Lent 4B / Mothering Sunday
This is Mothering Sunday and so as well as suggestions related to the lectionary there are also seasonal suggestions. You may also wish to consider intentionally choosing songs written by women (either the words, lyrics or translation) and these suggestions are marked with an asterisk.
You can find a YouTube playlist here with many of the songs suggested below.
If you are opening with a focus on Mothering Sunday then For the beauty of the earth (CH 181 / MP 152) is a classic option which is a great opening song of praise while also making specific reference to families while *All things bright and beautiful (CH 137 / MP 23) is also often used. *Every new morning (CH 213) sung to Bunessan could be an alternative to these as it recognises the importance of “people who love us”. *Womb of life and source of being (CH 118) is a Trinitarian gathering song which includes many feminine images for God.
If you prefer to focus on the lectionary then the psalm gives us themes of God’s steadfast love as well as gathering from all corners of the earth. *Sing for God’s glory that colours the dawn of creation (CH 172) would speak into all the ways we see God’s love played out while In Christ there is no east or west (CH 624 / MP 329) links with it being for people across the whole world. Some more general songs on this theme which could work are *I love you Lord (CH 770 / MP 287), Goodness of God (CCLI) and *Let his praise be on our lips (Satellite).
For congregations who don’t sing a full setting of the mass every week, one good way to distinguish Lent as a season is to sing a Kyrie as a response to the prayer of confession. This may be unfamiliar liturgically in some traditions but fits the readings well as Psalm 51 sets the tone for the season. CH4 offers three contrasting options which are all easy to pick up with James MacMillan’s Lord, have mercy (CH 648), the Ukranian Orthodox Kyrie eleison (CH 776) and John Bell’s call and response Kyrie eleison (CH 777). This is also a great chance to learn a song from other parts of the world and Khudaayaa, raeham kar (WGRG / PFAS 51G) Ya Tuhanke (WGRG) are from Pakistan and Indonesia, places we rarely sing songs from. Both can be sung in English but try to imitate the slides on the recording of the first which is an important part of the style. Kyrie eleison, have mercy (MP 1321 / Townend) is more suited to worship bands and can be used either just as a chorus or else the verses can help set the context while Lord have mercy (Resound) would suit a variety of instrumentations. Create in me a clean heart O God (PFAS 51F) isn’t a Kyrie but is also from Psalm 51 and could also be an appropriate response to prayers of confession and *Hear the song of our lament (Resound) would be an interesting song to use if you wanted to intentionally bring a whole of creation perspective.
There are a range of fairly traditional paraphrases for the psalm this week which are worth considering including *Give thanks unto the Lord our God (CH 71), *Give thanks to God who hears our cries (PFAS 107A) and *Give thanks to God, for He is good (Grace). For something a bit more imaginative Oh give thanks (Kimbrough) is a great option, particularly with the “wandering in the desert” reference which links nicely to Lent. *Through the valley (CCLI) and Forever (MP 1046 / CCLI) aren’t based specifically on this psalm but have strong thematic links.
Songs to consider on a Mothering Sunday theme include Mothers of faith (Gordon) celebrates the women who have been formative in our faith journeys while We gladly celebrate and praise (STF 120) praises God for the gift of motherhood but is also sensitive to different family situations such as mothers who have lost a child or children who have never known their mother. God of Eve and God of Mary (Hope / STF 119) has a range of Christian images of motherhood ranging from Eve and Mary to mother-earth and the Church, our Mother, and could be sung to a tune such as Stuttgart. *O God of truth and glory (link) sung to Aurelia and There is a line of women (WGRG) sung to the Seven joys of Mary both look at the important roles played by women in the Bible. There are also songs which use a variety of images for God including feminine ones such as Bring many names (CH 134) and *Mothering God, you gave me birth (CH 117) which is based on a text by Julian of Norwich.
The Epistle has themes around being saved by grace and alive through Christ that many songwriters have been inspired by. Some classic options could be And can it be that I should gain (CH 396 / MP 33) and Amazing grace (CH 555 / MP 31) or while some more recent are *What grace is mine (CCLI / Getty) sung to the Londonderry Air, Christ was raised (Resound), Yet not I but through Christ in me (CCLI) and You alone can rescue (CCLI).
Perhaps unsurprisingly a number of songs are also directly inspired by John 3:16, although the most famous is probably the choral setting by Stainer (Hymnary). The short chant God so loved the world (link) is set to music from Beethoven’s “Pathétique Sonata”, while God so loved (CCLI) and God so loved (CCLI) are more recent worship songs. God loved the world so much (WGRG recording and lyrics) is set to the tune Wondrous Love and has a real strength when sung unaccompanied. You can also consider the words more commonly associated with that tune, What wondrous love is this (CH 395) or *Praise the one who breaks the darkness (CH 348) which picks up the more general theme in it’s final verse after exploring all the ways God’s love is shown.
There are so many great songs by women you could finish with that also fit the readings that I won’t suggest any others. *To God be the glory (CH 512 / MP 708) is a good general closing hymn but also links directly to John 3:16 while *King of kings (CCLI), *My Jesus, my Saviour / Shout to the Lord (CH 531 / MP 1003 / CCLI) or *We sing a love that sets all people free (CH 622) would pick up on the theme of God’s love. The latter is set to the tune Woodlands which is better known for Tell out my soul (CH 286 / MP 631) which of course a setting of the Magnificat, the song of Mary, which shows us God working through a mother. *God of the women (link) sung to Slane would be a good sending song for recognising the various ministries that God calls women to. *Now thank we all our God (CH 182 / MP 486) resonates with themes from the psalm and also features the line "who from our mothers' arms has blessed us on our way". You can avoid unnecessary gendered language by changing v1 line 4 to “in whom this world” and v2 line 5 to “and keep us strong in grace”.
I don’t normally include a suggestion for a sung benediction but *May the Lord bless you (Satellite) is a wonderful song to consider for this which is becoming extremely popular.