Sharing Our Faith Together

Morning Worship for Sunday 14 March 2021 - Mothering Sunday

by Hilary Lamont 14 March 2021

Call to Worship:

Come!  All who yearn to know more of God.
Do not look for Him in the heavens, surrounded by golden cherubs and glorious angels.
Look for Him instead in the familiar and in the ordinary-
in the warm smell of a donkey,
in the cry of a new born baby,
in the rooms of your home.

And realize that God is here.
Amongst us.
Waiting for you.

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Prayer of Praise from the Mothers Union
For mothers who have cherished and nurtured us:
We praise you O Lord and bring you thanks today.

For fathers who have loved and supported us,
We praise you O Lord and bring you thanks today.

For brothers and sisters with whom we have shared our home,
We praise you O Lord and bring you thanks today.

For children and their parents,
We praise you O Lord and bring you thanks today.

For relatives and friends, who have been with us in our hopes and joys and times of sadness,
We praise you O Lord and bring our thanks today.

For all who first spoke to us of Jesus and have drawn us into the family of our Father in heaven, 
we praise you O Lord and bring you thanks today.

Help us to live as those who belong to one another and to you our Father, now and always.  Amen

Prayer of Confession
Lord God forgive us.
In these times of turmoil we have allowed fear to swamp us.
In these times when we could have spoken of you, we have forgotten the sound of your voice.
In these times when it has become easy to think only of ourselves, we have lost sight of Christ washing the feet of His disciples.
Oh Lord, forgive our smallness of vision.
Inspire us anew and help us to listen and act with open hearts and minds.
In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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The letter to the Ephesians is unusual, for unlike many of Pauls’ letters, it wasn’t written to address a particular problem that had arisen in the church.  This letter was written instead to expand the vision, to lift people up to see greater truths at work beyond everyday life and to deepen their call to the unity of the church.  How wonderful that it is so right for our church today, as she looks to emerge from lockdown into a changed world!

Read: Ephesians 2. 1-10

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The passage from John’s Gospel starts in the middle of the conversation Jesus has with Nicodemus, the Jewish leader who is intrigued by Jesus but afraid of the Pharisees, hovering between doubt and faith, and holds one of the most loved verses in the Bible…..

Read: John's Gospel 3: 14-21

You can listen to today's message here. There are associated noted below

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Today is the fourth Sunday in Lent and in keeping with the Lent services at Newmount, I have been asked to preach on the set lectionary.

But this Sunday is also Mothering Sunday, and it is important to take a moment to name and hold up to God all the women who have been as mothers to us.  Those who have nurtured us, encouraged, comforted, guided, held us and listened to us through the years.  Today we give our thanks to all mothers, grandmothers, Aunties, sisters, friends, who have stood by us, supported us, prayed for us and shown in a myriad ways the glorious, deep sustaining love of Christ.  We do thank God for them!  

So to Lent which is a very specific time in the church’s life.  This year, it seems particularly poignant.  

The pandemic has shattered us, breaking so many lives whilst exhausting others; for many the loneliness has been devastating whilst the mundanity of each day has been an on-going weariness.

So how do we pray through Lent when we are in this place of limbo, in no-mans land?

Well for many, although by no means all, this Lent is an opportunity to sit and read God’s Word.  We have time to be still, to pray, to prepare ourselves for the tumultuous journey that lies ahead in the next three weeks.  

This Lent is a chance to look at our lives and see whether we have used wisely the gifts that God has showered upon us.

Are we the person that God created us, in Christ, to be?

I’ll leave those very serious Lent questions with you.

So to the lectionary and todays readings. I have to say I was more than a little alarmed(!) to discover that both the new Testament readings were from the two most profound theologians- St. John and St. Paul. So after taking a deep breath and turning the passages over again and again, I settled down to re-read Ephesians.  And what a brilliant letter it is!  How marvellous that the Holy Spirit breathed the words into Paul, knowing that hundreds of years later, they would spark our tired hearts into Easter flame!  We need to read the passage within the broad strokes of the whole letter and its vital message, not just for the individual, but for the united church of Christ.

Paul wrote this letter whilst in prison and he has suffered deeply.  We can’t help but realize that the curtailment of Pauls missionary life, which on the surface seems tragic, has been turned by God into something beyond even Paul’s wildest dreams.  The physical limitations he had imposed on him, the stopping of his work, the confinement of prison that kept him isolated from all but a few- these constrictions gave Paul time to sit, to be still, to think and to pray.  The result?  The out-pouring of letters, which have fed and sustained and challenged the church through the ages.

And this letter is one of great insight, for it is a letter “looking beyond”, trying to lift his readers/listeners beyond the everyday to see that God has a plan.  A plan to reconcile the whole created order in Christ.

We might well feel that we can’t cope with this, it’s too big for us as we struggle to overcome Coronavirus.  But that’s exactly why we need Ephesians today, for Paul is acutely aware that the key element in God’s plan, God’s crucial part in the whole cosmic reconciliation, is “the Church”.

Which means Newmount is of paramount importance.  She is absolutely crucial in the bringing of humanity and creation to Christ.

Gosh! It makes one sit up and think, shaking us into looking out, not inward.

We are the crucial part of God’s plan, starting with our own church and our own community!

When the pandemic is over, we will emerge as different people into a society and world that has changed.  Suffering, in so many ways, has fallen on so many people. Never before did we realize how much we need each other, never before did we realize how important it is to talk face to face, hug each other, laugh together. Break bread and share wine together.

God created us to be one.

And gave us His Son, not to condemn us but to save us.

The new church which will emerge from this awfulness is going to need to be the place of healing.

I remember a church that was full of capable people but somehow seemed to have got stuck in her ways.  The congregation felt that God wanted them to move forward, to be brave and take risks but they were at a loss as to what the next step should be.

So they went away as a whole church for the weekend; they prayed, they listened, they read God's Word.  And it came to them that they must do something with the large, rambling buildings at the back of the church.  Something that would make a difference in the community- but still they were unclear as to what.  So they wrote a questionnaire and distributed it throughout the area- from shops to homes, the hospital and GP surgeries, the police and social services and so on.  A few weeks later they had the results in and, rather to their surprise, found that the overwhelming response was that the elderly were desperately lonely.  

So began the long process of consultations and grant applications, architects and fund raising.  Two years later a state-of -the-art day care centre was opened.  Baths and showers, hairdressers, a community lounge and -best of all- a wonderful kitchen and dining room where everyone could sit and eat together.  The volunteer team was huge, coming from both the church and the community.  The church with a heart, at the centre of the community.

“But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

What about us?  How do we reach the point where we catch the vision that God has prepared for us?

We use our limitations wisely - like Paul.

We immerse ourselves in God’s Word.

We pray deeply.

We listen deeply.

And we keep our vision “looking beyond”.

So this Mothering Sunday, maybe it’s a good day to talk about the future and new beginnings.

Because as we step closer to Good Friday, we step closer into God’s plan for the world.

We step closer into Christ.

Let’s keep our eyes on Christ, for in Him, nothing is impossible.

Thanks be to God!

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Let us pray:

May God’s love enfold us,
may Christ be with us
and may the Holy Spirit call us onward
to live beautifully and gloriously for God.