Invitation to family
Rachel Gardner, president of the Girls’ Brigade England and Wales, preaches this Mothering Sunday from One Church Brighton. With music by Stuart Townend. Reading: John 19: 25-27.
Rachel Gardner, President of the Girls’ Brigade, England and Wales, and a director of the charity Youthscape, preaches this Mothering Sunday live from One Church Brighton as Radio 4's worship services continue their journey through Lent. In an increasingly divided society the bible calls individuals, churches and communities to build bridges between loneliness and belonging - this week, through the invitation to contribute to the life of the family. As the mother of two adopted children Rachel takes the words of Jesus to his mother and the disciple John from the cross, committing them to each others' care, and applies them to family and community today. Reading: John 19.25–27. Leader: Dave Steell; Music leader: Stuart Townend. Producer: Andrew Earis. A link to resources for individuals and groups can be downloaded from the Sunday Worship web pages.
This script cannot exactly reflect the transmission, as it was prepared before the service was broadcast. It may include editorial notes prepared by the producer, and minor spelling and other errors that were corrected before the radio broadcast.
It may contain gaps to be filled in at the time so that prayers may reflect the needs of the world, and changes may also be made at the last minute for timing reasons, or to reflect current events.
Good morning! And welcome to One Church Brighton, you are extremely welcome and we’re so glad to have you with us.
One Church is a broad and inclusive church, trying our very best to serve this wonderful city of Brighton & Hove and to bring an honest and open approach to understanding our Christian faith in a messy and sometimes confusing world. We gather together each Sunday in the hope of knowing God, each other and the needs of our city just a little bit better.
Before we sing our first hymn, which is led for us by Stuart Townend and band, let’s prepare ourselves to worship, as we pray:
Creator God, loving Father, we come to you today
Not in fear but in freedom, not in shame but in acceptance, not because we think we’re good enough but because we trust that you are
ALL: We come because we have heard your invitation and we are responding, Yes!
Creator God, loving Father we come to you today
Not alone but together as one family, regardless of our age, our birth place, our culture, our sexuality or even our lack of faith
ALL: We come because we have heard your invitation and we are responding, Yes!
Creator God, Loving Father, we come to you today
Not certain, but full of questions, not satisfied but hungry for more and with our mustard seed of hope that you are the way, the truth and the life
All: We come because we have heard your invitation and we are responding, Yes!
Song 1: All People that on Earth do Dwell
Today we are continuing our Lent series, where we are following the challenging theme of loneliness and what our response towards this seemingly growing epidemic might be. Each week we are considering an invitation out of loneliness and into connection with others, and this week we’ll be focusing on the invitation of God to be part of his family.
It is also Mothering Sunday, a day where we pause to remember with thankfulness the women who have cared for and encouraged us. However, this is a day of mixed emotions for many of us, often it is a day of celebration and gratitude, but for many it’s also a day of grief, regret and even hurt and anger. However you feel today, we come before a God who the psalmist tells us ‘gives families to the lonely’ and acts as a parent to the parentless.
As we to think about the family, here’s David and Carrie Grant to tell us about theirs:.
Pre-recorded Clip – David and Carrie Grant
Our preacher today is Rachel Gardner from the charity YouthScape, who is also President of The Girls Brigade. She too will speak about her experiences as an adoptive mother. Our next song from Hillsongs reminds us that we are all God’s adopted children – Who you say I am.
Song 2: Who you say I am
Our first reading this morning comes from the book of Ruth and is read for us by Bukky. Naomi is a migrant in the country of Moab but has been bereaved of her sons and left penniless with her two Moabite daughters in law. She’s returning home.
Reading: Ruth 1:6-9, 14-19 - Bukky Nuhu
Then Ruth started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had had consideration for his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.’ Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud…. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
So she said, ‘See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’
But Ruth said,
‘Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!’
When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her. So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem.
Song 3: Come thou Fount
One Church runs a number of different projects in Brighton to help people in a variety of ways, For instance, we train unemployed young people to make great coffee and find work in one of Brighton’s numerous coffee shops in our Pro Barista project, we run a therapeutic farm initiative growing fruit and vegetables and see often isolated people enjoying the benefits of being with others outdoors, and we also run a project Sarah Walker is going to tell us about:
“One of the ways that One Church tries to offer people the invitation of joining in a wider, encouraging family is through CHOMP. CHOMP is aiming to tackle what some people call ‘holiday hunger’, the depressing but honest reality that for many families in our city it’s a struggle, through poverty, to feed their children in the school holidays.
These children have the option of a hot meal each week day through free school meals provision, but for the 13 weeks a year when there is no school this can stretch families resources. CHOMP now runs in 12 different venues across our city and has served thousands of free meals to hundreds of different young people. It’s a brilliant way to enjoy some good nutritious food, have some great fun but also for our church to enact that call from God to invite people out of isolation and into supportive relationships.
With the Easter holidays approaching, CHOMP will be running clubs again so let’s take a moment to pray and ask God to bless these kind of initiatives that churches and other faith groups do all over the UK.”
Prayers - led by Becks and Emily Salmon (mother and daughter)
‘Dear God, we pray for all the different projects churches run in the holidays for young people across the UK, especially this Easter holiday. Would you make it great fun for all those children who come along. Help all those who volunteer to make the clubs happen and please help the projects to grow and serve many more people in the years to come.
Would you also bless the work of all the churches in our city who are trying so hard to make life better for people who are isolated. We thank you for people of faith who want to make a difference, bring your encouragement to them today dear God.
And we pray for our politicians at both local and national level who have to determine how we use our resources. We pray that one day
food banks, lunch clubs and homeless shelters would not be needed - but until that day comes, we give ourselves to partner with you in bringing good news to people who need it.
In the name of Jesus,
Performance Song: ‘Come as you are’ - Ian Fleming
I’m going to invite Stella to bring us our second reading this morning and then Rachel Gardner will come and share with us. It’s from John Chapter 19 reading from verse 25. We are taken to the pain and horror of Jesus’ crucifixion.
Reading: John 19.25–27 - read by Stella Szobody (young person)
‘Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.'
Sermon - Rachel Gardner
I’ve not always been a fan of Mothering Sunday.
There were a few years where I’d either hide in the kitchen at church or avoid going altogether. Sitting through a Mothering Sunday service would often leave me feeling sadder than usual about not being able to have my own children.
Maybe you share some of these feelings too. If you’re grieving the loss of your mum, or a child, or if you’re facing unwanted childlessness, today can be especially difficult.
You might also be wondering why we’re looking at the story of Jesus’s death on a day like this. Well Mothering Sunday falls in Lent, and our passage today offers comfort and challenge that can reach all of us, whatever we’re facing today.
As mother and child moments in the Bible go, this has to be one of the most moving. Set against the backdrop of the inhumane torture of a Roman cross, the loving concern Jesus shows for his mum is so human and so like Jesus.
Even as he dies on the cross, Jesus is not only making it possible for people to have a right relationship with God, but for them to know hope and security in life now.
‘Here is your son...here is your mother.’
It’s beautiful. But it also raises some interesting questions.
Why Jesus does do this now? Has it only just dawned on him that his mother, a widow and about to lose her eldest son, will need someone to take care of her? And why, when he has a whole bunch of biological brothers, does Jesus choose John, one of his disciples, to take on the responsibility? And why did John think it necessary to include this very personal moment in the middle of his account of the final words of Jesus?
To put it simply- John gets Jesus.
He opens his biography of Jesus by telling us that no one has seen the Father, but the One who has been with the Father since the beginning (some translations use the great phrase ‘nestled in the Father’s bosom’), has made him known.
What has Jesus made known to us? The overwhelming, undeserved hospitality of a God who wants to adopt each of us as his children.
John is eager for us to see how Jesus is reaching out to us from this intimate relationship with the Father. That in elevating the outcast, feeding the hungry, defending the oppressed and comforting his mum, Jesus is simply continuing to do what he sees his Father doing. He’s promoting the hospitality that God has always advocated by ‘setting the lonely in families.’ Ps 68:3
As well as making arrangements for Mary’s future, Jesus also provides for John. In language reminiscent of a legal adoption, Jesus asks them to take responsibility for each other. It’s a huge thing he’s asking- hospitality like this is costly. But he knows they will follow him in this, just as they have followed him thus far.
At the heart of adoption is an offer of hospitality. You’re welcoming a child not just into your home but also into your heart. It’s a commitment to allow yourself to be interrupted and shaped by loving another.
My husband and I chose to adopt our children.
The day we welcomed our little girl into our home it was snowing. She was uncertain about us and this strange new life. So we found ways to melt her fears with love and the hardest times became the means of us becoming a family. Then five years later we did it all again with our son. When he arrived he wouldn’t let us go! His whole being was tuned into a profound desire to reach out and pull us close. Our daughter welcomed him with so much love and courage, eager to offer her new brother the hospitality that she had received. But we could see that a storm was raging inside her too.
A few months into the adoption, our son began to eat and sleep a little better. One afternoon he took his first few faltering steps. When my daughter reached with both hands to scoop him up and hold him close I thought I had never seen anything so victorious in all my life! It was a sign that we were all ready to grow in this new family.
This year in the UK, 40,000 children and young people will enter the care system.That’s 109 children every day.
As of September 2018, there are 2,730 children waiting for adoption in England alone. 41% of these have been waiting over a year.
Statistics like these are difficult to hear. We can feel powerless in the face of children’s suffering, unsure what we should do. Adoption isn’t the path to parenting for everyone, and it certainly isn’t reserved for people who can't have their own birth kids.
Welcoming a child into your life who is suffering the wounds of separation carries it’s own unique set of challenges. But on this day that is difficult for many of us, it seems right to pay special attention to the children who are waiting, because the need is so great. Currently there are almost three times as many kids on the Adoption Register as families able to adopt them - and the number of registrations from adoptive families continues to decline.
I’ve met many adopters; some are older, some younger. Some are married, some are single, some already have kids, others don’t. There’s not a certain type of person who chooses to adopt. But the call to offer hospitality to the vulnerable in our communities is broader than fostering or adoption. So how might God want to stretch your vision for hospitality? How might people experience the hospitality of God, through you?
As I prepare to head back to my own church to celebrate the many ways we parent and protect those in our care, my prayer is that we will see how greatly we are loved and longed for by our Heavenly Adoptive Parent. I pray that in grasping hold of the welcome we’ve received, we will be eager to pass on the miracle of hospitality to others.
Song 4: The Lord’s my Shepherd
Mo Finlay (Youth worker)
Let us pray,
Heavenly Father we pray for our world today, we pray for the many millions of people who are suffering from disconnection and isolation. Whatever the reasons for this we pray for those in positions of influence to do all that is within their power to bring systems and structures that are closer to Kingdom of Heaven values, where equality, justice and love for one another reign, and greed, envy and division have no place.
We also pray for our country at this time of great division. Would you show us how to behave and believe in these times, so that your church might be salt and light. Forgive us where we have failed to embrace the needy and judged others without fully listening or understanding.
We pray for our government and for our members of parliament at this time especially, in the midst of complexity, confusion and huge personal pressure. Lord would you enable progress to be made to the benefit of all.
And on this Mothering Sunday we pray for Mothers and children across our nation. We pray especially for families under pressure be that financial emotional or relational. And we pray also for cared for children that they will know your protection and your love.
We ask these things in your name Jesus. Amen.
We pray together the prayer that Jesus taught us:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil,
for the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Father God, thank you that even as Jesus died on the cross he was caring for the practical and emotional needs of those around him. Thank you that you offer to adopt us into your family. Thank you for this the highest privilege you can give to us, that we can be your sons and daughters and know you as our loving heavenly father.
And, may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious to me, may the Lord turn his face to you and bring you peace
Song 5: Be Thou My Vision
Segues to instrumental to close