‘Manna for the World’ – 27th March 2022 – 4rd Sunday of Lent & Mothering Sunday

To download a copy of this week's order of service, please click here:

22 03 27 Fourth Sunday in Lent & Mothering Sunday Eucharist

To watch this week's service on YouTube, please click here:


The Readings

Joshua 5.9-12

The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.’ And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.

While the Israelites were encamped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.

Luke 15.1-3, 11b-end

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’

Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Sermon
By Kath, a Reader at St Marys.

It has been my practice, for pretty much as long as I’ve been preaching, to give my sermons titles. For one thing it helps me to find them in the computer files but from the point of view of writing them it also helps me to crystallise the theme and to develop it. Of the two readings we’ve heard today, it was the one from Joshua that spoke to me and I wondered what the concept of manna might mean for us today? I’m also aware that today is Mothering Sunday and I want to mark that too so I’ve been wondering how to combine these two seemingly very different themes. It’s been challenging to say the least.
My working title for this sermon was “Manna for Mamas” which sounds quite catchy but all along something about it just didn’t sit quite right. Much as I want to honour mothers and the role of mothering, particularly on this special day, I also wanted to include everyone else who plays a part in raising and nurturing the next generation because in reality, it is very much a team effort. Even lone parents; and I speak as someone who was a lone parent for a few years, don’t bring up their children single handedly. From family, friends and Godparents to the army of health & social care professionals and teachers and the wider community we all have a part to play. Whether we are directly involved or a little more distanced from it I’m sure we’re all aware that looking after children and bringing them up at whatever age can be demanding, physically, mentally, emotionally and financially and there are times when we need all the help we can get. This brings me to the subject of manna.
In our reading from Joshua we encounter the Israelites as they are for the first time in years eating the produce of land that is now their own and we are told that on that very day, the manna, that had sustained them throughout their years of wandering in the wilderness, ceased. This manna is described as miraculous food provided by God. It appeared each day as a white crystalline substance that the Israelites could gather and eat but they couldn’t store it. They had to rely on God to provide it each day. They had to trust that he would do this to keep them alive and he did so, in spite of their grumbling and ingratitude until they were able to grow their own crops as we have just heard in our story.
When we use the word manna nowadays it tends to be in the context of something good arriving or happening very unexpectedly, in other words when you get just what you need just when you need it. We use the expression “Manna from heaven” and it seems to me that many of these somethings may indeed be gifts from God. The purpose of manna, in whatever form it manifests itself, is to get people through their “difficult” circumstances until they can get to a better place or better times. For each of us those difficult times will be different. For new parents it can be trying to cope with the exhaustion of looking after a baby that doesn’t sleep much or doesn’t feed properly, a bit further on it might be problems with schooling or behaviour, it can be problems with relationships or work or money and for some, later in life, it can be the heartache and problems as roles reverse and we gradually become mothers to our own parents and have to watch them decline. I know there are all too many situations I haven’t been able to include here but God knows what they are and the needs of those concerned and while I can’t pretend that all our prayers will be answered in the ways we would wish, in his own way God does provide for us. He gets us through.
Manna isn’t necessarily exciting, as evidenced by the way the Israelites complained about it, but it is sustaining. It may be in the form of someone looking after baby so we can get some much needed sleep, or someone turning up with a meal when we haven’t had the time or energy or means to cook, or someone giving us a break from caring responsibilities or keeping us company when we’re lonely or scared or grieving, an opportunity to work coming up so that we can better our finances and so on. Helping each other is something that most of us naturally want to do if we can.
The world is always in need of manna but even more so right now and we pray and trust that in some shape or form God will provide it and bring us to better times. Bear in mind, it’s possible that we may have the opportunity to be that much needed manna for someone else or they for us if we let them.
And finally, on this, their special day, let us pray for manna for all mothers and those in mothering roles, especially those who are struggling and suffering.
It seems I did get to “manna for mamas” after all.

The Prayers

Adapted from Common Worship: Times and Seasons

With confidence and trust let us pray to the Father.

Give your Church the courage
to give up her preoccupation with herself
and to give more time to your mission in the world.
We pray for those in leadership that they may serve the needs of the church in the world.
We also pray for those preparing for baptism and confirmation at Easter.

May the blood and water flowing from the side of Jesus
bring forgiveness to your people
and help us to face the cost of proclaiming salvation.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Give your world the courage

to give up war, bitterness and hatred,
and to seek peace.
We pray for the peoples of Ukraine and Russia that peace may be reached and justice found

May the shoulders of the risen Jesus,
once scourged by soldiers,
bear the burden of political and military conflict in our world.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Give us the courage to give up quarrels, strife and jealousy
in our families, neighbourhoods and communities.
We pray for those we live and work alongside in our city.

May the presence of the risen Jesus,
his body once broken and now made whole,
bring peace and direction as we live with one another.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Give us the courage
to give up our selfishness as we live for others,
and to give time, care and comfort to the sick.
We pray for those know to us who are in need at this time. We offer them to God in the silence.
May the wounded hands of Jesus bring his healing touch,
and the light of his presence fill their rooms.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Give us the courage to give up our fear of death
and to rejoice with those who have died in faith.
Especially we hold in our hearts those who have shaped our own lives.

May the feet of the risen Lord Jesus, once nailed to the cross,
walk alongside the dying and bereaved in their agony,
and walk with us and all your Church
through death to the gate of glory.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is used here, is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council