22nd March

Sunday 22nd March 2020

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A sermon for Mothering Sunday

A sermon on John Chapter 9, Sunday Evening

Some Prayers

A sermon for Mothering Sunday looking more deeply at Mothering Sunday rather than focusing on mums.

2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 7; John 19: 25b - 27

Mothering Sunday 2020 is a Mothering Sunday like no other, in a week like no other, as we continue to be buffeted by the many implications of the impact of coronavirus on our world, our society and our lives. What follows is, therefore a Mothering Sunday sermon like no-other, although I hope that it is one which enables us to engage with Mothering Sunday in a more honest and much deeper way.

For many, deprived of the traditional family gatherings associated with Mothering Sunday, today will add to the sense of isolation, and disruption in this strange landscape through which we are travelling without a map. For others, there will be a profound sense of relief that they do not have to endure the painful and all too vivid reminders that their mothers are no longer part of their lives, that their children are no-longer around, are far away, or simply that they have never had the opportunity to be mothers.

It is regrettable that in this country, the ancient Christian tradition of Mothering Sunday has become entangled with the 19th Century American invention of Mother’s Day marked in many countries on the second Sunday in May. Challenging as it is too many, this Mothering Sunday like no-other gives us opportunity to consider how, in a world which seems more damaged and broken than ever, Mothering Sunday may have something to offer and console all of us.

You don’t need me to tell you that Mothering Sunday was the day in which people returned to their ‘Mother Church’ where they had been baptised. The emphasis is on Church, and the nurturing, mothering role of the Church. There has been much wrestling this week, and will continue to be much wrestling by Christians over the question of what it means to be Church (a gathering of people, rather than the building) when the Church is not able to gather. Part of the answer to that question lies in discovering new ways of gathering and continuing to nurture each other during this enforced period of separation.

At a practical level, we are better equipped than at any other period in time to continue to communicate by a multitude of electronic communications. That is part of the answer, but it is not the most important solution. More important by far, is discovering ways in which we can gather spiritually even as we are physically distanced from each other. There are a variety of ways in which we can do that. I will continue to provide resources for worship and prayer throughout this challenging period. As a group of Christians in the Cross Country Parishes, we come from wide variety of Christian experience and backgrounds. We prefer many different styles of prayer and worship. Recognising this, I will attempt to provide a variety of resources for you. This means that we will not all be using the same prayers. We almost certainly will not be using them at the same time. Yet, however we pray, wherever we pray and at whatever time we pray, we will be united in our prayer offered to our one Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. This is one way in which we can continue to be the Church; the body of Christ, even in our separation.

The other way in which we can continue to nurture each other as the Church, the body of Christ is through caring for each other. A number of different ways of doing this are developing to ensure that practical care is provided, particularly to those who are self-isolating, but perhaps the most powerful of all can be a simple telephone call to someone. A reassurance that we are praying for them, as we trust they are praying for us. Some of us may even recover the lost art of letter writing.

In doing these things, and no-doubt many more inventive acts which express the fellowship which we share in Jesus Christ, we will discover that we have become channels for the consolation which comes from the God of all mercies to those who are afflicted.

We will discover, too, that in the present unwelcome and disturbing times, we can share not only with each other, but in the sufferings of Christ, as St Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians. Sufferings which we will remember in our own different ways on Good Friday.

It is, perhaps, in the caring and encouragement which we need to give to each other at this time, that even as we are unable to gather, we will be able to come closer as the body of Christ. In doing so, we may discover far more deeply than our more usual Mothering Sunday services enable us to do, what it truly means to be a Mothering Church, which is able to mother and nurture everyone, regardless of whether they are a mother or not.

S Anne Lawson


A sermon on John Chapter 9 written by our Ordinand on placement, Jim Britcliffe. John 9 is the Gospel for the 4th Sunday of Lent and would have been used on Sunday evening.

John 9: 1 - 41

Before the corona virus took hold I was scheduled to preach on John chapter 9. The chapter tells the story of Jesus healing the man born blind. The disciples ask Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”. To my mind this question is very close to a question that is often asked, “Why do bad things happen in the world?”. The answer, of course, is that we don’t know why bad things happen. I can’t bring myself to believe in a god that would deliberately cause bad things to happen. Our God is a God of love. A God who created the universe purely for love. The three persons of the trinity so in love with each other, with so much love that they had to create the universe as an outlet for all that love. God created you and I so that he could love us. And as John tells us in chapter three of his gospel, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. Jesus died the most painful and ignominious death because he loves you and me. How can such a loving God be a God who makes bad things happen.

And so I don’t know why bad things happen, but I know that they always have, and they always will until Jesus comes again in glory. So where is God in all these bad things that happen.?Where is God in 9/11, where is God in 7/7, where is God in the Boxing Day tsunami, where is God when the Grenfell Tower caught fire, where is God when I was diagnosed with cancer? Perhaps when we see these bad things happening in the world and, indeed, in our own lives we look for God in the wrong place. A bit like Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11-13. God was not in the wind, God was not in the earthquake, God was not in the fire. But then there was the gentle whisper that was God speaking to Elijah. We shouldn’t look for God in the bad things, we should wait for God to come afterwards. God is present in the response to whatever has happened. God is right there with the emergency services when they respond to disasters, God is there with the community when they rally round to give support after tragedies such as the Grenfell Tower fire or, a little closer to home, the recent fire at the Beechmere retirement complex near to my own home in Crewe. God was with the team at The Christie Hospital who treated me for my cancer. God was among my family, my church family and my friends who helped me when I was diagnosed and when I received treatment.

So, as we face this frightening corona virus pandemic we should look for God in the response rather than in the pandemic. Every day we are seeing small acts of kindness happening as communities start to pull together to help their most vulnerable members. Those who are sick or who are self-isolating because they are in at risk categories are being helped by those around them. Fetching some shopping perhaps is the most common thing I’ve seen or perhaps just making a friendly phone call to those who live alone and are truly isolated. That is where we can see God’s love in action. And it is an action that maybe we can all take part in. It might not make you a millionaire, but now is a good time to phone a friend who lives alone just to let them know that you’re there and you care for them.

I’m sure that, like me, most people are worried to some extent about what the effects of this corona virus will be. As we go about our daily lives, either in isolation or possibly running around between supermarkets trying to find one that has loo rolls and dried pasta on the shelves, we need to make sure that we make time to spend with God. We need to listen carefully for him speaking to us, just as Elijah had to strain his ears to listen to God whispering. We need to listen to God when we read the scriptures, when we say our prayers. We need to listen to God when he speaks to us through our friends and neighbours. My spiritual director is a great fan of the French monk known as Brother Lawrence. He had a series of “conversations” which were written down by a French gentleman by the name of Monsieur Beaufort. In these conversations Brother Lawrence tells us that he feels as close to God amongst the pots and pans of the monastery kitchen where he was employed as he did during prayers in the chapel. During this time of privation when we are unable to gather together to share the Lord’s Supper it is, I hope, an opportunity for us to discover more of our own individual relationship with God. A time when we can find ourselves as close to God amongst the pots and pans of our own back scullery as we do when we encounter him in the eucharist. I know from my own experience of life that the trials and tribulations that come our way can often bring us into closer communion with Jesus than we normally enjoy. I hope that we can all take this opportunity to draw closer to him. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we really could set our hearts on fire with love for him. Why shouldn’t we love Our Lord with all the passion and fervour that, perhaps, we felt when we fell in love for the first time with a girl or a boy (delete as appropriate)?

The disciples asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Nobody sinned, the man did not deserve to be made blind. i don’t know why he was blind. But look what a loving response he received from Jesus. He had his sight given to him. When bad things happen we should look for God in the response and we should love him back with every ounce of our strength.

The great sufi master Hafiz wrote:-

God and I are like two giant fat people living in a tiny boat.

We keep bumping into each other and laughing.

What a wonderful loving relationship that would be if we could ever draw that close to God.

A prayer from Bishop Angelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

LORD, bless those who are in need of your support.

Guide those who are in need of your wisdom.

Empower those who are in need of your strength and

above all, be light and joy to those who are in need

of that reassurance on a daily basis.

Glory be to God forever.


Jim Britcliffe

18 March 2020

Some prayers

You may find some or all of the following prayers helpful to use as we join together apart in worship.

The Collect for Mothering Sunday

God of compassion,

whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary

shared the life of a home in Nazareth,

and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself;

strengthen us in our daily living

that in joy and in sorrow

we may know the power of your presence

to bind together and heal;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Merciful Lord,

absolve your people from their offences,

that through your bountiful goodness

we may all be delivered from the chains of those sins

which by our frailty we have committed;

grant this, heavenly Father,

for Jesus Christ’s sake, our blessed Lord and Saviour,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession for Mothering Sunday

Please use these prayers recognising that all the situations are intensified as the fears, anxieties, uncertainties, sudden change, financial pressures, and the need to spend large amounts of time in confined spaces brought about by the coronavirus epidemic is added to the situations mentioned.

We bring to God our prayers

and concerns for families;

for those who find family life

to be a source of unhappiness and tension,

and for those who have no family.

Lord of love,

receive this prayer.

For families on the verge of breakdown,

unsure where to find relief

or a way out of their difficulties….

May they know your guidance and wisdom

to find an outcome which brings peace to their hearts.

Lord of love,

receive this prayer.

For children who are frightened and insecure,

neglected or abused

by those they trust and rely on…

May the know your loving hand

on their lives,

and find in you a friend who is always faithful.

Lord of love,

receive this prayer.

For those whose family life is overshadowed

by addiction or violence,

who live with the consequences of alcohol or drug abuse…

May they know your peace and encouragement

in helping those unable to help themselves.

Lord of love,

receive this prayer.

For families without a home

or adequate resources,

whose life is a struggle for survival…

May they know the hope you alone can give,

and trust you to bring them through their troubles.

Lord of love,

receive this prayer.

For those without family and friends,

who experience the pain of loneliness

as a result of bereavement, divorce

or the absence of friendship…

May they know your eternal presence alongside,

reassuring and comforting them.

Lord of love,

receive this prayer,

which we ask in the name of your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord.


Stuart Thomas

A prayer for all those suffering as a result of epidemic.

Holy and strong One, we remember before you

all who suffer from the effects of Coronavirus,

and those waiting in bewilderment for their test results

or restrictions in their lives.

May they know that you love them

and continue to uphold them in all they do.

We ask your blessing on all who are called to work

in hospitals, clinics, health centres and the Ambulance Service.

We pray also for those in Government charged with the task of

protecting us all.

We pray for friends and loved ones of those who are ill at present,

and ask all these things in the name of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.


Agricultural Chaplains Fellowship

For our neighbours… Lord Jesus Christ, you taught us to love our neighbour, and to care for those in need as if we were caring for you. In this time of anxiety, give us strength to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick, and to assure the isolated of our love, and your love, for your name’s sake. Amen. Dear God our Shield and our Defender, guide and protect my neighbour in this time of health emergency; deliver them from all harm and may your love and care ever grow in this place. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Christ Church Higher Bebbington

For hospital staff and medical researchers… Gracious God, give skill, sympathy and resilience to all who are caring for the sick, and your wisdom to those searching for a cure. Strengthen them with your Spirit, that through their work many will be restored to health; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. May the wisdom of God lead the doctors, nurses and researchers, and all in the emergency services that they may know God’s protection; and that God will guide the leaders of the nations into the ways of justice and peace. And that the love of Christ will surround us and take away our anxiety and give us His peace. May He hear us and heal us. Amen

Christ Church Higher Bebbington