Worship for Mothering Sunday, 27th March 2022, by Rev. Caroline Wickens

Welcome to Worship:

Lord our God, as you called the Israelites
to rededicate themselves after crossing the desert,
and as the runaway son returned to his father’s house,
so you call us to return to you.
Help us hear your call afresh,
and to respond by giving you our hearts and lives,
to the glory of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Hymn: StF 81     Now thank we all our God

1 Now thank we all our God
with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done,
in whom his world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms
has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.

2 O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us,
to keep us in his grace,
and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills
of this world in the next.

3 All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given,
the Son and Spirit blest,
who reign in highest heaven
the one eternal God,
whom heaven and earth adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be evermore.

Martin Rinkart (1586 – 1649)

Prayers of praise, confession and forgiveness

We turn towards you, our Father
who runs out to meet us
even if we feel far off.

We turn towards you, the Son
who reconciles us to God
making us all a new creation.

We turn towards you, holy Spirit
who meets with us here
filling us with hope and peace.

Father, Son and Spirit,
we turn towards You
with expectant minds
and hopeful hearts.

Liberating God,
We come with confidence,
to confess our sins
in the hope of having a healthy
rather than a false humility.

We confess the things we have done,
and the things we have left undone,
that have hurt You, others and the planet.


Forgive the guilt of our sin,
be our hiding place and
preserve us from trouble.
Surround us with Your deliverance.


Thank You for the joy that comes with forgiveness,
for the freedom of being released from shame,
for rolling away the stone of guilt from our lives.

Transform us all over again in the power of your love
which is ours in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Hymn: StF 78     Give thanks with a grateful heart

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son

And now let the weak say, “I am strong”
Let the poor say, “I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us”

And now let the weak say, “I am strong”
Let the poor say, “I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us”

Give thanks
Henry Smith (b.1952)
© 1978 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music

Reading: Luke 15:1 – 3, 11b – 32

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

So he told them this parable:

‘There was a man who had two sons. 12 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. 13 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. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 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. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 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! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’” 20 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. 21 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.” 22 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. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

25 ‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 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. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” 31 Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 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.”’


What do you think an ideal family might look like? My guess is that it probably wouldn’t have much in common with the family at the heart of this parable. There’s a father who is unable to control his wayward sons; there is one son who disappears off with half the family wealth and proceeds to squander the lot; there is another son who has a massive grudge against his father and his brother; and there is no mother in sight. It’s a strange story to find ourselves reading on Mothering Sunday, which in our society has become a celebration of an idealised version of the mother’s role within the so-called ‘perfect family’.

Yet this story has a lot in common with life as we actually live it. Maybe there are people whose family life achieves the manicured perfection of a cornflakes advert. I wouldn’t know; I’ve never met them. Most people find themselves coping, more or less, with whatever life throws at them, drawing on whatever resources they have available to them – and we see the same in this parable. The runaway son learns life’s biggest lessons while he’s living alongside the pigs, half-starved. His only way out is through radical change. He leaves behind the arrogant quest for self-sufficiency which led him to squander half his family’s possessions. He recognises that if he is going to survive at all, he needs to find the humility to admit his mistakes. It’s a transformation worthy of a soap opera.

The father draws on ways of parenting that are a very long way from the patriarchal traditions of Jesus’ time. There is no stern desire for vengeance against this wastrel son. This father is overwhelming in his welcome, overjoyed to see his son trudging home up the long, dusty road. You might say that there is more of the traditional image of mother than of father in this figure: loving, generous, delighted to have the son back irrespective of what he has done. I wonder what the neighbours make of the father’s overpowering kindness – do they think he should have acted differently, more strictly, in response to the son’s disgraceful behaviour?

And then there’s the elder son, the one who does keep to the rules and conform to expectations, and who finds his father’s generosity wholly unacceptable. This son focuses on life according to rules, a judgmental life in which wrong is punished and runaways are chased away again. He isn’t able to accept the father’s radical generosity and forgiveness. He doesn’t recognise the love which motivates the father to throw the party and welcome the runaway home.

Where does the love of God flow freely? It’s not in the elder son who tries to keep all the rules, to live life within a strict framework. It’s in the runaway son who finds the humility to say sorry. It’s in the father who bends all his society’s expectations about parenting, and welcomes his son home. It’s not neat and tidy; it’s not picture-perfect; but it’s real and it’s a channel for the love of God. So on Mothering Sunday, let’s celebrate the messy reality of family life, where fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, step-children and step-parents, aunties and uncles and friends and neighbours, can all channel God’s love as they share in working through the changes and challenges that life brings. Let’s pray for families where those channels of love are blocked or broken; and let’s think about our own families and give thanks for the people who have gifted us with the wonder of God’s love, as unexpected and joyful as the love of the father for his runaway son.

To think about:

  • What kind of father is God? And what other pictures for God make an impact on you?
  • If you were asked which of the people in the story you identify with most, which one would you choose?


Hymn: StF 615   Let love be real, in giving and receiving

Let love be real, in giving and receiving,

without the need to manage and to own;

a haven free from posing and pretending,

where every weakness may be safely known.

Give me your hand, along the desert pathway,

give me your love wherever we may go:

as God loves us, so let us love each other,

with no demands, just open hands and space to grow.


Let love be real, not grasping or confining,

that strange embrace that holds yet sets us free;

that helps us face the risk of truly living,

and makes us brave to be what we might be.

Give me your strength when all my words are weakness,

give me your love in spite of all you know:

as God loves us, so let us love each other,

with no demands, just open hands and space to grow.


Let love be real, with no manipulation,

no secret wish to harness or control;

let us accept each other’s incompleteness,

and share the joy of learning to be whole.

Give me your hope through dreams and disappointments,

give me your trust when all my failings show:

as God loves us, so let us love each other,

with no demands, just open hands and space to grow.

Michael Forster (b.1946), © 1995 Kevin Mayhew Ltd.

Prayers for others and for ourselves

Let us pray for our families,
and for the families of church, nations and world,
as we turn to the God of compassion and healing.

We lift to you our families, Lord God:
our nearby ones with whom we share our homes and our lives,
our loved ones whom we see rarely because they live away,
and our disaffected ones
whom we see rarely because they have disagreed with us.
Be with them when we cannot be there:
give them wise guidance when they will not heed us,
keep them safe when they are beyond our protection,
and mend our attitudes if we become obstacles
to your good plans.

We lift to you our church, Lord God:
our ministers who lead us in your ways,
our volunteers who seek to make sure
we do everything we can to be welcoming and helpful,
those who support us and are encouraged by us,
and our building that serves as a witness
to your presence among us.
Pour your Spirit of unity and peace on us:
help us discern your guidance and show us new ways
of bringing your love and healing to our community.

We lift to you our nation, Lord God:
the politicians who represent us,
those who maintain justice,
those who provide us with many services,
and all who work to keep us supplied
with all the good things we have.
Help us to express proper care and concern for everyone,
that people of all sorts and conditions may
have their fair share of the good things you give us.

We lift to you our world, Lord God:
we pray that your reconciling love may bring harmony.
We pray for those caught up in conflicts between nations and states;

for families torn apart by the demands of war;
for all who live in fear of the bullet or the bomb.
May the leaders of the nations listen to each other,
and commit themselves to peace.
We pray for all who seek to mediate,
to bring reconciliation and peace,
that they may have wisdom, patience and compassion.

We bring our prayer in the name of Christ,
through whom all are reconciled to you, our God.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven

Hallowed be your name

Your kingdom come

Your will be done

On earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread

Forgive us our sins

As we forgive those who sin against us.

Save us from the time of trial

And deliver us from evil

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours

Now and forever


Hymn: StF 503   Love divine, all loves excelling

  1. Love divine, all loves excelling,
    Joy of Heav’n to earth come down;
    Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
    All thy faithful mercies crown!
    Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
    Pure unbounded love Thou art;
    Visit us with Thy salvation,
    Enter every trembling heart.
  2. Come, Almighty to deliver,
    Let us all Thy life receive;
    Suddenly return, and never,
    Nevermore Thy temples leave.
    Thee we would be always blessing,
    Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
    Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
    Glory in Thy perfect love.
  3. Finish, then, Thy new creation;
    Pure and spotless let us be;
    Let us see Thy great salvation
    Perfectly restored in Thee;
    Changed from glory into glory,
    Till in Heav’n we take our place,
    Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
    Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Charles Wesley (1707 – 1788)

A closing prayer

God of limitless love!
Thank you that we cannot fall out of your love,
no matter what our mistakes,
no matter how mean and grudging our love is.
As you welcome us with ever open arms, enlarge our hearts
and minds, to serve faithfully and to love without limit!