This Sunday is the fourth Sunday in Lent, which, over time, has developed several emphases. First, it is sometimes called “Laetare Sunday” because the traditional introit (the Psalm or canticle said or sung at the “entrance” of the ministers) for the fourth Sunday in Lent from Isaiah 66 begins with the Latin word laetare, which means rejoice. It is sometimes also referred to as “Refreshment Sunday,” because the traditional gospel reading of the day is John 6 (it’s John 9 this Sunday), which is the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000.
In some higher-church settings it is referred to as “Rose Sunday,” because on this day clergy are permitted to wear rose colored vestments, signifying a “lightening” of the deep purple usually worn during Lent. We don’t use rose-colored vestments, but we will have roses on the altar this Sunday, in contrast to the other Sundays in Lent when the altar is bare. Finally, in the UK this Sunday is often referred to as “Mothering Sunday.” Historically, the epistle reading for this day comes from Galatians 4, and refers to “Jerusalem, the mother of us all.” A custom developed to visit the Cathedral on this Sunday, as the “mother-church” of the diocese, and, later, the custom developed to spend time with one’s mother on this day.
In all of these customs, there is a call to look forward to Easter. Even in the midst of the rigors of Lent, we are called to rejoice, because God has graciously provided all that we need in the person of his son Jesus. It’s even OK to “lighten up” on your Lenten disciplines this Sunday. As we gather for worship, then, come prepared to rejoice. Even in the midst of struggle, we look forward to the new life in Jesus Christ, trusting that the grace and power present in the wilderness to feed 5,000 will be present in our midst as well.