Care Deeply Talk by Graeme Skinner (20 mins)
Over Lent 2021 we will add to this webpage as we develop this vision theme.
We will listen to our local communities,
and respond in loving service,
seeking to transform injustice,
and pursue peace and reconciliation.
To help churches to listen to their local communities.
To develop effective partnerships with other groups and organisations.
To help Christians to be a prophetic voice, challenging unjust structures and systems.
To equip people to be peace-makers and reconcilers in all spheres of life.
Notes from the discussion following the Lent gathering on this topic.
1 How have you been deeply cared for recently?
Several of the discussion group recounted how deeply that had been cared for during recent illnesses through shopping, phone calls and flowers. These were tangible, practical and beautiful gifts of love. Someone is regularly contacted by a church member asking if any shopping is needed. All of these ‘little acts’ make a huge difference.
2 What are we already doing to Care Deeply?
The church is made up if individuals who are engaging with the activities in Q1. Our churches specifically support the community through activities like Tots, hospitality and CAMEO. We deduced that main needs of our area are emotional and spiritual rather than obvious injustice as we are a free democratic country with the NHS available to all.
3 What are the limitations to Caring Deeply?
The pandemic has had a big effect on our energies and there is a general loss in confidence in meeting together across the whole community. Although we have good buildings to meet in but few people to run activities.
4 How can the church realistically develop Caring Deeply, globally, locally and in our fellowship?
Our church numbers are low at present is it best to affirm what is happening on an individual basis and to consider how we can begin to offer meeting points for our community in the future. Eden Wild Goose is providing some support for ‘life in all its fullness’ to the community.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. (This sermon is based on one first preached on BBC Radio Cumbria on Mothering Sunday 2020)
Bishop Emma’s sermon
Today (or next week) is Mothering Sunday, a day when we celebrate all of those who have offered us care and compassion throughout our lives, whether that’s actual mothers or people who have given us ‘mothering’, the gift of love and care. Mothering Sunday is a source of joy and celebration, as we give thanks for mothers everywhere, but also of pain, as we recognise that family life is seldom easy, and there are people everywhere who feel the pain of loss of mothering in so many ways - those who have been unable to have children, those whose mothers who have died, those who have difficult relationships with their mothers, and those who are separated from loved ones for one reason or another - which today, of course, is most of us.
Although, we rightly now use it to celebrate the contribution of mothers everywhere, Mothering Sunday isn’t really about mothers at all in its origins. Originally it was a time where people celebrated and gave thanks for the ‘Mother Church’, and was the Sunday on which they returned to their home churches where they’d been baptised. So that’s why, of course, this Mothering Sunday takes on an added poignancy today, when many of us are not going into our local church buildings due to the restrictions around the Covid pandemic. We are finding other ways of worshipping, and praying, and being church together, much of it online and from our homes.
But it’s strange isn’t it? It feels unusual and peculiar at best. Even painful. Meeting together with our fellow worshippers is something those of us who do it often (or even occasionally) value so much. And for the time being many of us are not able to be together in person in the same way.
Now you’d be forgiven for thinking that the gospel reading we just heard is a slightly odd one to have on Mothering Sunday - The Crucifixion? It is what’s set as the reading for today in the church’s calendar, but it does seem at first glance to be a bit gloomy, a bit depressing. Surely that reading is for Good Friday? We could cope with it then! Why today can’t we have something a little more promising, with spring and flowers and sunshine - and hope?
Perhaps the reason that reading is set for this day is that it describes really accurately the bittersweet reality of love and loss that is most people’s experience of mothering, and indeed of family life in general. Mary, the mother of Jesus, alongside his mother’s sister; his friend, Mary Magdalene; and his closest friend John. Together they look on as Jesus suffers and dies on the cross. And even as Jesus hung there on the cross, in his love and care for us, dying for the sins of the whole world, he was concerned to make sure that, after his death, his mother would have someone to care for and someone to care for her. And so he commended Mary and John to each other. “Woman, here is your son.”, “John, Here is your mother.”
And there, underneath the cross, a new family is born, a family not based on blood ties or nuclear family relationships, but on mutual devotion to the One on the cross above them, under the shadow of its suffering. Jesus’s death on the cross makes possible new relationships and breaks down barriers, between humankind and God, and between us all. That’s what the cross of Christ shows us. The cross is the very opposite of social distancing. The cross shows us that God has come very near to us in Jesus Christ.
The theme of the refreshed vision we think about today is the call to ‘care deeply’. These 2 small words carry so much meaning. Of course we are called to care deeply for those we love, and even for ourselves (one of the things many of us find most difficult!). We are to care deeply for our brothers and sisters in the church, fellow Christians, if you like. And we are certainly going to need a whole lot of pastoral care as we emerge from the challenges of lockdown that have resulted in so much pain and suffering for so many. We are also to care deeply for the local communities in which God has set us, including the worldwide family of humanity of which we are all a part. That is a whole lot of caring! It could be easy to feel overwhelmed.
But at the heart of this simple story of Jesus’s mother Mary and Jesus’s friend John at the cross, and Jesus's instruction to them to care for each other when he has gone, is the simple message that as a church we are to ‘mother’ people, to welcome all with gentle compassion, to provide hospitality, to listen, to care and to never give up on caring, to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn, to join in with others who are likewise offering care in our local communities. As a church we are to be a place where people can come and be at home.
Our other reading for today is from 2 Corinthians chapter 1 where Paul sets all this is the context of worship: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor 1.3-5 NIV). When we offer comfort, another way of saying ‘care deeply’ for each other, we do so because God has first cared for us and will be with us in our caring, giving us what we need to be able to care and comfort. We are not alone.
And so on this most unusual of Mothering Sundays, our prayer is that, under the shadow of suffering, a new community will be born, a community of people the length and breadth of Cumbria who, even whilst scattered, gather together in Spirit, under the shadow of the Cross, care deeply and discover together the new kind of family Jesus calls us to be.
Loving God, you are one God, and you bring together what is scattered and mend what is broken. Unite us with the scattered peoples of the earth that we may be one family of your children. Bind up all our wounds and heal us in spirit, that we may be renewed as disciples of Jesus Christ, our Master and Saviour. And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.
The Vision refresh prayer
as we offer to you our common life,
refresh our vision
that we may know your will
and seek to follow in all your ways.
May we follow daily as your disciples,
care deeply for one another in community,
speak boldly your gospel words of love,
and tread gently as faithful stewards of your goodness.
We ask this in the power of your holy name,
as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of our lives,
today and for ever.