The Fourth Sunday of Lent is a 'Refreshment Sunday' or a 'Rose Sunday' like Advent 3, a day when, in days of yore, "before Henry when we were all Catholics" as they say down south, people were allowed to break their fast for one day. It is a 'rejoice' Sunday (my Latin being non-existent I don't know why this one is Laetere and the other one Gaudete if both really mean the same thing). Best known nowadays as Mothers' Day, it is a day that for many people is bittersweet.
Yesterday in Northern Ireland a young Roman Catholic police officer was killed by a bomb. Not exactly a Laetere day for his family. And Matt Baggott, formerly Chief Constable in Leicestershire, and friend of Dibley BC, not exactly laetere for him either. I find myself reminded of past tragedies close to this time of year - Warrington, Dunblane, Omagh... people I know and people I've never met for whom this day has a tinge of sadness even many years on. A friend's daughter who has just become a Mum for the second time was in the same year as one of the boys killed in the Warrington bombing in 1993... rejoicing in one family and a piercing sword for another.
So, it's a funny old day, and a tough one for preachers to get right. Today we have as our guest preacher a woman student and this is her assessed service for the Board of Ministry (roughly Min Rec) as she seeks to have her call to ordained ministry recognised. I don't know what theme she will have taken but I do pray for her as she takes this step forward in hope and faith. If it's hard for women down south it's nigh on impossible up here. I hope that the outcome of today will give her, and us, cause for laetere-ing.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.
Mothering God, hold in the safe embrace of your love
Those who mourn
Those who ache with longing
Those whose hearts are pierced as by a sword
Mothering God, like a small child learning to walk, take by the hand
Those who attempt new things
Those who are uncertain or unsure
Those who wobble and weave
Mothering God, like a dancing partner, spin with delight
Those who rejoice in success
Those whose dreams have found fulfilment
Those who dream the dreams of your Kingdom
Mothering God, grant they all may find themselves
Like a weaned child
On the parent's knee.