Thoughts from the Vicar
Sunday 18 March
5th Sunday of Lent
This Sunday marks the beginning of Passiontide. Before there is a whoop of joy and everyone rushes for the things they have given up for lent the beginning of Passiontide doesn’t mean the end of Lent.
One way of picturing Lent is as a journey into a mighty mountain range, at the centre of which is a great soaring peak. The journey starts as we enter the foothills on Ash Wednesday. It’s there we leave behind what is unnecessary for the journey that lies ahead and we take up new disciplines. Our liturgy is simpler, the ‘alleluias’ are hidden away, the Gloria in excelsis is not sung and services are more penitential in focus. The full ten commandments are said, the Kyrie Eleison is sung or said and Bible readings on Sundays focus on the journey towards the cross.
Mothering Sunday is the stopping point, the place of refreshment before the foothills give way to the more mountainous slopes ahead.
Passiontide is where the spiritual journey gets harder, the skills acquired in the foothills need now to be used for real, we are roped together assisting each other on the journey. Lightening our load by letting go of those things that weigh down our Journey. So, it is in our worship. This is the time to let go of the sin that so easily besets, to go deeper in prayer, to meditate and reflect on Christ’s Journey, to seek his strength and power to live the Christian life.
Holy Week in our mountain analogy is where we cross the snow line, the air gets thinner, the journey harder. In our worship we Journey with the donkey from school to church, and in our Bible readings we journey with Jesus to the cross as we hear the whole of the passion narrative read.
Good Friday is the challenge and pain of the final ascent, that last dark foreboding cliff, at the top of which all we can do is take shelter from the storm, the driving snow, the darkness and wait. In our Good Friday worship, we gather at the cross, we see love crucified and then we wait…
Easter Sunday – the dark clouds have rolled away, the sky is clear and a whole new world is opened before us.
Sunday 11 March
Mothering Sunday is a day when we celebrate mothering in all its rich variety. Although we often think of it in human terms it is sometimes helpful to reflect on the mothering qualities of God.
One way of reading the Old Testament is to see it in terms of God mothering her children. If the Exodus of the people from slavery in Egypt is their birth as God’s children, then those early days with Moses as they wander in the wilderness could be compared to the terrible twos, where their time is spent testing the boundaries. God provides not only for their practical needs – with manna and quails and water from the rock – but for their well- being as individuals and as a society. He gives them rules to guide and protect, but they respond with the equivalent of lying on the supermarket floor kicking, screaming and complaining. He gives them manna but they demand melon and figs – it could be toddler tea time!
When they enter the promised land – a land full of milk and honey – the rules are soon forgotten. In their self-centeredness the poor are exploited, the vulnerable abused, the mothering love of God ignored. Metaphorical time-outs and seasons on the bottom step fail to stop their squabbling and self- centeredness.
As time passes they become more like sulky and aggressive teenagers who want to rule the roost, take charge and are keen to challenge God’s role and God’s authority. God sends the prophets to speak to them and we see wonderful reminders of God’s mothering love in:
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more they were called, the more they went away from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realise it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.” Hosea 11:1-4
Eventually like the prodigal they left home (in exile to Assyria) only to return again begging for a second chance. God continues to love and continues to mother, but now he will come himself to rescue – to love, to shepherd, to guide, to teach, to mother.
This Mothering Sunday let us celebrate all mothering and seek to emulate the mothering love of God as we reach out with love care and compassion to those around.
Sunday 4 March
Pastoral Care Sunday
As I write this on Thursday safe in the warm, the snow flurries continue to blow past the window and though the flurries are outside, the snow and weather news has been coming in – from the first moment we checked to see if school was open and the decision was taken to cancel all church meetings for the day.
On the way out this morning Facebook was alive with messages about the good neighbour who had used his own snow plough to clear roads in Bollington, much to the delight of those who he helped – but not so with the council!
On the news later in the day were tales of folks taking hot drinks and blankets to those who had been stranded in their cars on snowy roads and motorways.
On returning home from church there was a message on the answer machine. It was a wrong number but it was a lovely message from a concerned friend or family member checking up that an elderly person was alright and had everything they needed. It was a call full of warmth and reassurance and care. Sadly, I couldn’t pass the message to the expected recipient as the names and voice were unknown.
This Sunday is Pastoral Care Sunday when we celebrate the many and various ways the church expresses God’s love through its pastoral ministries.
Historical understandings of the Church’s pastoral care have included four key elements: healing, sustaining, reconciling and guiding and these have had both individual and corporate dimensions to them. Over the last half century, as society has become more fragmented and disconnected and more people live alone than ever before, responding to this need has become an important part of contemporary Christian pastoral care.
The pastoral needs in a time of snow may be very different from in the midst of the summer – pastoral care is always a response to the needs of an individual or community at a particular time. Jesus gave us the image of the Good Shepherd as a model of pastoral care – attentive to the changing needs and changing environment. As we as Church follow his example the most important thing for us to do is to have eyes, ears and hearts open to the needs around, and to respond with prayerful, heartfelt action.