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This week's readings…

The Fourth Sunday of Lent 10th March 2024


A Reading from The Old Testament

1 Samuel 1. 20-end

Samuel’s Birth and Dedication

20 In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.”

21 The man Elkanah and all his household went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and to pay his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, that he may appear in the presence of the Lord, and remain there forever; I will offer him as a Nazirite for all time.” 23 Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Do what seems best to you, wait until you have weaned him; only—may the Lord establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son, until she weaned him. 24 When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine. She brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. 27 For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.”

She left him there for the Lord.

This is the word of the Lord

Thanks be to God

Psalm 127

1 Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.
2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.

3 Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth.
5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.


A reading from the New Testament


Colossians 3. 12 – 17


The New Life in Christ


12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This is the word of the Lord    

Thanks be to God

The Gospel

John 19. 25b - 27

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John

Glory be to thee O Lord


The Crucifixion of Jesus

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

This is the Gospel of the Lord

Praise to thee, O Christ

and reflection…


Symbols of God’s saving activity.

In the Old Testament reading, Hannah presents the infant Samuel in the temple at Shiloh.  He is probably no more than four years old; this was a hard maternal sacrifice.  We can see parallels between Hannah’s presentation of Samuel echoed by Mary’s presentation of the Christ-child in the Temple. 

In our gospel Mary receives the fulfilment of Simeon’s prophecy made then, that a ‘sword shall pierce your heart.’  She stands as near the cross as the soldiers will let her.  It is beyond imagining.   She knows this body like no one else; it is part of her own ‘knit together’ in her womb.   The bible speaks of ‘flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone’ in relation to marriage.  Its truth is deeper, for the body of her son is literally that, albeit now thirty-three years old.   I imagine her, beyond weeping, only silent staring – a suspended peace; for she always knew.

“Woman” Jesus calls her.  Where else have we heard that?  Right at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry where it seems Mary almost ‘tips’ him into action at the wedding at Cana.  And what action.  Great jars of water for cleansing become the rich wine of the Kingdom.  A sign, John calls it and in writing his gospel he places these two words like bookends.

 At the end of this earthly work Jesus looks with tenderness on this one who knows him like no other and has no words now.  With his last words he gives her, entrusts her, to another, as she did him when she let him go to his Father’s work.  John ‘takes her to himself’, receives her into his inner life-setting. 

Jesus’ work is both cosmic in breadth and immediately present, to Mary, and to the one crucified beside him, “Today you will be with me....”.

In all of John’s gospel there are layers of meaning beyond the surface action.   In commending his mother and disciple to each other, Jesus is both displaying filial love and inaugurating a new community; one in which Mary represents Israel taken up into the life of the church.  She will be there on the day of Pentecost and icons depict her standing in the middle with the disciples and others around her.  Mary, still present, still pointing us to her Son.

She is one of the foci of Mothering Sunday, she becomes melded with the idea of Mother Church with its, associations of home in which we are held, brought to birth by the blood and water that flowed from Jesus’ side, that enable us to be born again and signify the sacramental nourishment we receive from him through the Church.

In the fourteenth century Julian of Norwich, the first woman to write in modern English, experienced and understood the motherhood of God in her visions.   “As truly as God is Father, so just as truly is he our mother.”  Although we are distinguished by our gender, God is not.

In truth, you and I know nothing about God – nothing, for every word and metaphor we wrestle with: God is a rock, a shepherd, a strong tower or even mother or father – all of them can never capture anything of God who is Spirit. it would be like asking you to go out and bring in a cup of wind.  It cannot be seen or held. 


“…The One True God is beyond human understanding. God is beyond all talk, pictures and even thought. Anything less is merely a god, an object within the sphere of human thinking and understanding, invention.” Tim Bukeley

We are left with abstract ideas: God is the Prime Mover, the Absolute Other, the Ground of Being.  But is it hard to be in relationship to that – how would we pray?  “Dear Prime Mover”, doesn’t work somehow.  

Our answer is found in what we experience in our relationship when we have come to Christ – we find one who invades us with love.   “My Father and I will dwell with you...”   We find both maternal and paternal strengths that we recognise and understand. 

Letting go of tired concepts of God – whatever they are – and allowing ourselves gently to embrace others, opens us so that we can receive the life of God in a new way – sometimes rather startling at first but given time it can be liberating.

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