Sunday 22nd March Fourth Sunday of Lent/Mothering Sunday
Message from The Rector
Welcome to our new-look Benefice news-sheet. During these difficult times we thought it would be useful if we were able to send, to anyone who wished to receive it in email form that included the readings for Sunday, a short ‘Thought for the Day’ and some notices. Please do spread the word, and if anyone would like to be added to the mailing list, please let Claire or me know. It will be sent out ‘blind’ so addresses will remain private.
The situation is changing rapidly at present and each day brings new challenges. Please be assured that not only is everyone in our benefice prayed for daily but we will be exploring new ways of being church – serving each other practically as best we can. If you, or anyone you know, needs a bit of help, an errand running, a chat on the phone, please don’t hesitate to be in touch with me or one of my clergy colleagues.
Thought for the Day
Mothering Sunday. What a Sunday to have to begin our enforced separation. Each of our churches had special plans for services that would have include the presentation of posies and an opportunity to give thanks for our mothers – whether they are with us on earth or now in heaven. But, as many of you will know, the origins of Mothering Sunday are slightly different. Centuries ago this was the day when people returned to their ‘mother church’ – the church where they were baptised or possibly the cathedral in their diocese. Domestic servants would be given the day off to join their families in such places. ‘Mother church’ was in peoples’ minds at least as much as their own mothers.
We spend a lot of time using masculine imagery for God – God the father, ‘Our Father, which art in heaven’ etc. God is, of course, way beyond human gender. ‘God is a spirit’, as Jesus reminded us in last Sunday’s reading from John’s gospel. We have become a little better at acknowledging the feminine in God in recent times. ‘As a mother tenderly gathers her children, you embraced a people as your own’ says one of our Eucharistic Prayers. At times such as these the image of God as a tender loving mother is a good one for us, I think. However dark the world may seem God’s love is inexhaustible and more generous than we can possibly imagine. ‘As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you’ says God (Isaiah 66:13). I don’t know about you, but I take a great deal of comfort from that.
The Church of England is producing lots of good material and advice at present. This includes some excellent prayers for us all to use and I commend them to you:
You can also join the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich weekly newsletter mailing list by visiting:
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 to 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.
Loving God, as a mother feeds her children at the breast you feed us in this sacrament with the food and drink of eternal life: help us who have tasted your goodness to grow in grace within the household of faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I Samuel 1.20-end
In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked him of the Lord.’ The man Elkanah and all his household went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and to pay his vow. But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, ‘As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, that he may appear in the presence of the Lord, and remain there for ever; I will offer him as a nazirite for all time.’ Her husband Elkanah said to her, ‘Do what seems best to you, wait until you have weaned him; only may the Lord establish his word.’ So, the woman remained and nursed her son, until she weaned him. When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine. She brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was young. Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. And she said, ‘Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. Therefore, I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.’ She left him there for the Lord.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also
must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, 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.
What a strange time this is. I’ve never experienced anything like it, and I guess you probably haven’t either. We seem to be in the centre of some kind of maelstrom – and, unsurprisingly, we’re worried. We don’t know what is going to happen and when. I actually wrote this sermon yesterday evening because I was worried that if I did my usual thing and wrote it on Friday, events would have moved on in a way that would mean that it was already out-of-date. Strange times.
And in these strange times we find ourselves reading about a strange encounter – Jesus meeting a Samarian woman at a well. Strange? Well don’t forget that Jews and Samaritans had been sworn enemies for about 500 years – they certainly didn’t just begin conversations with each other. And what an amazing conversation it was. Jesus begins by asking the woman to serve him – to draw some water for him (she’s got a bucket and he hasn’t, and you needed to bring your own to a well in those days). But he treats her just as he would a Jewish woman – and that in itself is extraordinary – she’s certainly taken aback by it. ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ she says. But Jesus, as ever, isn’t hidebound by convention. He then goes on to demonstrate to her (a sworn enemy of his people, remember) just who he is and how the ‘living water’ that he brings is for everyone – even her. And he knows all about her – how she’s been married five times and is now living with someone to whom she’s not married. He knows her better than she knows herself – because he knows not just who she is but what she is capable of. And, lo and behold, off she goes to her people – in the Samaritan city of Sychar – not, you’d have taught, particularly fertile territory for Christian mission – and tells them all about having met the Messiah. ‘Come and see!’ she says. And what happened? They (the sworn enemy) came to him, asked him to stay with them (which he did, for a couple of days) – and, we’re told, many more believed because of his word. ‘We know’ they said, ‘that this truly is the saviour of the world’. ‘We know.’
Now – back to March 2020. We’re worried. We’re uncertain about the future. Advice from those who know about these things seems to be changing and conflicting. Events are being cancelled, international travel has become very restricted etc etc. Ultimately, we fear the worst – we fear that people, maybe people we know, will die, vulnerable people’s lives will be at risk. We don’t really know but we’re led to believe that this might happen. Well – this 2000-year-old story has, I think something very profound to say to us right now, here, today. We believe something much more lasting, much more positive too. We believe in the source of that living water – living water – that Jesus spoke of to the woman at the well. We believe that it – God’s everlasting love – is there for us whatever happens, whatever the world throws at us. You’ve come here this morning because you believe that. ‘Come, let us worship and fall down and kneel before the Lord our maker’ says the Venite – Psalm 95 – the set Psalm for today. Why? ‘For he is the Lord our God and we are his people and the sheep of his hand’. We take our food (as Jesus reminded the disciples) as well as our drink – in sum our ultimate nourishment from him. He gave real water to the Israelites in the desert – as we heard in the OT lesson. Christ offered ‘the spring of water, gushing up to eternal life’ to the woman at the well – and it’s ours for the asking too.
The weekly vlog from our Bishops is particularly helpful this week and after Bishop Martin has offered a similar take on the story Bishop Mike reminds him, and us, that, in the time of the early Christians, there was a plague and all of the pagans ran for the hills and it was the Christians who, to the astonishment of everyone else, stayed in the city and tended to those in need – Christian and non-Christian alike – and as a result the church grew – just as it had done in the Samaritan city of Sychar. So, concludes Bishop Martin and so conclude I, perhaps there are things that as Christians we can offer to a worried and frightened community. Because of our faith we feel secure and empowered to do stuff. We will care for our neighbour. We will take sensible precautions not to make things worse. And we will remember that, whatever happens, we know of a source of living water and everlasting food that is available to us and to everyone, believer or unbeliever, sworn enemy or old friend.
Whatever happens in the days and weeks to come please know that everyone will be in my prayers and if there is anything I or my colleagues can do you only have to ask.
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.
Next Sunday – 29th March
Fifth Sunday of Lent/Passiontide Begins
✟ Easter Cards ✟
There is a beautiful selection of Easter cards at Aldeburgh’s visitor corner. The cards display has been beautifully revamped, so do take a look when you pop into the church. Cards may be more suitable this year to send to friends and family we cannot visit.
🕯 Light A Candle of Hope 🕯
This Mothering Sunday, 22 March, we are calling all churches to a National Day of Prayer and Action. At such a time as this, when so many are fearful and there is great uncertainty, we are reminded of our dependence on our loving Heavenly Father and the future that he holds.
At 7pm this Sunday, light a candle in the windows of your homes as a visible symbol of the light of life, Jesus Christ, our source and hope in prayer.