A Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of a Lockdown Lent, 14th March 2021 (Mothering Sunday)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Mothering Sunday, not that there will be opportunities for many families to gather. Particular pain will be felt by those who pass their days in care homes, or those who live far from loved ones.
How do we talk to people about faith in the present times? Perhaps, in times of distancing and isolation, what we need to talk about God’s care for people personally, about relationships with him that are unaffected by human viruses.
John Chapter 3 Verse 16 is a bible verse that is so familiar that we probably no longer think about what it means. It would be one of the best known verses from the Bible, some writers have described it as the Christian Gospel expressed in one sentence. If we think about just one word at the heart of it, “whoever,” it can help us think about faith on this difficult day.
This one single word, “whoever:” it tells us much about God and it tells us much about ourselves.
“Whoever” says that God will relate to any of us directly, whether at home, whether alone, whether isolated from family, “whoever” is a statement that this is an accessible God, that this is an approachable God. “Whoever”‘ is a statement that whoever responds to God, God will respond to them. The story of Jesus is the story of God being present to anyone who chose to listen to him, “whoever believes” has God alongside them, even in the present circumstances.
“Whoever” tells us about God. ‘Whoever’ tells us about ourselves. Distancing and isolation should not be a problem because being a Christian is not about belonging to a church where the doors are closed. Being a Christian is about our own personal faith in this God who takes on our flesh and walks among us and dies and rises again. “Whoever” does not refer to the church, “whoever” refers to individual people. Using the word “whoever,” Jesus tells people they are responsible for their own decisions.
When we talk about faith, let’s talk about what we believe, not what the church says because the church may never recover from the effects of Coronavirus. The Church of England is talking about cutting clergy numbers, closing buildings. At such a time it is important to recover Jesus’ words to his disciples. “Whoever” is a challenging word to us, but it is also a reassuring word.
Jesus looked for people who took their own decisions, who responded to him and who lived their life in the light of their faith in him. They were people who knew about isolation, they were people who knew about going through the most difficult and the most turbulent of times. They were people who knew the pain of being unable to see loved ones and the grief of watch people die.
However we might feel on the Mothering Sunday, “Whoever” is a statement that God is like a parent who cares for us, that God loves us regardless of how far we have gone from him. “Whoever” says that recognises our dignity as individual people. “Whoever” is a sign that God respects our right to make our own decisions. “Whoever” is Jesus saying that you matter
When we talk about faith, “whoever” is a word to remember; it means we can talk about faith, that no matter how far away we may feel, we are still loved.
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’
Thanks, Ian, for reminding me what faith is really about – our relationship with God through Jesus.
With the decline of the church, the heart of the faith becomes ever more important