Mothering Sunday 2015
Today is mothering Sunday, when we celebrate motherhood. In churches all over the country, women will receive flowers as we thank God for all that mothers do. Yet the origins of this day were quite different. It was part of the Lenten observance, when the church required all worshippers to visit their mother church, the main church for the parish where they were born. This meant people working away from home, typically those in service, had a chance to return and spend a day with their families. People would take gifts for their mothers, of spring flowers or simnel cake.
Mothering Sunday originally celebrated the idea of church as mother of us all. It was only a step away from something that the bible clearly suggests, and which some inspired writers through the centuries, including St. Anselm and Mother Julian of Norwich, have recognised. God can be described as Mother as well as father.
“How do you think mothers are made?” “Well, it wasn’t easy! When God was creating mothers, God was getting very tired. It was the 6th day of overtime when an Angel appeared and said
Angel: Lord, you’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one!
God: Yes, but have you read the specifications on this order? She has to be completely washable but not plastic. She needs to have 180 moveable parts & to run on black coffee & leftovers. She need a lap that’s big enough to cuddle the largest child but then disappears when she stands up! She needs a kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair & she needs Six pairs of hands!
Angel: There’s no way you can give her Six pairs of hands!
God: But she needs them! Actually, it’s not the hands that are causing me the greatest problem; it’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have!
Angel: Three pairs of eyes? Is that on the standard model?
God: Yes! One pair that can see though closed doors, so that she can ask “What are the children doing in there?’ when she already knows! Another pair in the back of her head that can see what she shouldn’t see - but what she has to know. And, of course, the pair in front that can look at a child when they get into trouble & say “I understand & I love you” without uttering a single word!
Angel: Look, Lord, It’s late; go to bed. Tomorrow is another day. You’ll feel more like it in the morning.
God: I can’t! I’m so close now - I’ve got them to heal themselves when they’re sick, to feed a family of six on half a pound of mince & to get a nine-year old to have a bath!
Angel: I think you have made them too soft!
God: but she’s tough. You can’t imagine how much this mother can do or can endure!
Angel: Can she think?
God: Think? She can Not only think, she can reason & compromise! Angel: I'm sorry but I think you haven't quite sealed her up properly - there is something running down her cheek.
God: It’s a tear!
Angel: What’s it for?
God: it’s for joy, for sadness, for disappointment, for pain, for loneliness & pride.
Angel: Lord, you are a genius!
God: Ah, but I didn’t put it there”!
To finish with I want to very quickly just think about the most important Mother that has ever lived - Blessed Mary, the mother of Jesus. You all know the Gospel stories about Mary & the things she had to do & what she had to put up with in her mothering of Jesus. Here are some Gospel clips that may give us some clues as to how things were for Mary as the Mother of God's Son.
Starting at the very beginning:
Do not be afraid, Mary, for God has been gracious to you; you shall conceive & bear a son & you shall give him the name Jesus.
Then there was the actual birth -
When they were in Bethlehem, the time came for her child to be born & she gave birth to a son, her first born. She wrapped him round & laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the house.
Then there was the time she had to take her baby to the Temple -
Simeon blessed them & said to Mary, ‘this child is destined to be a sign which men reject, & a sword will pierce your own soul too, so that the secret thoughts of many will be laid bare.
She took him again to the Temple when he was twelve years old for his bar mitzvah -
When she found him, she said, “My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father & I have been, looking for you.” “Why were you looking for me?” Jesus replied. “Didn’t you know that I was bound to be in my Father’s house.” But they did not understand what he meant.
Later, when he was grown up, there was that wedding at Cana in Galilee -
Mary said to him, “they have no wine.” Jesus said, “Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not yet come.” She said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
And there was another time when she & her family were standing outside, waiting for him -
A crowd was sitting around him at the time a message was passed to him, “your mother & brothers are outside asking for you.” He replied, “Who are my mother & my brothers?” And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, “Here are my mother & my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother & sister & mother.”
Later, after they had nailed him to the Cross - as we heard today:
Near the Cross of Jesus stood his mother & his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas & Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother & the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, “Woman, this is your son” & to the disciple he said, “This is your mother.” And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his own home.
I think those words of Jesus from the cross give us a commission, whether we are male or female, parents or not, Jesus sends each one of us out to take God's mother-love to all we meet.