Speaking in his introduction, Bishop Graham said: “Life feels so strange at present. Things are out of kilter, including our emotions, and there is sorrow that our churches are closed for public worship. Very many churches are, however, open for private prayer. Yet the Church is the people of God, and we are being Church right now, just in a different way.
“This short podcast contains a reading, reflection, some questions to ponder, and prayers. You might like to press pause and light a candle as a symbol of God’s presence with us.”
The podcast is available online below and can be downloaded in MP3 format and found on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast and more. Go to any podcast app, click the search button and type in “Diocese of Norwich” or “Sunday Hope”, then click the subscribe button so each week your device will automatically receive the latest episode.
The transcript and prayers can be found below – you might like to print it out and give a copy to those who are unable to play audio.
MOTHERING SUNDAY 2020
Hello and welcome to the chapel at Bishop’s House in Norwich as we mark Mothering Sunday.
Life feels so strange at present. Things are out of kilter, including our emotions, and there is sorrow that our churches are closed for public worship. Very many churches are, however, open for private prayer. Yet the Church is the people of God, and we are being Church right now, just in a different way.
This short podcast contains a reading, reflection, some questions to ponder, and prayers. You might like to press pause and light a candle as a symbol of God’s presence with us.
That’s what I’m going to do now, before I pray the Collect for Mothering Sunday.
God of love,
passionate and strong,
tender and careful:
watch over us and hold us
all the days of our life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Now, Sally Theakston, my chaplain, will read from the 19th chapter of John’s Gospel.
Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
In the chapel here at Bishop’s House is an icon of Mary holding the new-born Jesus who is bound in swaddling bands.
In fact, I know the icon rather well. I am no artist, but I painted it during a weeklong course at the Bethlehem Icon School. Icon painting follows strict rules and it’s a copy of a Byzantine icon, with all the flaws that I brought with my unsteady hand and a brush of egg tempera paint.
Mary has a serene look of tenderness. Jesus is looking up at her. A mother’s eyes and love looking out at us, magnifying the love that is radiant in Jesus’ eyes.
This icon, for me, conveys hope, prayerfulness, kindness and loving service to the other. All aspects of what mothers do. That is certainly true of my own experience.
Our reading took us to the end of Jesus life. Rather than being bound by swaddling bands, Jesus is bound to the cross with rope and nails. Now Mary can’t hold Jesus. She can’t touch him. What agony that must have been for a mother.
At this current time, when we are asked not to shake hands, not to embrace, for fear of passing on the virus, there is a solidarity with this scene at the foot of the cross. Many of us will be wishing we can reach out to our mothers today and hug them.
Jesus reaches out to touch the hearts of his mother and his beloved disciple, John. He brings them together. He is always wanting to put people in touch with each other. He’s assuring the protection of a woman who will be vulnerable with perhaps no one else to support her.
Jesus looks forward to ensure that Mary and John will bring hope to each other. John, we are told, took Mary into his home – a place where prayer and kindness were lived out. An example of loving service.
The Church too, though we are learning to be the Church in different ways during these weeks and months, continues to be the people of God who live out our calling to be people of hope, to be people of prayer, to be people of kindness, and to be people of loving service.
And that is also true, I hope, wherever we find ourselves this morning.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
I offer three questions that you might like to ponder. If you are gathered to pray with someone else, you might like to discuss these together.
- What do you most treasure about your experience of your own or other peoples’ mothers?
- Can you imagine Mary in John’s home? What might they have talked about?
- Who are the most vulnerable or lonely in your community who you might be in touch with this week?
As children of a loving God who always listens to our cries,
let us pray to our Father in heaven.
Creator God, like a mother, you brought us to life
and our being is bound with yours,
hold us firm with your cords of love;
Crucified God, like a mother, you know us better than we know ourselves,
enfold in your peace those for whom this Mothering Sunday will bring pain;
Comforter God, like a mother, your voice soothes us when we are in distress,
help us to find a deep stillness within the chaos and to listen to you. Amen
Nurturing God, tender and compassionate,
you long to mother us in these unsettling times:
draw near, we pray, to those who are isolated and alone,
calm the anxious and comfort the distressed.
As your Son, hanging on the cross,
reached out to those in despair below him,
may we too, guided by your Spirit,
seek out the lonely and the lost
and respond with imaginative and loving service
to those in need around us.
Let us pray together the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory
for ever and ever. Amen.
And now we pray for God’s blessing.
May the Father from whom every family
in earth and heaven receives its name
strengthen us so that Christ may live in our hearts,
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among us, and with all whom we know and love,
this and every day. Amen.