than an accusation of blasphemy

 

The similarity between Jesus’ death

           and the struggles being faced today by those in Pakistan and Indonesia

           who are facing imprisonment for ‘blasphemy’ is obvious;

As is the similarity between his experience of torture and death

           and the experience of Stephen, or those who suffered under Nero.

 

And the point of these visions seems to be this:

           to provide heaven’s perspective on the earthly situation.

 

From the point of view of those living on the earth

           it really can seem, on occasions, that all is lost.

 

From the point of view of the person facing persecution and martyrdom,

           it really can seem as if God has lost all power

           and that the forces of evil in the world are absolutely in charge.

 

From the point of view of those living on the earth

           it really can feel like Jesus has abandoned his followers to their terrible fate

           at the hands of those who would want to kill them.

 

And it is at this point, when the earthly perspective can seem so bleak,

           that we need a heavenly perspective.

Because, when the earth is seen from the viewpoint of heaven,

           things appear very different…

 

When seen from heaven’s point of view,

           all is not lost at all, God has not lost power, and evil is not in charge,

This is the significance of the vision of God seated on the heavenly throne

           as lord of the whole universe.

And neither has Jesus abandoned his followers.

           Rather, he is seen standing in glory in heaven

           as true king over the earth.

 

You see, appearances can be deceptive,

           and just as the crucifixion of Jesus was not defeat but victory,

                     with the power of death being broken at the resurrection,

           so too the persecution and martyrdom of Jesus’ followers is not defeat,

                     but rather it is the faithful witness which points the world to Christ.

 

It is no co-incidence that the church grows when it is under persecution.

           From the early years of the Christian faith,

           to Communist China in the post-war period.

When those in the church follow their Lord in witnessing even to death,

           others respond to that witness and rise up to take their place.

 

The terrible, frightening, but glorious truth

           is that the world is won for Christ,

not through yet another evangelistic project,

           but through the faithful witness of those who take up their crosses

           and follow Jesus without compromise.

 

And it is the realization that Jesus is alive,

           and that he is standing in glory in heaven,

           at the right hand of the almighty,

that gives those who would follow him,

           the courage to remain faithful

           in the face of terrible difficulty.

 

In the Hebrew Bible we find the story of Daniel being thrown into the lion’s den

           for refusing to worship the King Nebuchadnezzar,

and Daniel is still under threat of losing his life

           when he receives the following vision

which by now is starting to sound a bit familiar to us:

 

Daniel 7:9-14  As I watched, thrones were set in place, and an Ancient One took his throne, his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and its wheels were burning fire.  10 A stream of fire issued and flowed out from his presence. A thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him. The court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.  11 I watched then because of the noise of the arrogant words that the horn was speaking. And as I watched, the beast was put to death, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire.  12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.  13 As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him.  14 To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.

 

Daniel, like John, like Stephen, has a vision of heaven opened,

           and sees the son of man standing in glory,

at just that point in his life

           where he might be tempted to think that God had abandoned him.

 

After all, the king of Babylon in those days seemed all-powerful,

           and from an earthly perspective

           it seemed that there was nothing anyone could do to oppose him.

 

But the vision which Daniel has of the son of man,

           as king of an everlasting kingdom,

is one which puts into perspective

           any power the earthly king in Babylon might appear have.

 

The message is the same as we have met already:

           From an earthly perspective it can appear that evil is winning,

                     but when seen from heaven’s perspective, Jesus is Lord,

                     and God is the almighty one enthroned above all earthly powers.

 

So what might this say to us…???

 

As I have said, we who live in this country at this time

           don’t face the same levels of persecution

           that others around the world face on a daily basis.

 

Now, I’m not saying we’ve got it all easy – of course we haven’t,

           we may not be facing imprisonment, torture and death

           for no greater crime than going to church,

but nonetheless, we face our own share of problems,

           which might tempt us to doubt that God is still powerful.

We face situations in our own lives,

           where from an earthly perspective it can certainly appear

           as if Jesus has lost his power.

 

I mean, we might well ask the question,

           of why it is that so many people in the area around this church

                      are not able to hear the good news of life and love

                      that comes through a relationship with God in Christ Jesus.

It can appear to us, sometimes, as if we might as well give up trying to tell others about Jesus

           because they’re never going to listen and nothing is ever going to change!

 

Or we might ask the question of why it is that so much evil still happens in the world,

           with bad things happening to good people on a daily basis.

It can appear to us, sometimes, as if we might as well give up praying for the world,

           because nothing is ever going to change.

 

Or we might ask the question of why it is that we cannot conquer our own sinfulness,

           as we carry on doing and saying things that we know we shouldn’t.

It can appear to us, sometimes, as if we might as well give up trying to follow Jesus,

           because nothing is ever going to change.

 

And, well… yes… the temptation to give up is very real,

           and the motivation to press on with following Christ

           in the face of difficulty and discouragement can seem very lacking.

 

And it is to us, when we are facing these doubts and difficulties,

           that Stephen, and John, and Daniel’s visions come with renewed power.

 

If we can learn from them to see the earth as heaven sees it,

           to see our own lives as heaven sees us,

to realize that the Spirit of the risen Christ is vital and active in the world,

           and that God’s power is greater than any earthly power,

Then maybe we, like so many before us, can receive from that vision

           the courage, the determination, and the perspective we need to carry on,

           to fight the good fight, to endure and overcome.

 

To those of us who sometimes want to give it all up

           the risen Jesus comes in power,

to renew our strength, giving us the gift of the Holy Spirit

           who sustains us, guides us, and points us to the one who was dead,

           but is alive for evermore.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

The Mystery of the Everyday

 A sermon for Provoking Faith in a Time of Isolation

The online gathering of Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church

11th April 2021



Luke 24.13-35

Listen to this sermon here: https://soundcloud.com/bloomsbury-1/the-mystery-of-the-everyday

I love cooking, I love welcoming friends and family to our house, I love visiting other people in their homes, and I love going out for a meal in a pub or a restaurant - nothing too fancy, you understand, just some good food and some good company. 

We’ve tried a few Zoom meals with friends over the last year, eating our respective dinners in front of computer screens balanced on our dining room tables, and whilst the company has always been good, and the food perfectly edible, it really hasn’t been the same.

And if I’m honest, I feel a bit the same about our monthly communion services - as we have shared bread and wine as a scattered community. It’s been OK, and it’s helped keep our community together, but it really isn’t the same.

Interestingly, I’ve often thought that the words of the institution of the Lord’s supper, as we find them recorded in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, take us beyond the world of the monthly liturgy of a sip of wine and morsel of bread.

Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 11.26, ‘as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes’, and this little phrase ‘as often as’ has always seemed to me to imply more than a monthly service of a sacrament.

In the context of the situation in Corinth, it seems more likely to me that Paul meant by this, ‘as often as you eat and drink together’. And so we’re back to shared meals, to community, to fellowship, to that mysterious ‘something’ that turns up as we sit around a table, to feed our bodies and our souls in equal measure.

And this, of course, was the experience of Cleopas and the other traveller on the road to Emmaus, who I like to think might have been Cleopas’s other half, as they sat at the meal table with their new friend, to discover that in a moment of shared food, the resurrected Christ was made known in their midst.

Which makes me wonder what my expectations are, what our expectations are, about how and where we might encounter Jesus?

Many of us have been conditioned to expect to meet Jesus in certain buildings, or through the enactment of certain rituals, such as going to church, or saying our prayers, or reading our Bibles, or ‘hands together and eyes closed’.

If you had a similar early Christian journey to me, it might be that you were told that if you didn’t have your daily ‘quiet time’, you wouldn’t encounter Jesus in your day, and then the whole thing takes on an element of failure and guilt if you didn’t do the things that you had been told that you should.

But what if the truth of it, is what the travellers on the road to Emmaus discovered: that Jesus is encountered not just in Jerusalem, or the Temple, or the upper room; but along the way to somewhere else, in the face of a stranger just-met, or around a meal table over shared bread and wine?

What if Jesus is primarily present to us, not in the holy places or the sanctified moments, but in the mystery of the everyday?

What if the fact that we haven’t been to our church building for a year, or that our communion services have been conducted over Zoom, or that our choir has had to sing their separate songs to be stitched together afterwards… what if all these pandemic-related disappointments have actually been whispering to us all along that Christ is with us, present even if often unnoticed, in our lonely homes, in our support bubbles, in our socially-distanced walks, in our times of solitude, and in our confined families?

What if Christ is primarily always with us in the midst of dashed hopes and the ordinariness of life?

There is a form of prayer called the Examen, which originates in the 16th Century with St Ignatius of Loyola who founded the Jesuit order, and it is something he encouraged people do at the end of each day. It’s an invitation to find the movement or presence of God in all the people and events of our day.

One Jesuit teacher, Fr. Dennis, calls the prayer of Examen “rummaging for God.”[1] He likens it to “going through a drawer full of stuff, feeling around, looking for something that you are sure must be there.” And he says that this is a great description of what it’s like to pray the Daily Examen. We look back on the previous day, rummaging through the “stuff,” and finding God in it.

Sometimes at Bloomsbury we use a version of the Examen, asking people to reflect on where, for them, that day, has God been especially present, and where, correspondingly, has it felt like God has been absent. Sometimes, reflecting on these experiences can help us to highlight areas of sin or neglect that we might need to address, but also it can take us into a deeper and more personal experience of God in the mystery of the everyday.

If you haven’t tried this form of praying, I commend it to you. Interestingly, many people beyond the Christian church use a form of daily Examen, with journaling techniques often encouraging people to reflect on their day, and to write down and capture those moments of positivity, of grace, and of hope, as a way of combatting the feelings of negativity that can so often overwhelm us.

Which brings me to the question of why it might be that we, like the couple on the road to Emmaus, can sometimes fail to recognise Jesus, even when he is staring us in the face?

Let’s go back and revisit the story from Luke’s gospel.

It was the afternoon of that first Easter Sunday, and these two disciples had left Jerusalem for Emmaus, about a 12km walk, and were making their way along the road, discussing the horrific and confusing events of the last few days, from the crucifixion to the mystery of the women’s report of the empty tomb.

And Jesus came to them on the road, and Luke tells us what happened next:

‘Jesus said to them, "What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?" They stood still, looking sad.’ (Luke 24.17)

They were so lost in their sadness, that they could not see the source of joy that was before them. They were telling stories of loss, of deficit, of defeat, and were missing the story of life, gain, and hope that was entering their lives.

And just as the prayer of Examen invites us to review our days, to find Jesus in the mystery of the everyday, I wonder if we too need to review our language, to ask ourselves what it is that we are discussing?

What stories are we spinning into existence in our midst? Are they stories of life, gain, and hope; or are they stories of loss, deficit, and defeat?

Are we missing the resurrecting power and presence of Jesus in our midst because we are too busy retelling to ourselves the stories of Good Friday? Do we miss the significance of the reports of the empty tomb, because we have become so focussed on the emptiness itself, rather than what it signifies?

Sam Wells, the vicar of St Martin in the Fields, uses the language of asset and deficit to describe congregational life. He suggests that that ‘Christianity is fundamentally about cultivating the assets of grace and joy, and only secondarily about eradicating the deficits of sin and death.’[2]

The challenge here for us, is that too often we get stuck at the cross, we lose ourselves in stories or theories of how Jesus saves us from sin and rescues us from death.

When instead we should be telling the world about the gifts of faith, hope, and love that are waiting to infuse every area of our lives, bringing meaning to the mundane, and joy to the everyday.

At a practical, congregational, level, there is a direct challenge to us as to how we frame the stories of our community.

Do we tell stories of decline, deficit, and defeat, or do we speak into being the stories of a hopeful, loving, joyful, faithful future, that echo from the empty tomb into the realities of our lives?

Over the next few months we have a task ahead of us, friends, as we will be living through change at all levels of our lives - from the personal, to the congregational, to the societal.

There will be challenge and difficulty, there will be loss and grieving, there will be stress and anxiety.

What will worship and witness look like in the future? We don’t know yet.

What next shape will our community and congregation take? We don’t know yet.

How will we address the financial pressures that are upon us? We don’t know yet.

But we do know that we need to be careful not to fall into the pattern of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, who were so stuck in their stories of deficit, that they risked missing the good news of the empty tomb that was standing before them.

So let us tell, above all, the story of the Gospel.

Let us faithfully live into being the good news of resurrection, of new life, of new hope, of joy, of peace, and of love.

Let us face the challenges and uncertainties of the future with faith, looking always to Jesus, and finding him in the face of the other.

And as we do so, day by day, meal by meal, conversation by conversation, we will discover that Christ is truly with us, in the mystery of everyday.



[2] Samuel Wells. A Future That's Bigger Than The Past . Canterbury Press, Norwich. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

The absence of Jesus

 A sermon for Provoking Faith in a Time of Isolation

The online gathering of Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church

4th April 2021 - Easter Sunday


Luke 24.1-12

This last year has been a time when the tension between presence and absence has been highlighted for all of us.

The coronavirus pandemic, and the lockdown restrictions and distancing measures that accompanied it, have meant that in so many ways we have been absent from one another.

The streets of Bloomsbury have been eerily quiet.

No tourists. Hardly any students.

Shuttered shops, closed restaurants, the only sound it seems sometimes is the wailing of the ambulance sirens.

Our economy has been profoundly affected.

Our working lives have been affected by severe stress.

Our usual work patterns have broken down.

Some of us have been dealing with emergencies, others have been furloughed, or working from home.

For me, it has felt at times as though I have been absent from my own life, a year in frenetic stasis: busy yet confined, on call and on hold at the same time.

And all of us have felt the pain of being absent from our friends, from our families, from our church community.

And yet, through all this we have been able to connect with other people in our community and around the world in unexpected ways.

The miracle of Zoom has meant that I have been able to join with more group meetings and webinars than I ever thought possible, sharing a view of my living space with people on the other side of the world.

I have also enjoyed many more one-to-one conversations with people than in a long time, learning to be vulnerable together in the strangely intimate setting of the video call.

So in that sense, I have found this last year to be a time when I have been profoundly present to other people.

We have reached out across the internet in search of connection, and discovered new depths in relationship, new honesty in communication.

One of things that has been a great source of encouragement to me is to observe how many aspects of our church community have thrived as a result of this deeper communication.

We’re meeting less, but I think we’re also listening more.

The discussion panel that now forms a regular part of our Sunday services has allowed us to hear a huge variety of perspectives on issues of life and faith.

More people have stepped up to take leadership roles, and we have come to appreciate many hidden strengths of individuals in our congregation.

These are gifts from God, which have been especially precious at a time like this.

We have been absent from one other, but we have also been present to each other. We have been scattered, but we have also been gathered, as our regular lockdown communion liturgy has reminded us.

So we may not have been to church, at least in the sense of visiting 235 Shaftesbury Avenue, and our Sanctuary has spent a year as empty as a cave.

But we have still gathered in the presence of God, for worship, prayer, and community.

God has been present to us, even as we have been absent from the places we normally go to encounter the divine.

Which brings me to our story for this morning, of Mary, Mary, Joana, and the other women discovering the empty tomb in the garden on that first Easter morning.

This, too, is a story of absence and presence.

I’m sure, as the women set off to visit the tomb, the events of Friday were still uppermost in everyone’s minds.

The cross, the moment of divine dereliction, of ultimate abandonment, is the tale of absence, with Jesus taken from those who love him, and executed outside the city wall.

Jesus had gone, and with him all the hopes and dreams that life could be different, all the love and vitality, all the healing and wholeness that had characterised the last three years, all gone.

All that was left for the grieving women, the despairing disciples, was a body in a tomb. And the women did what the men didn’t, and went to the tomb to face their fears, to anoint the body, to say one final farewell.

And what they discovered was yet further absence. The body itself had gone, leaving an empty cave.

Easter morning is the moment of supreme absence.

And yet, at that moment, when all had ended, the new beginning was already at hand.

The two men in dazzling clothes reminded them of what they already knew but had forgotten: that Jesus must go from them in order to be present with them.

In his absence, his presence becomes known in a new and more profound way.

And so the women told the men, but the men didn’t believe them, until one of the men confirmed it, because, well, patriarchy is nothing new, and women then as now often found their voices obscured by the voices of men.

But the wonder of that first Easter morning was that it was, in fact, the women who first proclaimed the mystery of the empty tomb.

And the women were right, the body was gone, the tomb was empty, and Jesus was no longer absent, but is rather eternally present.

The post-resurrection ‘new normal’ is not a return to the days before the horror of the cross.

There is no undoing the events of Good Friday, and the resurrected Christ bears the marks of the crucifixion eternally.

But the new possibility for divine presence, that the emptiness of the tomb heralds, is the new reality for those who seek God in Christ.

And so we come to today, to Easter 2021, at the end of a year of absence.

And my question is this: what does resurrection mean to you?

What does it mean for us to say that Jesus is raised from the dead?

As we plan to return to our lives, as our city starts to come back to life, and as our church takes a deep breath, in the hope and expectation that soon we'll be singing the gospel of life together again, we need to ask ourselves what the truth of resurrection means for us.

We, like the women at the mouth of the tomb, are not witnesses to Christ’s resurrected body. Jesus is not, physically at least, ‘with’ us.

Like the women, we simply know him through his absence.

Yet Christ is present with us, in ways that the disciples waiting in Jerusalem that first Easter morning had yet to comprehend.

The risen Christ is with us by his Spirit; Christ has been with us as we have been scattered by the pandemic, and Christ will be with us as we cautiously emerge from our own times of confining to find the new life that awaits us.

Christ is with us as we gather, as we worship, as we pray;

Christ is with us as we confess our sins and find forgiveness, as we break bread and drink wine;

Christ is with us as we re-member the broken body of the cross in the communion of God’s people, which is the body of Christ.

So, what does it mean for us, today, to say that Jesus is raised from the dead?

This is no cheap cosmic publicity stunt for the events of Good Friday.

Rather it is a profound assertion of faith that the one who died on the cross is present, even though he is absent.

There is a mural in our side-chapel at Bloomsbury, which depicts the city in the 1960s, with the quote from the Book of Revelation, ‘Behold, the dwelling of God is with all people’.

And as we consider our city in 2021, transitioning cautiously from silence and stillness to movement and bustle;

and as we hope for a journey from a time of death and suffering to a time of life and living;

we know that the resurrected Christ is present in the midst of it all, still drawing the world to life.

The resurrection is an expression of the conviction that death does not get the final word on life.

It is the eternal hope that calls to each of us who must face the truth of our human mortality.

It is the promise of new life. It is the expression of ultimate love.

The absence of the empty tomb is the assurance of God’s eternal presence.

God is with us, Christ is Risen.

This is good news. Hallelujah.

 

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Mothering Sunday Prayers




and these prayers for Mothering Sunday reflect this aspect of God's loving care


Mothering Sunday Call to Worship

God of love, mother of us all, we give thanks for the life that you have brought to birth in us.
Loving God, thank you for your tender care.

God of love, mother of us all, we give thanks for your steadfast love for each of us, your children.
Loving God, thank you for your tender care.

God of love, mother of us all, we give thanks that you sustain us and support us throughout our lives.
Loving God, thank you for your tender care.

God of love, mother of us all, we give thanks for the church which nourishes us, and enables us to grow. 
Loving God, thank you for your tender care.

God of love, mother of us all, we give thanks for the gift of those who love us, and those whom we love.
Loving God, thank you for your tender care.

 

The Lord’s Prayer for Mothering Sunday

God of all love, divine mother of us all, your name is holy to us.
May your loving embrace enfold our lives and our world.
You sustain us every day of our lives, from birth to death.
You do not turn your face away from us, 
and you enable us to not turn away from others.
Inspire us to live lives of love, but keep us safe from those who enact hatred.
For your loving embrace is eternal, unbreakable, and unconditional;
today, as it always has been, and always shall be. 
Amen.


Opening prayer for Mothering Sunday

Great God of all love, we come into your presence today
as people in need of your loving embrace.

We recognize that our independence of spirit,
and our desire to make our own way in the world,
have sometimes taken us far from you;
and we acknowledge the many ways
that we have pushed you away.

We are sorry for those times when we have turned our faces
away from your loving gaze.

So today, trusting in your unconditional acceptance,
we open our lives to the light of your love;
and we ask that you will forgive us those dark places
in our souls and in our lives
where we have tried to keep you out, and ourselves hidden.

Help us today to hear you calling us once again,
speaking words of love, forgiveness, and acceptance.

Amen.


Prayers of intercession for Mothering Sunday

God of love, mother of us all,
            we give thanks for the life that you have brought to birth in us.

We thank you for the gift of this day,
            and for our own lives, these precious gifts of incarnation.

We pray today for all those who are being brought to life.
            We pray for unborn babies, for expectant parents,
                        for excited and fearful grandparents,
                        for good families and loving relatives.
            We pray also for all those whose experience of new life is unexpected,
                        troubling, or traumatic:
            We pray for refugees, for victims, and for all those
                        who fear for the health and future of their children.

We recognise in you the mystery of life,
            and your willingness to recommit yourself to your children
            in the midst of all our failings and faults.

Loving God, thank you for your tender care.

God of love, mother of us all,
            we give thanks for your steadfast love for each of us, your children.

We thank you that you never turn your face from us,
            and that your gaze is ever of love and not despair.

We pray for all those who struggle with the responsibilities of childcare,
            for those who find their own deepest fears and doubts
                        reflected back at them in the lives
                        of those whom they have brought into being.

And so we commit to your loving protection
            all those whose parents have failed them,
and we pray for those who seek to provide care and nurturing
            where others have been unable to do so,
            and in so doing echo your own love for each created soul.

So we pray for adopted parents, for step-parents,
            for foster carers, social workers,
            and all those who work in the juvenile care system.
May they discover in their role,
            the love that you extend through them to those in their care.

Loving God, thank you for your tender care.

God of love, mother of us all,
            we give thanks that you sustain us and support us throughout our lives.

We thank you for our bodies,
            and we thank you for those who care for them
            helping us keep healthy, and intervening when we face illness.

With each passing year,
            we grow ever more aware of our own mortality,
            and we are grateful for our own continuing lives.

So we pray today for those who are reaching the end of their lives,
            for those who are very old, and for those who are very ill.

Give comfort and assurance in place of fear and doubt,
            and hold in your eternal embrace
            all those who long for your loving touch.

We pray for nurses and doctors,
            for hospice workers and hospital chaplains,
            and for all those who work in healthcare.

And we ask that, when our own lives draw to their conclusion,
            we will know good care and love
            as we make our own journey into your eternity. 

Loving God, thank you for your tender care.

God of love, mother of us all,
            we give thanks for the church which nourishes us,
            and enables us to grow. 

We thank you for this body, which is your gathered congregation
            drawn together in this place, and at this time.

We pray for one another,
            with all our diverse needs and cares and joys and sorrows.

May we experience your love for us
            as we discover our mutual love for one another.

Help us to discern one another’s needs,
            and to be active in carrying one another’s burdens.

Loving God, thank you for your tender care.

God of love, mother of us all,
            we give thanks for the gift of those who love us,
            and those whom we love.

We thank you for friends and family,
            and in silence now we name in our hearts before you,
            all those whom we love, and who love us.

Thank you, loving God for your tender care.

Amen.