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Bearing each other’s burdens

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1 Kings 17:8-16 & Mark 1:29-34
9am Service 4th Sunday in Lent
(10-3-13)

I’m not a fan of Mother’s Day, or Father’s Day for that matter. My thinking is that when we love someone we let them know spontaneously, we shouldn’t need reminding and most certainly we don’t need to line the pockets of the card and gift industry. Some of you might be thinking that actually what the church is meant to be celebrating today is Mothering Sunday and I don’t see how any of us here today can be celebrating that . None of being a young lady ‘in service’ going home to her ‘mother’ church.

On top of this there’s the difficulties that some of us have with Mother’s Day on a personal or emotional level. But I can’t really ignore it all because firstly many, and in particular the world outside of the church, wouldn’t understand my views which would probably only confirm their suspicions of Christians being miserable kill-joys. Secondly, it does at least provide us with the opportunity to welcome people from outside the church, to share time with them and tell them of God’s love which, ultimately, is even more amazing than that of any earthly Mother’s.

So there we are – it is Mothering Sunday and, in an effort to not make the day even more difficult, I’m using the same set of readings at both services this morning.

Not everyone is a mother but we all have a mother, whether or not they are still with us, and we are all children of God. He, our loving Father, is also the one who remembers and comforts us as a mother comforts her child. When our own family fail us or are absent, His love is perfect and constant. When our life hits a low point He is always there.

In our first reading (1 Kings17:8-16) Elijah helps a mother struggling to provide food for her son and her visitor. God provided a miracle so that all were fed. In the second reading, (Mark 1:29-34) Jesus heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law who was unable to look after her family and guests because she was ill. Jesus healed her and she was then ready to care for them.

In both stories the mothers were helped through a miracle of God. One of the miracles of life for me is that, as someone who never experienced what I’d call proper parental love, I can, through the Bible, experience the love of God. Knowing that wonderful and freely given love of God should make us want to pass it on to help others.

It’s good to give a helping hand to people to make their lives easier. Sometimes this might be a daunting task, particularly if it involves masses of time and physical effort.

One very important way though, is to pray for others. Hopefully we can thank God for them but if even this is difficult (sometimes it is) we can ALWAYS ask for God’s blessing upon that person. Not only does this have an effect upon the other person it can often affect, in a good and amazing way, on our relationship with them.

There’s a verse in the Bible that has greatly helped me with the idea of our helping and supporting others. It is Galatians 6:2 and it goes like this: ‘Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ’. Let me share the reason that this verse sticks quite vividly in my mind.

Many of you will have seen, (maybe dislike) the Good News Bible. Whatever you think of it, one of its ‘plusses’ must be the illustrations, very simple black and white outline drawings. The picture given for this verse is engraved in my mind for two reasons. (distribute) Initially I thought it looked like a group of people carrying a giant sausage! But then the real meaning struck me quite powerfully. It’s a group of people joining in the carrying of each other’s burdens and it represents the people of God, the Church, the Body of Christ acting as one. Supporting and helping each other. Taking the burden of fellow members upon themselves, easing the load so that no-one has to carry too much. That’s a lovely picture.

Later at our family service I will endeavour to show what this means by doing a kind of ‘Crackerjack’ game of asking someone to balance lots of different boxes representing some of the things that mothers do for their children. There will be too many boxes for one person to balance and I will explain to the children that this verse encourages us to be helpful to everyone. In particular on Mothering Sunday it’s good to remember to help our Mums and carers. We should be offering helpful hands to all, burdens that need sharing are not just the prerogative of mums.

But remember the verse says we should be obeying the law of Christ in helping and supporting others – not dancing to the tune of Clinton Cards. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. And I think that’s what Jesus stands for in a nutshell.

We each have burdens to bear. Instead of going it alone, we need to be prepared to carry each other’s.

Its about the community of Christ (the Church) as a whole needing to be a place where people look out for each other, care for one another and carry each others’ burdens.

Church can do this by praying support and help for each other. Church can also be a place of hosting community groups at a local level. Church can also be a place where we look out and extend our vision far beyond ourselves in our prayers and in our charitable giving.

But, looking out for one another, caring for another, carrying one another’s burdens, can be draining! Carrying one another’s burdens can become a burden in itself BUT when we seek to carry one another’s burdens and so fulfill the teaching of Christ, we are not on our own. Christ, whose teaching is summed up in the words that ask us to help to carry one another’s burdens, is the same Jesus who extends to each one of us an invitation: Come to me all of you who are tired from carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

On top of this He also offers us a strength from beyond ourselves in the energizing power of the Holy Spirit. The task therefore becomes not just manageable but totally do-able!

In God’s strength, not our own, let us rise to the challenge of this verse and carry one another’s burdens. When the burden proves to be heavy and gets us down, let’s hear again those words of Jesus, ‘Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest’.

Perhaps we might especially extend that offer to mum’s today but the real truth is that we are called to do it for each other all of the time.

Amen.

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