Mothering Sunday Service

Today, Sunday 14th March, we celebrate Mothering Sunday. It is a day when we give thanks for mothers and at the same time recognise and pray for those who find it a more difficult day. For this written service we welcome Rev Dr Mattijs Ploeger who leads us in worship and we are also grateful to our team of intercessors for our weekly prayers and to Martin for choosing our weekly anthem and hymn.


A Mothering Sunday Prayer

Loving God,
Thank you for mothers and children
and for all the joy of family life.
Be with those who are grieving,
because they no longer have a mother;
Be close to those who are struggling
because they have no children;
Be near to those who are sad
because they are far apart from those they love.
Let your love be present in every home,
And help your church to have eyes to see
and ears to hear the needs of all who come.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer from The Church of England.


The Collect

God of compassion,
whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary,
shared the life of a home in Nazareth,
and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself:
strengthen us in our daily living
that in joy and in sorrow
we may know the power of your presence
to bind together and to heal;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Readings

The Old Testament Reading: Exodus 2: 1-10
The New Testament Reading: 2 Corinthians 1: 3-7
The Gospel Reading: Luke 2: 33-35


The Sermon

Laetare Sunday

During this period, in which much of our society – including our church – is in lockdown, I discover again how important it is to keep my personal life and the church’s life as much together as possible. Even outside a pandemic, it is easy to live a largely “secular” life. By “secular” I mean a life as if God did not exist, a life as if we were not baptised persons, belonging to the body of Christ. Even outside a pandemic, it requires some effort not to assimilate completely to the (post-) modern, secular life that surrounds us in every respect. What does it mean to be a Christian? Does being a Christian belong to the essence of what we are as a person? Does being a Christian play an important role in how we define ourselves, in what we would regard as our “identity”? Even without a pandemic, such questions are pressing (I think). But during this pandemic, they become even more important. Without participating in the worship of the church, without regularly receiving Word and Sacrament, without the encounter with our fellow members of the body of Christ, it becomes all the more likely that our lives assimilate into a secular mode. A one-dimensional mode, without the deeper meanings which we can receive from being a Christian.

What I just wrote, sounds perhaps rather theoretical. (Although I would not be surprised if some of you recognise what I mean, and share my experience that this lockdown doubles the difficulty of being a Christian in our time and place.) Let me give a practical example. For me it is important to keep up with the church’s liturgical life. Even if I cannot go to church, I try to be aware in what period of the Christian Year we live, which Sunday or feast day is on the agenda. If I didn’t do that, time would just pass by, every day would look the same. A practical example of the deeper dimensions, to which I alluded in the previous paragraph, is that without the Christian meaning of time, our days would loose their particular flavour. Sunday is different from weekdays. Lent is different from Eastertide. In this respect, the particularities of the Christian Year are similar to the characteristics of the natural seasons (especially for people who consciously live with nature). Not every season is the same. The change of seasons contributes to giving colour, flavour, to our lives. In the case of the Christian Year, the colour/flavour is more than just feeling happy about the beginning of Spring or feeling sad about dark days full of rain. In the case of the Christian Year, the change of the seasons contributes extra meaning, deeper dimensions, to our lives.

This Sunday is a particularly happy example of that. We are in the middle of the season of Lent, the period of preparation for Easter, a period of repentance and self-examination, a period of fasting or other forms of self-restraint. But on this fourth Sunday, half-way Lent, we encounter a Sunday on which the joy of Easter already shines through. The dark colour of Lent (purple) lightens up (rose). The traditional introit (opening chant) is: “Rejoice, o Jerusalem; and come together, all you who love her; rejoice with joy, all you who have been in sorrow” (from Isaiah 66,10). In Latin, the initial word “rejoice” is “laetare”, from which this Laetare Sunday takes its name. Even if I cannot go to church, I am very grateful for the gift of the Christian Year in which I can participate, even at home. Praying the text just mentioned, praying the collect of the day, reading the Scripture texts, and perhaps putting (rosy-coloured) flowers into my living room, perhaps drinking a glass of rosé wine, are ways in which I can “rejoice” on this Laetare Sunday. External signs of internal meaning. This Sunday half-way Lent is a powerful reminder that our life may be like a very long “Lent” this year. But we are not stuck in it. We are moving forward, we are moving towards Easter. Literally (towards the resurrection of Christ and ourselves) and symbolically (towards the end of this pandemic, towards eventual “light at the end of the tunnel”). Let us rejoice that we are given such an encouraging and joyful Sunday today.

Fr Mattijs Ploeger

The Intercessions

Everlasting God, as your son Jesus Christ showed his love on the cross, in his compassion for his mother and his sacrifice for us all, may we know what it is to love and be loved, in words and in actions.

Heavenly Father we pray today for our Chaplaincy here in Haarlem. We give you thanks for our Church family and pray that all may find in there a true home; that the lonely, the marginalized, the rejected may be welcomed and loved in the name of Jesus.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our Prayer

Creator God, as we see the brokenness of our world we pray for healing among the nations; for food where there is hunger; for freedom where there is oppression; for joy where there is pain; that your love may bring peace to all your children. We especially pray for all mothers who have to raise their children in places where there is war, famine, terrorism and great uncertainty. For mothers who have had to flee conflict to a different country or are far from their homes and their relatives. For mothers who have been unable to meet with their children because of Coronavirus and for those who have had to cope with home learning with their children whilst still doing their everyday work.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our Prayer

Gracious 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. Bless all parents and all those who care for children; strengthen those families living under stress and may your love be known where no human love is found.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our Prayer

Father God, we remember that as we celebrate Mothering Sunday today there are those who do not share our happiness, those who are sick, those who are sad, those who lonely, those who are separated from their families and those who live in families where there is little joy. We raise before you now those who need healing in their lives and give you thanks where healing has taken place.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our Prayer

Gracious God, as we come to the beginning of a new week may, we reflect your love for us in our families, our church and our community, so that the world can see that we are followers of your son Jesus Christ and draw others into his loving care.
Merciful Father: accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen


The Anthem and Hymn

The anthem is: Ave Maria – Robert Parsons

The hymns is: NEH 185 – Sing we of the blessed Mother


Thank you God for the love of our mothers:
thank you God for their care and concern;
thank you God for the joys they have shared with us;
thank you God for the pains they have borne for us;
thank you God for all that they give us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.