Courage, Unity and Love
Read: Joshua 1:1-9 and John 17:20-26
Sunday 22nd March 2020
Who would have thought, even two weeks ago, that we would now be unable to meet together and celebrate Mothering Sunday in the normal way? But here we are, facing something which could have a fundamental impact on all of our lives and whose effects we’ll be feeling for a long time to come. We really are moving – as individuals and a country – into new territory. And there’s no denying that can be scary and challenging.
In light of this, I felt two readings from the bible were appropriate – Joshua 1:1-9 and John 17:20-26. And three words stand out – Courage, Unity and Love. Good words for us both in the current epidemic and also as we remember and celebrate mothering Sunday.
Joshua 1 – the People of Israel are on the edge of new territory, the Promised Land, and God is preparing Joshua to lead His people. “Be strong and very courageous!” That courage is based firmly on God’s promise never to leave Joshua and also on Joshua being constantly attentive to God’s words – “meditate on it day and night”. Many of us may have more time than usual on our hands over the coming weeks – using some of that to meditate on God’s word and remembering His promises will equip us better for whatever He has planned. You can read the next few chapters of Joshua and see how his courage and attention to God’s word led the Israelites to receive the promise of their own country. It’s amazing how words written thousands of years ago still speak in fresh ways today – let’s not miss out!
John 17 – these wonderful passages towards the end of John’s gospel are simply full of great encouragement and memorable verses. Jesus is preparing His disciples for a future without Him being physically present. He is encouraging them not to be afraid and to trust Him; He’s promised the Holy Spirit, promised that He’s prepared a place for them and is now praying for all believers (which includes us!) He knows that unity within His disciples and within all believers is crucial for their mission and being able to live their every day Christian lives. Being a Christian and a witness to Jesus’ love is not meant to be a solo performance – it is meant to be a community activity and one which is raised to significant new levels when that community is united in God with one another. Jesus is praying that we would enjoy the kind of unity that He and His Father enjoy – just pause and think about that for a moment. “That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” We may not be there yet, but Jesus clearly believed it was important. The vast majority of the things which divide Christians are, in reality, not that important. People outside of the church don’t care about theology or style – they need to know God’s love and hope for them. Simples!
John 17 (inc 1 John 4) – Love – it’s all because of love. See verse 26 “in order that the love you have for me may be in them…” As God’s love enters us, so does the presence of Jesus and as we receive that love so we share it. We are designed as rather leaky containers – God fills us with His love, we leak that onto the people around us, and God fills us again.
So, on this rather odd Mothering Sunday – we are reminded of these key things; courage, unity and love. None of these things are for us to hoard or keep for ourselves – they all lead to action. Courage takes us forward or enables us to stand firm; unity allows us to encourage one another, rejoice together and keep going because we know we’re not alone; love flows as God’s grace into and through us so that we share the gifts we’ve been given.
Finally, as it’s Mothering Sunday, here’s a prayer from a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Anselm.
1 Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you;
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.
2 Often you weep over our sins and our pride,
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.
3 You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds,
in sickness you nurse us, and with pure milk you feed us.
4 Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life;
by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.
5 Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness;
through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.
6 Your warmth gives life to the dead,
your touch makes sinners righteous.
7 Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us;
in your love and tenderness remake us.
8 In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness,
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us. Amen
from Anselm of Canterbury