Fourth Sunday in Lent / Mothering Sunday [by Revd Elizabeth Bussmann]


Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Jos 5, 9-12
2nd Reading
2 Cor 5, 16-21
Lk 15, 1-3.11-32
If celebrated as Mothering Sunday (Church of England):
1st reading: Exodus 2.1-10 or 1 Samuel 1.20-28 / Psalm 34.11-20 or Psalm 127.1-4 / 2nd reading: 2 Corinthians 1.3-7 or Colossians 3.12-17 / gospel: Luke 2.33-35 or John 19.25-27
Notes to 4th Sunday in Lent: reconciliation, the day’s phrase of the day, and righteousness … (2 Cor 5); take that and you’ll find all those who have been lost. (Lk 15)
by Revd. Elizabeth Bussmann, Environment Officer for the Church of England Diocese in Europe


Julian of Norwich (14th C) wrote that Mothering Sunday is a good day to recognise that although we are distinguished by our gender, God is not. Instead God is both mother and father to us.

It is important to remember that God is Spirit but that he chooses to manifest his nature in ways we, as human beings, can relate to: i.e. male and female attributes.

In the Old Testament there many references to the way God acts in what we would consider ‘motherly ways.’ e.g. Isaiah 66.13; Hosea 11:3-4 ; Deuteronomy 32:18

Although God is ‘non-biological’, Jesus incarnate takes on biological maleness as the Son of God and incorporates the different attributes of God in his earthly life.

God ‘created’ or ‘gave birth’ to all living things. Though there are many different species with different habitats and characteristics, all share one commonality, they all receive life from their ‘mother’. This is God’s will for life to exist. (Deut. 32.18/Isaiah 42.14) see also further reading (below)

The Bible doesn’t give God the title ‘our Mother’ but in dozens of places the Bible uses feminine language for God. These are imagery or figures of speech: similes, analogies, metaphors and personification. See also Matthew 23:37 and Thess. 2:7


The danger of calling the planet: ‘Mother Earth’.

Dominique Browning reflects on the dangers of calling the planet ‘Mother Earth’ . She writes that if we ascribe human features to our planet, we run the risk of lulling ourselves into thinking that those marvellous ecosystems that have sustained us for so many centuries will magically right themselves. That ‘Mother Earth’ will take the abuse we inflict and adjust herself for our sakes. Sometimes the earth can adapt but there are limits and we prefer to block out the difficult truth that our planet could become inhospitable to human life. Dominique Browning (see further reading 8)


As Christians we are called to respond to the above as acting like true followers of Jesus Christ. In discipleship we are called to become more and more like Jesus – who modelled his Father – with all the mothering and fathering attributes. We are the Church – the living Body of Christ, collectively and individually, called to live as Jesus did.

The great Commandment: Matthew 22:36-40 NIV

See below further reading: 3

Back to our roots: ‘Love’ in Hebrew thinking Ahava-act of giving rather than receiving is fundamental to loving, love is not something that simply happens to us but something that we create through our actions when we give of ourselves to others. (see Luke 6.38) i.e. In the Hebrew, love is directly connected with action and obedience.


God’s call requires a response that is practical and revealed in the way we live out our lives.

How can I live out the mothering qualities described in the Bible, in my family, at work, in the wider world…… what changes in my actions and thoughts does it require? Keeping in mind the
interconnectedness of things – for example what we choose to buy or where we invest our money, can have implications for others on the other side of the world … (See further reading 1 & 3 N.T. Wright)


Old Testament reading / Psalm

Both Old Testament readings are about Mothers / motherly qualities

Exodus 2.1-10 A Levite woman who bore a son but had to hide him due to the political problems of the times. She hid him in a papyrus basket on the river. Another woman found him (Pharaoh’s daughter) and raised him as her own. 1 Samuel 1.20-end Different circumstances but also a woman in distress. Hannah had long wished for a child. In those days not to have children brought shame. One day she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, whom she named Samuel which means ‘heard of God’. So grateful was she to God for this gift that once he was older she ‘gave him back’ to God to serve in the Temple Sacrifice brought by both mothers…

Exodus reading not just about Moses’ mother – it is about mothering – the qualities that make up maternal love. Moses blessed with the love of three motherly women: birth mother, brave sister and warm-hearted Egyptian princess. They saved his life literally – enabling him to become the saviour of his people. Birth mother – great courage and wisdom, Sister passionately concerned for her little brother’s survival. Princess- compassion – gave him a home and education. All showed maternal feelings (protection, care, nurture, compassion, selflessness).

Psalm 127 contains a warning: unless the Church is built on Christ, belief in Jesus and the atonement of his blood and follows all the Word of God, it is not of Christ and when the Lord comes he will say,
‘Depart from me for I never knew you….’

New Testament reading

Colossians 3:12-17 – the qualities listed here are all ones needed to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in WORD AND ACTION. Invitation to action – practical living out of the Gospel

Especially powerful when we recall Jesus’ words in Mark 8:34-37

‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it and those who lose their life for my sake, and the sake of the gospel will save it…. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?’


Luke 2. 33-35 Simeon blesses Joseph, Mary and Jesus in the Temple. A sword will pierce your own soul too…….. sacrifice

John 19: 25b-27 Jesus on the cross gives Mary, his mother to John to be his mother and John to his mother to be his son…..

The Gospel readings show that motherly qualities also include suffering – the giving up of self and willingness to step out in faith.

Environmental & Sustainability themes / links:

UN Sustainable Development Goals:

A Rocha: Eco Church resources

Green Christian resources

Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)
  1. Surprised by Hope – N.T. Wright
  2. Jesus and the Earth – James Jones Bishop of Liverpool ISBN:978-0-281-05623-1 SPCK
  3. Talking to Tom Wright – Jesus Fellowship Part 1 & 2
  4. Knowing God by J.I. Packer
  5. The Mothers’ Union have produced a wide-ranging selection of collects, prayers and litanies for use on Mothering Sunday in 2019, exploring the theme: Nurturing Hope in a Hurting World
  6. ‘L’ is for ‘Lifestyle: Ruth Valerio
  7. Just Living: Faith and Community in an Age of Consumerism: Ruth Valerio https:/>Religion>Christian Life>Social Issues
  8. Dominique Browning –


Gathering & Penitence

Loving God – we come before you today aware of how you call us to be like you – remembering that you made us in your own image – that you entrusted to us this world and all that is in it- that you gave to us brothers and sisters – mothers and fathers people to love and to enjoy and to work for and pray for. Help us dear God to remember our own sin before you and how you forgive it – help us to remember the Cross of Christ – and why he died upon it. And make us messengers of your reconciling love, ambassadors for your kingdom, people who show forth your grace, and celebrate with your joy. Amen

Confession Let us call to mind our sin, our failure to value the love of others and our failure to love as Christ has loved us.

Silence for reflection

Your love gives us life from the moment of conception
We fail to live as your children

Lord have mercy, Lord, have mercy

You call us to do good.
We seek our own good.

Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy

You hear us when we cry for help.
We ignore the cries of others.

Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy

May the Father of all mercies, cleanse us from our sins and restore in us his image to the praise and glory of his name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

As children of a loving God who always listens to our cries, let us pray to our Father:

After each section this response may be used: God of love All hear our prayer

Loving God, you have given us the right to be called children of God. Help us to show your love in our homes that they may be places of love, security and truth.

Loving God, Jesus, your Son, was born into the family of the Church. We pray that all may find in her their true home; that the lonely, the marginalized, the rejected may be welcomed and loved in the name of Jesus.

Response to the Word

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. Amen.

Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you;
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.

Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness;
through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.

Your warmth gives life to the dead,
your touch makes sinners righteous.

Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us;
in your love and tenderness remake us.

In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness,
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us

Anselm (1109)

Holy Communion

Along with the bread and wine, the gifts for the ‘mothers/carers’ could be brought up and blessed.

Sending out


May the Lord who brought us to birth by his Spirit,
strengthen us for the Christian life.

May the Lord who provides for all our needs
sustain us day by day.

May the Lord whose steadfast love is constant as a mother’s care,
send us out to live and work for others.

And the blessing of God Almighty.
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be with you and remain with you always. Amen.

May God who gave birth to all creation, bless us.
May God who became incarnate by an earthly mother, bless us.
May God who broods as a mother over her children, bless us.
May almighty God bless us, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

Hymns & Songs

Let there be love (sung x2) MP411 Words and Music David Bilbrough Words and music©1979 Kingsway’s Thankyou music (Anglican Hymns Old and New; Complete Mission Praise; Church Hymnal 5th Edition; Church Family Worship)

Let love be real Michael Forster ©Kevin Mayhew Ltd., (Publishers) Buxhall, Stowmarket Tune H&P238 Londonderry Air (Singing the Faith; Complete Anglican Hymns Old and New)

Will you come and follow me John I Bell. (born 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958) Copyright 1987 WGRG, Iona Community (Anglican Hymns Old and New; Common Praise; and many others!)

Children’s / All Age ideas

It is traditional in many churches for the children to give posies of flowers to all ladies’ present.

How about planted bulbs or seeds, with instructions on how to care for them? Warning: this may need to be sensitively suggested and explained as flowers are thought to be ‘prettier’! How about decorating the pots with the children beforehand and adding a card containing the instructions? The bulbs or seeds need to be ones which are easy to tend and care for!

Loving God, who is both our father and our mother,
we thank you for all the love we have known in our homes, among our friends, with God’s people. Bless these (flowers, bulbs or seeds) and, as we share them, may they remind us to be people of thanks, people of love, and people of joy in Jesus; name. Amen

Action Blessing:
May God who made the whole earth, bless us (make huge circle with arms)
May God who draws us all together, bless us (make hug across body)
May God who loves each one of us, bless us (place hand on heart)
And the blessing of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, be with you, and all whom you love, this day and always. Amen.

by Elizabeth Bussmann-Morton, Diocese in Europe