"Inside Love" - Live from St George's College Weybridge, the 4th of Radio 4's Lent series for Mothering Sunday with the award winning St George's choir directed by Tansy Castledine.
Leader: Sarah Beresford (Assistant Chaplain); Preacher: Fr Martin Ashcroft (School Chaplain).
Love is universal but love is also complex.
The Greeks used several words to describe different kinds of love expressed, for example in friendship, romance or family love. On occasion, as with a mother and her child, the feeling of love can be overwhelming. A mother will go to any lengths even sacrificing her own good in order to protect and nurture her child. Some have seen in that love a glimpse of what the love of God might be.
Isaiah 66:10-13; Ruth 1:9b-11, 14-16, 18-19a; Luke 6:27-36.
Tell out my soul (Woodlands)
Magnificat in D (Wood)
For the beauty of the earth (Rutter)
Praise my soul the King of Heaven (Praise my Soul)
Producer: Clair Jaquiss
Through programmes on Radio 4, local radio and online resources for individuals and groups, BBC Religion & Ethics 'Inside Lent', devised by Bishop Stephen Oliver, invites listeners to join a journey of discovery through this Christian season by reflecting on the nature of a number of very human feelings. bbc.co.uk/religion
Lent: Inside love (30th March)
Lent: Inside fear (6th April)
Lent: Inside hope (13th April)
Easter Day - Inside joy (20th April).
St George's College, Weybridge
BBC Radio 4. It’s 10 past 8 and time Sunday Worship which on this Mothering Sunday comes live from the chapel of St George’s College, Weybridge in Surrey. The service is led by the Assistant Chaplain, Sarah Beresford.Sarah
Good morning and welcome to St Georges College on this bright and sunny / wet and windy day. We are gathered here in our beautiful Chapel, surrounded by stained glass windows, each window representing a quality that we value as a Catholic Christian School.
Today is a feast of many names. For many of us we celebrate Mother’s day, for others it is Mothering Sunday, or perhaps for you today is Laetare Sunday which means "Rejoice" or even Rose Sunday and those are just the most popular names for today’s feast! In the Christian calendar, the 4th Sunday of Lent has gathered to itself many celebrations.
So let’s start with the easy one, Mother’s Day. Some mums listening this morning will be doing so with breakfast in bed, inexpertly made by a small child, others will receive a daffodil or two, and perhaps a home-made card. Other mums will be taken out to lunch; and restaurants, garden centres and stately homes rejoice in the modern day celebrations of all things "mum".
As for me, I’m looking forward to whatever my lovely daughter has planned for me when I return home after this service.
But Mothers’ Day is something quite different to Mothering Sunday. For a long time Mothering Sunday was about coming home to the Mother Church, most commonly the nearest cathedral. Men and women "in domestic service" in the big houses would return to their family home this Sunday and gather together to worship and celebrate and often share Simnel cake together. And there’s another name for today’s celebration: Simnel Sunday.
Speaking of cake, many of us will have given up treats like cake for Lent, but Laetare Sunday marks a break from our strict Lenten Observance, instead of purple vestments we are encouraged to wear Rose coloured ones, it is a brief moment of rejoicing in preparation for the great rejoicing of the resurrection at Easter.
We have journeyed through Lent together here on Radio 4 looking at temptation, doubt and anger. This morning we shift our focus to look inside Love. We know that the greatest love comes from God. So let us rejoice together with a great song of praise as we sing, "Tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord".
HYMNTell out my soul Timothy Dudley-Smith (b. 1926), based on the Magnificat
Sarah [Penitential Rite]
As we gather together to worship this morning let us bring to mind our sins, those things that can separate us from the love of God and sure of his promise of forgiveness we place ourselves humbly before him.
Jesus, you heal those who are ashamedAll sing Lord have mercy Sarah Lord, you call us in our weakness All sing Christ have mercy Sarah Father, hear us when we cry to you All sing Lord have mercy Sarah [Collect]
I invite Fr Martin Ashcroft, St George’s College Chaplain to lead us in our opening prayer:Fr Martin
God of mercy and compassion,
whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary,
shared the family life of a home in Nazareth,
and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself:
strengthen us in our Lenten observance and in daily life
that in joy and in sorrow
we may know the power of your Spirit
to bring freedom and to heal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.All Amen. Van Crombrugghe 1 Sarah
In the College Chapel porch there is a large bust of Canon Constant Van Crombrugghe, the founder of the Josephite Religious Order, whose priests are the founders of St George’s College. The bust makes him look quite stern and forbidding but his thinking and vision for education was quite the opposite, encouraging warmth and care for the children that are taught in his schools.
He was a forward thinking man. In the early to mid-1800’s his vision for education was driven by an overriding understanding of what he called Family Spirit. His schools at the time were all boys schools taught by religious men, and yet he was aware of the emotional needs of the students. He was wise enough to realise that the teachers had to be both Fathers and Mothers to their pupils and that only the standard of parental love was good enough.
This tradition of being like a parent to the students continues today. Ms Sarah Goodfellow, Head of Chemistry at St George’s College, reads from Van Combrugghe’s guide for teachers and how they should treat their students.Ms Goodfellow:
"You must love the children and make them feel that you love them; not only by avoiding in your dealings with them all hardness, unjust coldness and discouraging severity, but by caring tenderly for them and letting them see that you have devoted your life to them, that you are happy to be with them and will always be so."Sarah [First Reading]
In today’s readings from scripture we hear how God’s love for us is like that of a mother with a new-born child, and how family relationships can define us.Student: A reading from the prophet Isaiah 10 Rejoice with Jerusalem; be glad for her, all you that love this city!
Rejoice with her now, all you that have mourned for her!
11 You will enjoy her prosperity, like a child at its mother's breast. 12 The Lord says, "I will bring you lasting prosperity; the wealth of the nations will flow to you like a river that never goes dry. You will be like a child that is nursed by its mother, carried in her arms, and treated with love. 13 I will comfort you in Jerusalem, as a mother comforts her child. (Isaiah 66:10-13 Good News Translation)
The Word of the Lord.All Thanks be to God. Sarah
The College Choir sings Psalm 27. The Lord is my light and my salvationChoir PSALM 27 Student/Teacher: A reading from the book of Ruth.
After a short while on the road, Naomi told her two daughters-in-law, "Go back. Go home and live with your mothers. And may God treat you as graciously as you treated your deceased husbands and me. May God give each of you a new home and a new husband!" She kissed them and they cried openly. They said, "No, we’re going on with you to your people."
But Naomi was firm: "Go back, my dear daughters. Why would you come with me? Do you suppose I still have sons in my womb who can become your future husbands? Go back, dear daughters—on your way, please! I’m too old to get a husband. Again they cried openly. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye; but Ruth embraced her and held on.
Naomi said, "Look, your sister-in-law is going back home to live with her own people and gods; go with her."
But Ruth said, "Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us!"
When Naomi saw that Ruth had her heart set on going with her, she gave in. And so the two of them travelled on together to Bethlehem.(Ruth 1:8-19 - The Message (MSG))
The Word of the LordAll: Thanks be to God Sarah:
Modern stories about Mothers-in-law, tend not to go as well as the one we have just heard about Naomi and Ruth. I am always reminded of 1970’s and 80’s comedians like Les Dawson telling horrendous jokes about awful Mothers-in-law. My own mother-in-law Christina, thankfully is more of a Naomi example than a Les Dawson example. She, like my own mother, hello mum, has been an example of faithfulness, always there for me when I need her and a close confidante and friend. She is an excellent grandma to her many grandchildren and I hope I can live up to her example when I become a grandma and a mother-in-law.
My beautiful eight year old daughter Molly tells me that I am the best mum ever, and when she says this, my heart sings for joy. She is my constant joy and delight and my relationship with her gives me an insight into the all-consuming passionate love that God has for each one of us.
It took my husband and me thirteen years to conceive successfully and bear a child having lost two children in early pregnancy. And during those years Mother’s Day was a particularly hard day of the year to endure. I felt the loss of those children and the emptiness of my womb very personally and resented being given the flower at church as I felt very deeply my lack of children and my lack of being a mother.
Many will have shared and still will be there in the middle of such feelings, so let us acknowledge this pain, our hurt and our loss and remember Mary, our heavenly mother. She knew the pain of losing a child too soon herself, standing at the foot of the cross and seeing her son die. So we come to the Lord to console us. For his love for us is bigger than we can imagine and his power to heal is never far away.
And so we listen to choir as they sing for us Mary’s great song of rejoicing.Choir My soul doth magnify the Lord :
Student/Teacher: [Gospel Reading]
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to LukeAll: Glory to you, O Lord.
[Jesus said] 27 "But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.[e] Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
The Gospel of the LordAll: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ.
Happy mothering Sunday to you.
My earliest memory of Mothering Sunday was when I was six years old. My brother was four at the time and we had recently arrived back home from church. As I came into the kitchen, I saw my older sister had already put our yellow daffodils and cards for Mum on the table in the middle of the kitchen. The next thing I see is my brother pulling the tablecloth and my sister shouting at him to stop, but as younger brothers are wont to do when told to stop by their elder sisters; he starts tugging even harder and succeeds in pulling the table cloth right off the table and sending everything on it crashing to the floor. At this my brother runs off in tears towards his bedroom while my sister goes off to find Mum. Trying to be helpful, I start to pick up the daffodils and cards from the floor. A few minutes later, Mum comes into the kitchen with my brother and sister. She sits down and puts my brother on her lap. I thought he was going to get a right telling off but instead she says to him: ‘I am not pleased with you because you did not obey your sister but I want you to know I still love you very much.’
Such expressions of love and forgiveness are so important for young children if they are to grasp more readily the unconditional love and forgiveness that God has for them and all people. It is also crucial that young people learn that there is nothing that they can do in their life that will cause God to love them less.
In a very real way my brother experienced from Mum the same tender and comforting maternal love that God always shows to his people as we heard in our reading this morning from Isaiah and repeated in this passage taken from prophet Hosea:
‘I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love.
I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks.
I bent down to them and fed them.’ (Hosea 11:4)
The bonds of love shown between my mum and my brother and between Ruth and Naomi in our second reading help us to understand the deep bond of love God wishes to have with each of us.
Sadly, and for a variety of reasons, developing the deep bonds of love through quality family time spent together is much less common than in previous generations. Modern parents are increasingly adopting a ‘consumerist attitude to love’: that’s when parents mainly show their love through buying gifts for their children instead of making time, in their busy schedules, to develop a deep loving personal relationship with their children. By contrast Jesus always had time for even the little children.
During his life, Jesus also wanted to show God’s unconditional love for little children and for everyone. In the Gospels we often find him reaching out to people with great love. For example in Matthew’s Gospel, as Jesus laments for the people of Jerusalem, he tells them that he has often wanted to gather them ‘as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.’(Matthew 23:37b)
Our reading from Luke’s Gospel this morning challenges us to show the same ‘all-compassionate’ and ‘all-merciful’ love Jesus had towards the people in his day.
We need to accept in our own lives that love is better than hatred. That mercy is better than blame. That forgiveness is better than vengeance. That only good can overcome evil and that is why we must learn, as Jesus tells us, to love our enemies and do good even to those who hate us.
Today there will be many who will not experience the joy and happiness of God’s unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness but instead are hurting due to abuse, loneliness and feelings of rejection and separation. Beside these people, there will also be those who feel let down by life or feel unloved by God and their families.
Remember that Jesus also experienced abuse, loneliness, rejection and separation during the hours leading up to his death. He, too, was aware of the hurt and pain his own mother was experiencing at the foot of the cross.
So on this Mothering Sunday, when so many of us will be thanking God for the tender, compassionate love shown to us by God and our mothers, let us remember to offer our love and support to all people and not just to our nearest and dearest.Sarah
We sing together Love is his word, love is his way
HYMNLove is his word, love is his way Sarah
We turn to the Lord in prayer as we bring before him our own needs and the needs of all the world:Reader
Loving God, heavenly Father, today we thank you for all mothers in the world, for all that they do, all they give and all they are. We also thank you for all those who look after, care for, nurture and love us as a mother.
We pray for those who are hurting, grieving and perhaps angry today. We pray that you will draw alongside them to comfort them and surround them with your tender care.
We pray for mothers who are separated from their children through grief, illness, anger, war, and whatever other reasons have brought about this divide. We ask you Father, to bring healing, comfort, forgiveness and peace into the hearts and minds of hurting mothers.
We pray for all Mothers and families. May they be a source of joy, faith and hope and most of all, love. May we mirror your great love for us in our families.
We pray for the Church. Lord may we model your wisdom and care here on earth. We thank you for the blessing of your mother church; for the acceptance, nurturing, love and care it provides to all who seek.
We invite Mary, our heavenly mother, to pray with us as we say:All Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, Pray for us, sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
The choir will now join our prayers to heaven as they sing, "For the beauty of the earth".Choir For the beauty of the earth (Rutter) - piano Sarah
We pray together the Lord’s PrayerAll 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. Amen.
Closing prayer, blessing and dismissalSarah
As we begin to draw our service to a close, hear again some of the vision of Constant Van Crombrugge for his teachers – guidance for them and perhaps for mothers and fathers also.Ms Goodfellow
"All, in all, teachers worthy of their profession will watch over their pupils. Teachers will speak to them always with enthusiasm and kindness, like a good father and mother to their own children. … you must also identify with them, not only in work and study, but in everything else and in every detail of their school life. In a word, be like fathers to them, and that’s not enough; be like mothers."Sarah
And so we pray: Heavenly Father we praise and thank you for your all-merciful and all-compassionate love, may we be living examples of your love in the world, may we witness to the qualities of motherhood that you demonstrate to us and may we know that we can always come home to you. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord.All Amen. Sarah
We sing with one voice the great hymn of praise, "Praise my soul the king of heaven".HYMN Praise my soul the king of heaven