Mothering Sunday Service 

These are challenging times for us all.

They can be frightening times for us- we are used to seeing tragic circumstances in
other countries on our TV screens, but now in our own country we facing very real
challenges, with coronavirus affecting us all, in some way.

There is the fear of getting the illness and the fear that death may result.

There is the loneliness that many face due to imposed isolation because of age,
underlying health issues or simply from social distancing.

There is the worry over family members who are ill or at risk of becoming ill; and the
concern of how to help at a distance – on this Mothering Sunday this is a particular
issue: my mum is elderly with an underlying health issue and lives at a distance, so I’m
worried about her.

There is the worry over finances with many not being able to work yet still having to
pay the bills.

There is the worry over education with schools being closed and uncertainty over A-
level results – my son is in his A-level year, so he has faced a big challenge this
week.

There is concern over possible lock-down polices and that will mean – my daughter
is in New Zealand at the moment and trying to get home which is proving problematic.

There is the worry over food issues with panic buying clearing the shelves.

So what difference does it make being a Christian in this situation?

Our reading from 2 Corinthians gives us some pointers.

Paul the writer of this letter to the Corinthian church had his fair share of troubles too!

In our reading today Paul speaks of the God of all Comfort helping him so that in turn
he could help others.

Interestingly Paul did not see trouble as a barrier to helping others. Rather he saw
the comfort he received from God in these troubles as an opportunity to bring God’s
comfort to others as they faced troubles.

Let’s just think for a moment about the troubles Paul went through: he describes
them in this letter to the Corinthians, he says…
- We are troubled but not crushed
- In doubt but never in despair (he was an apostle and even he doubted!)
- With many enemies but never without a friend (Christians are not immune
from trouble but will never be destroyed by it, nor have to face it alone)
- Badly hurt but not destroyed
- In danger of death but God’s life is at work (many of us can relate to that fear
of death at the moment)

Paul recounts in detail…
- Being shipwrecked 3X
- Spending 24hours in water
- Being in danger of floods and robbers, from fellow Jews and Gentiles
- Being in danger in cities, in the wilds, on the high seas & from false friends
- Going without sleep, food and drink, shelter or clothing (some of us today are
struggling with lack of sleep & concerns over food)

On top of this Paul talks of the daily pressure of his concern for the churches he is
responsible for - Paul could not be with many of them and would be worried for them,
needing to trust God for them (we know how that feels now don’t we?)

And let’s just think how Paul did receive comfort from God in these troubles…

Firstly, sometimes God delivered Paul out of the trouble: v10 ‘from such terrible
dangers of death he saved us’ and Paul talks about such experiences helping him to
rely not on himself but on God.

Secondly God helped Paul in his trouble by bringing others alongside him to
support him. Chapter 7 speaks of Titus joining Paul and how that encouraged him.

What a positive difference it makes if we have someone to travel with us in our
troubles:
- A companion for our journey
- One who can sympathize with us (the word sympathy means ‘one who suffers
with us’)
That’s why we are put together as church:
- Not as a collection of individuals
- But as a community of fellow followers
- Joint companions on a common journey
- A family of believers

But this is our particular challenge at the moment while we cannot come together for
pubic worship. So how can we support each other in this situation? How can we be
community when we are not meeting in person for a while? At Christ Church
Stannington we are seeking to offer telephone support or e-mail support to keep in
contact with prayerful and practical support.

We’ve tried to put our church membership list (our electoral roll) into groups of 10
people and members of our church council (PCC) are going to act as co-ordinators
of the group so that each group has at least 2 co-ordinators. The aim is to keep in
weekly contact and circulate any prayer requests and any practical requests.

We’re also seeking to develop our website so that people can access resources
online such as prayers, sermons, Bible readings and a thought for the day, alongside
contact details so we can pass on prayer requests and seek to help with practical
requests noting those who offer help. We hope this will also link in with the activities
of the foodbank too so we can be helping each other as a wider community in all
this.

And for those not online we are trying to get information and support out by post or
delivery.

I’m not all that good with technology so it is a steep learning curve for me too! I took
part on my first online evening prayer last week with our curates – using WhatsApp!

But communicating with and supporting one another without necessarily meeting in
person is nothing new! If we think about the apostle Paul – he had to communicate
with and support his church by letter and our reading today is an example of that! He was
hundreds of miles from the churches he’s set up – no phone; no e-mail; no internet!

It is important to find new ways of being community so we can communicate with and
support one another through the joys and sorrows of life.

That’s why there are so many ‘one another’ sayings in the New Tesatament:
- Be at peace with one another
- Be kind, tender hearted & forgiving to one another
- Love one another
- Serve one another
- Comfort one another
- Pray for one another

Whilst we seek to be community in new ways we need to keep in mind one thing:
The biggest sacrifice we can make at the moment is to keep away physically from
others as far as possible to play our part in reducing the potential for this virus to be
transmitted, to keep the burden on our NHS to a minimum. We might think we are
young or fit but no-one can be sure how we will be affected and if we contract the virus
we are likely to pass it on to others who may not be able to cope as well as us.

We need to think and act carefully at the moment about what it means to be
community.

Thirdly God always helped Paul with his trouble by giving him strength within.

Chapter 12 shows God saying to Paul, ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ and Paul
responds saying, ‘that is why for Christ’s sake I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in
hardships, in persecution, in difficulties. For when I am weak then I am strong.’

The word ‘comfort’ used in our Bible reading today is a translation from the Greek
work ‘paraclesis’ which is where we get our word paraclete from – the word we use
for the Holy Spirit – the one who is ‘called alongside’ us… our comforter. The Holy
Spirit is God with us, God in us, giving us inner strength, inner guidance, inner
peace.

While we might feel alone, as Christians we are NEVER alone. The HS comes
alongside us so we ALWAYS have God with us. That means we can talk with God at
ANY time and in ANY place. We can talk with God and be truly honest – expressing our
deepest fears and our darkest worries. We can cry or shout out our concerns to God,
and get them off our chest. We don’t need to put on a brave face or face challenges
alone. With God we can have strength within.

Even if you don’t think you deserve God’s help or if you have not prayed for while or
ever – God loves us unconditionally and wants to have that loving relationship with us
as his children and to help us in our need. Remember the story Jesus told of the
wayward son and a father who looked out for his return, watching the horizon day in
day out and then was overwhelmed with happiness when he did. Like that father God
waits for us as his children and waits with open arms for us to come to him.

Paul was helped by God
- sometimes out of his troubles
- in his troubles through the companionship of others
- but always with his troubles by God’s presence within

And Paul saw this help as a way to help others in their troubles. V4 says ‘He helps
us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of
troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God.’
S
o at Christ Church Stannington and in this parish let’s seek to receive God’s help in
this trouble and let’s seek to share this help with others. Do please support the network
groups we have set up as a means of prayerful and practical support and do please
support those working on the website to make a place of communication and resource. 

Tim Fletcher, 21/03/2020