Mothering Sunday

This is the text of my talk for the family service on Mothering Sunday, complete with props and stage directions. Feel free to use / adapt / etc as appropriate.
Text is Psalm 103

Mothering Sunday – March 6th 2016

Props: Three large pots with attached flowers.
Labelled thus (label covered with post-it note) and containing (from bottom to top)

Pot 1 – LOVE – chocolate, long strip of paper (2m) with verse, crisps – also long stick with blue tack
Pot 2 – COMPASSION – chocolate, bandage with verse, bandage
Pot 3 – FORGIVENESS – chocolate, loo roll with verse, nappy

The Mothering Sunday talk – the part of the service where, particularly if you’re a dad, you can settle down and have a quick snooze. If you are thinking that … oh, how little you know me!

Intro

You might be thinking this doesn’t apply to you because you’re not a mum. You might think it’s irrelevant because, well, you’re a bloke or a kid, so you are definitely not a mum. So rather than focussing on being a mother, today we’ll be thinking about having a mother.

Now, unless you are an amoeba cultured in a petri dish, you’ll have had a mum-type person in your life. It doesn’t have to be an actual mum. It might be a gran or a step-mum. Perhaps your mum, like mine, has died. On days like this, I miss her. But whether your mum is here in church with you, or somewhere else, or not with us anymore, we are going to celebrate those who care for us as a mother.

So if you have ever had a mum, this bit is for you. If you are an amoeba grown in a petri dish, you can go to sleep.

Anyway, it’s all about nappies and chocolate, and who doesn’t want to know about that?

Three Pots – Part 1

So, this being Mothering Sunday, or course, I have some flowers, (Three fake flowers in large flowerpots) and I’m going to need three victi … volunteers to help me. But I warn you – there are things in the pots, and whatever is in your pot you will have to wear … and one of them is a nappy!

Every sermon should have three points – I have three pots!

Today we are going to think about some things that mothers do. Can we have some ideas? (Ideas)

  • Love us even when we don’t deserve it – Love
  • Make things better – Compassion
  • Clear up our messes – Forgiveness

 

Pot 1

Mums love us even when we don’t deserve it – Love – Crisps
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. …
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; (8,11)

Who here has ever done something that was not really very nice – probably to a brother or sister? (Stories) Rice pudding, ate the chocolate mini-rolls and hid the wrappers in your sister’s room.

When I take my children round to someone’s for a visit, they’re as nice as pie – until we get in the car to come home. Then all the pent-up fury of Mordor is unleashed and there is bickering and squabbling and all the usual mayhem.

What’s with that? I’m told it is because they feel secure enough to know that they will be loved even if they behave in an un-lovely way. So that explains why every crisp packet goes in the bin at school but somehow ends up on the floor at home. Hmnn.

Let’s see what’s in the pot – a packet of crisps

What has love got to do with crisps? Do I love my kids when they are grotty and grumpy and horrible? Of course. Do I make their tea when they are stroppy and complaining? Yup. Do I get their favourite things for lunches even when they’re being a right pain in the bum? Yes.

Part of the job of our mums (or dads come to that) is to love us even when we don’t deserve it. A child does not have to earn love by being good. It comes as part of the deal of being a son or daughter.

Let’s look at Pot 2.

Pot 2

Mums make things better – Compassion – Bandage
the Lord … redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion …
for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. (v4, 14)

What things have you ever had to do that seems really difficult or frightening at the time?
(Ideas) Driving test, interview, GCSEs, audition, 8×7

There are lots of things that are difficult to do, and often we need help. What’s in the pot? A bandage. (Send child to get arm bandaged)

Some people have really big problems. Winston Churchill had World War II to deal with. That’s a lot harder than an exam, but a GCSE is still a big thing if you’re the one doing it. I can remember being a kid and absolutely dreading times tables tests. It wouldn’t be a problem now – but it certainly was when I was younger.

Think back to when you were a kid and you fell into your first patch of nettles – you probably thought the world was ending! And where do we go when something like that happens? ­­Probably, mum. She of the anti-histamine cream and the Magic Kiss that cures anything, from a bumped knee to a broken heart.

So here we have a nicely bandaged arm to remind us that mums make things better.

Mums sew ears back onto teddies, help us with our homework, pick us up when we fall down and make bad things all OK again.

Now let’s look at Pot 3.
Nobody’s had the nappy or the chocolate yet, so I know you’re all wondering what it will be.

Pot 3

Mums clear up our messes – Forgiveness – nappy
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (v12)

One of my favourite fridge magnets says this: Cleaning the house while there are children in it is like trying to shovel snow in a blizzard.

I spend an awful lot of my time picking up the same thing that I picked up yesterday and the day before. Clearing up the same messes over and over again. I see a lot of nodding. I don’t think I need to say any more on this topic.

So what do we have in the pot to remind us of this? The nappy! Oh yes! Fortunately, it’s clean and it’ll fit rather nicely on your head.

Mums clear things up, and there are worse things a mum clears up than apple juice and chocolate spread, I can tell you!

So we have looked at three things that our mums do for us. They love us even when we don’t deserve it, they make things better, and they clear up messes.

We’ll come back to these three ideas in a little while, so make sure you know what they are – there will be a quiz!

Children, you can go and sit back down for a while, but I’ll need you to come back up in a bit.

Reading Psalm 103

Of David.

1 Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits –

3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel:

8 the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger for ever;

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

15 The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field;

16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.

17 But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children –

18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.

21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.

22 Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul.

 

Three Pots – Part 2

I hope you are all awake and have your brains switched on – if not, switch them on now – because it’s quiz time! We’ll need our children back with their props, but keep them hidden just for the moment.

Who can remember what was in pot number 1? (Crisps)
And what did it represent? (Mums love us even when we don’t deserve it)

Pot 2? (Bandage – Mums make things better)

Pot 3? (Nappy – Mums clear up messes)

We’re going to look at these three things again, but this time we’ll find them all in Psalm 103, which tells us that God is like this too.

Pot 1

God loves us even when we don’t deserve it – Love – Crisps

Text written on a long (2m) piece of paper, attach one end to a pole with blue tack and have child hold it up vertically

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. …
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; (8,11)

Now fear doesn’t mean ‘frightened of’, like you might be frightened of a spider or frightened of the dark. It means more a proper awe and respect, like if you’re up before the judges on the X-factor – sort of. The theology on that is slightly dodgy, but you know what I mean.

God loves us even when we don’t deserve it. This is the wonderful, amazing, fabulous Good News that Christians are always going on about. God knows me, all about me, even those not-very-nice bits that I don’t tell to my best friend. God knows all that and yet, inexplicably, he still loves me. Not because I have ever done anything to earn or deserve that love. Not because I am good enough or because I go to church enough or because I read my Bible enough. Simply because he is nice like that.

And that’s why I am a Christian.


Pot 2

God makes things better – Compassion – Bandage

Text written on a bandage

The Lord … redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion …
for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. (4, 14)

OK not many of us need rescuing from literal pits very often, but what we’re talking about here is difficult situations, things we can’t fix ourselves.

God knows that we are not perfect, that we are dust … which reminds me of a funny story. Little Jonny was looking on the top of a bookcase for a game when he called to his mum. “Muuuum!” “Yes dear.” You know how we learned in Sunday school that God made people out of the dust of the earth?” “Yes dear.” “Well I think he’s making another one on top of the bookcase!”

But I digress. God knows that we are dust – that we are frail, fallible and we get ourselves into scrapes. The whole story of the Bible is of people getting themselves into metaphorical (and sometimes literal) pits and God getting them out again.

And God loves to do this. In Ps 37:23 we read, “The Lord delights in the ways of a man whose steps he has made firm.” God really does like it when we frail, fallible, always-falling-down people turn to him for help. He picks us up, dusts us down and sets on the right path again.

And it can be help with big things, like World War II; or huge things like a GCSE or a job interview; or humungous things, like a 4x table test. Anything. That should be God’s tag-line – No prayer too big, No prayer too small.

Pot 3

God clears up our messes – Forgiveness – Nappy

Now that I’m a grown-up (ish) I don’t go round leaving sticky, jammy handprints all over the house for my mum to clean up. No, now I’m a grown-up I can make much bigger messes. I can even invent whole new types of messes to make.

It’s a funny thing, but nobody ever taught me how to lie, yet I know how to do it. Nobody ever sat me down and showed me how to be mean or impatient or angry or hurtful yet I can be so good at all of those. How come? It seems to be inbuilt, a part of me, this capacity and tendency to do wrong. I have to try to do right. I don’t have to try to do wrong. The Bible calls this sin. A sneaky little word with I in the middle.

So what does Psalm 103 have to say about that? Another word for sin is transgression. It’s trespassing, stepping over the line, being where we should not be. The Bible tells us that when we tell God we are sorry for the wrong in our lives, he forgives us. He washes away our sin, wipes out our transgressions, scrubs us clean. Here’s what Psalm 103 says

Text written on loo roll. Have all three children unroll it form the east of the church to the west

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (12)

While they are unrolling that, let’s play a game of higher, higher – lower, lower.

How far is the world from North to South?
1,000 miles? Higher, higher!
How about 10,000 miles? Higher, higher!
15,000? Higher?

No, actually, it’s lower. From the North Pole to the South Pole is only a bit over 12 ½ thousand miles. Maybe not as much as you thought. Even if I started at the South Pole, I could only travel 12 ½ thousand miles north. After that I’d be going south again.

What about from the east to the west, how far is that? If I started from here, how far could I walk to the east?
10,000 miles? More?
20,000? More!
50,000?
100,000?

Of course, you’ve spotted, it’s a silly question. I can just keep going to the east for ever. There is no end. Same for the west.

So how far is the east from the west? As far as you can imagine.

What does it say in our psalm? “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Our transgressions, our stepping-over-the-lines, our sin, our nappy stuff. God takes the nappy stuff in our lives and, if we ask him to, takes it far away, as far as the east is from the west. And that is very, very far.

Conclusion

So we’ve seen that God has Love, Compassion and Forgiveness

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. …
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; (8,11)

The Lord … redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion …
for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. (4, 14)

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (12)

 

But there is one more thing. A very important thing. Right at the start I promised you nappies and chocolate. We’ve seen the nappies, but what about the chocolate? This is Mothering Sunday after all.

Children, put all your props back in your pots and have a look what’s in the bottom (bag of choccy). You can take that back to your seat as a thank you for being such great helpers.


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