Service by Revd. Dr Andrew Warmback. Mothering Sunday 27 March 2022

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Sermon by Revd Dr Andrew Warmback (Luke 15:1-3; 11b-32)

Grace

Some years ago the popular writer Philip Yancey wrote a book called What’s so amazing about grace?  In it he writes “Grace means this is nothing I can do to make God love me more, and nothing I can do to make God love me less. It means that I, even I who deserve the opposite, am invited to take my place at the table in God’s family.”

It is message for us today.  Grace is a strong theme in today’s gospel reading, which is the Parable of the Prodigal Son or of the Two Brothers.  Coming from the mouth of Jesus we should not be surprised at characters and behaviours portrayed in this parable: Jesus often fraternized with those who were sinners and practiced indiscriminate hospitality, certainly grace-filled behaviour for which he was much criticised.

Parable

Our story begins with the younger brother asking his father for his share of the inheritance.  We would probably say that he was cheeky, or rude, in asking for this as one usually receives an inheritance only when the person has passed on.  Nevertheless he is free to ask and his father freely gives his share to his son.

This young man goes to a foreign country, far from his home and wastes his inheritance.  And he ends up finding employment, which to Jewish hearers, would have been outrageous – feeding pigs.

But he comes to his senses and decides to return home where he finds his father on the look-out for him. His father is waiting, longing for him to return.  Seeing his son he runs out to meet him, kisses him and restores this lost son of his and arranges a party. There is no punishment, no retribution, but unconditional acceptance.

The older son is also invited to the party, but we do not know if he joins in.

Message

The father loves his sons.  He trusts them.  And when this younger son messes up his life and returns to him he welcomes him back with open arms.  He does not write him off as a failure or as a disappointment.

And in reaching out to the older son the father wants to ensure that the family relationships are maintained.  In his mind no one is beyond the pale, no one should be condemned as irredeemable.

So too in the church community; we are in relationship with one another, we belong to one another, we need each other to function well as the body of Christ. We are different but use our gifts for the up-building of one another.

Older Son

The older son has been a good son, he has done everything right, he has kept the rules we could say.  But he became jealous of all the fuss being made of his brother who had been irresponsible, who had gone off the rails we would say.  This made him angry and resentful.

Like the older son we can be quick to judge people for their behaviour.

We too can lack grace.

Lent

Lent is a time for conversion, for change.  Like the scribes and the Pharisees of Jesus’ time we can think we are right.  After all, we are dutiful, we are obedient, we follow the rules.  This makes it hard for us to change. But let us take time to reflect on our attitudes and behaviour towards others. How can we move more towards the grace-ful actions of the father?

Mothering Sunday

Being the Fourth Sunday in Lent we celebrate Mothering Sunday today.  The father – the parent – in our parable provides us with a model of love, mercy, forgiveness and care. The father does not love the younger son more than the older son. In fact he does not compare the two sons. The father takes the initiative to look out for his younger son, to affirm him as well as include and invite his older son to join in the joy if the celebrations.  No favouritism. Only unconditional love.

I end with a prayer for Mothering Sunday.  We pray:

Our God,

your son Jesus Christ

experienced the love of an earthly home.

We thank you for the love we receive in our homes

and we pray for all who mother everywhere.

May they never be taken for granted,

and receive from their children

the honour and love you showed your mother, Mary.

We bless and praise you Lord,

the Mother and Father of us all.

In the name of your Son our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Amen

 

 

 

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