‘Writing a sermon that no one will hear’ – 22nd March 2020 – 4th Sunday of Lent – Mothering Sunday

Based around Ephesians 5.8-14.

May I speak in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit – Amen.

When I realised that this sermon would be published on the website rather than read from the lectern, I did feel a little like ‘Father Mackenzie’ in the Beatles song ‘Eleanor Rigby’:

“Father Mackenzie,
Writing a sermon that no one will hear,
No one came near…”

It’s safe to say that we live in strange and uncertain times, the sort of times where many of us will think of family, and today – quite a few of us will think of our mothers.  I was blessed with a good mum; a loving, caring mother who wasn’t afraid to put her foot down when appropriate.  She also gave me quite a lot of latitude; the general rule of thumb in the school summer holidays was that if I went out anywhere I was to be home before the street lights came on.  This was in those long-gone pre-mobile-phone days….

But what was truly staggering was that on my return, had I been up to anything nefarious, had I been rude to anyone, had I done a bit of trespassing – she knew.  I had no idea how, but she knew.  Mother’s intuition?  Who knows…but the knowledge that she would know what I’d been up to tended to cultivate in me a sense of wanting to keep my mum sweet, and please her.

I was thinking of this when I want to look at the reading from Ephesians:

“For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’”

Although the author of the letter to the Ephesians identifies himself as Paul in various places, there has been some suggestion that it may have actually been written by a follower of Paul after the Apostle’s death, based mainly on the similarity of content between Ephesians and Colossians and the lack of the usual personal preamble that Paul applied to his missives.  If Paul was indeed the author, it was almost certainly written at the same time he wrote the letter to the Colossians, whilst he was in prison in around AD 60.

The city of Ephesus housed the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and as such was a centre of pagan culture which Paul made a centre for his evangelism for 3 years, as detailed in the ‘Acts of the Apostles’.  The letter isn’t written from the perspective of correcting a heresy or some bad behaviour, but is more of a reminder to the Church members of the purpose of God, and how the members of the Church can further God’s purpose in the world.

The reading starts with a reminder that before they came to Christ, the people were in darkness.  They’re now children of light, but with the gift comes a few responsibilities.  The church is reminded that:

They are to try and find out what is pleasing to the Lord – they’re told that such things are going to be those that are good, right and true.  As children of light, they’re expected to LIVE like children of light – being truthful, good and righteous in their dealings with all.

They are told to have no part in untruthful works of darkness; they are to expose them.  This is not just a call to speak against them, but is a call to behave in ways that are opposed to such things.

They’re also reminded that they shouldn’t talk about these shameful things – they’ll be exposed anyway.  Dwelling on the darkness can only strengthen it.

As is often the case, there is much here for us, especially at a time when panic and fear is prevalent.

There is little that is righteous about panic-buying and hoarding.

There is nothing that is good about refusing to isolate oneself for the benefit of others.

The truth seems to be hard to find right now as no one really knows what to expect.

And the bad behaviour?  In these days of social media and phones with video cameras, it’s VERY hard to keep selfish and hurtful acts out of the public eye.

As Christians, what are our duties and responsibilities at this time?

We remember that we are children of light, we behave in ways pleasing to the Lord, and we demonstrate, by our words and actions, that we are the light in the world.

That’s it.

Back to my mum.  If I had been a bad lad, there were consequences.  My mother only ever struck me once; I was about 5 years old and I’d been found attempting to dismantle a mains power socket with a kitchen knife.  She was very keen that Mr and Mrs Pritchard’s first and only born should not become a black smudge on the carpet…

As I grew older I realised that what motivated me was not so much to ‘do what my mum told me, because otherwise there will be consequences’ but more along the lines of ‘do what my mum told me, because she has my best interests at heart, I love her, and I want to please her’.  I appreciate how lucky I am to be able to say this.

My relationship with God is very much like this; I know He has my best interests at heart; I know He loves me, wishes to nurture me, gives me His grace, and wishes me to behave in certain ways for my own good.

Let’s look back at tonight’s reading:

“For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.”

  1. God loves me – he has bought me out of darkness in to the light.
  2. He has my best interests at heart – the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true, and I should follow this pathway.
  3. I want to please God – I should try and find out what is pleasing to the Lord, and do it.

On this Mothering Sunday, in these strange times, let’s look to how we can apply this to those who WE mother and nurture – be we male or female, have children or not.

We Christians, we children of light,  can provide the loving care and attention of a good Mother to those around us, like the Lord does for us.