The 3rd Sunday in Lent 2015 - Philippians 3. 4b-14
A story is told of the great 19th century Anglican priest and poet, John Keble. As a young don in Oxford, in the early 1800's, he was appointed college bursar. Few clergy then, or now for that matter, were trained in the art of balancing columns of figures; and in one particular year, so the story goes, Keble's accounts were out by nearly £2,000 . Eventually the mystery was solved. Having written the date at the top of the page, he had inadvertently added in the number of the year, somewhere near 1820 - into one of the columns of figures.
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.
Mothering Sunday – 15 March 2015
peaking before the sudden and unexpected death of his own daughter, Peaches, Bob Geldof said, “I don’t see how you come back from the loss of a child; I don’t see how because they’re the repository of everything human. It’s all the hope, all the good stuff, all the future; all possible love goes into them.” Peaches Geldof had struggled to come to terms with the loss of her mother at the age of eleven. The Geldof family have experienced great tragedy, and have shown great love in the face of that tragedy.
In 1995 Paula Yates left her husband Bob Geldof for Michael Hutchence, the lead singer of the rock band INXS. Geldof and Yates divorced in 1996, and Yates and Hutchence had a child, Tiger Lily. In November 1997, Hutchence was found hanged in a hotel room in Sydney. After Paula Yates’ death from a drink and drug overdose in 2000, four year old Tiger Lily was left an orphan. A friend phoned Geldof on the day of Paula’s death to explain what had happened and ask if he could look after Tiger Lily; the friend had only meant for a short time while things were organised, but Geldof’s immediate reaction was that of course he would care for her and that she should be raised with her sisters, his daughters. Geldof became Tiger Lily’s legal guardian, and when Prima Baby magazine asked its readers to nominate the best celebrity mum, Bob Geldof was the surprise write in choice with four per cent of the vote. The magazine awarded Geldof a new title of “honorary Mum”. He formally adopted Tiger Lily in 2007.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” (John 19:26-27)
Of the seven last words of Christ, these are the most personal and the most human. The presence of Mary at the cross adds both humanity and horror to the scene. We are reminded that Jesus was a human being – a grown up man who had been Mary’s little boy. As Mary witnessed the crucifixion of her son, did she recall the words of Simeon: “And a sword will piece your own soul too” (Luke 2:35)?
The other six last words of Christ were all about building the kingdom of God: there are themes of forgiveness, redemption and fulfilment of scripture. But in this statement, in his dying moments, Jesus didn’t neglect his other role as a son. Here he was, fulfilling his Father’s plan, preparing to die and bring about victory over death, but he still remembered his mother, watching from the foot of the cross and enduring the pain and horror of the death of a child. He gave the two people he loved and cared for most to each other, so that they could love and care for each other in his physical absence.
It is only when we admit the horror that we can acknowledge the hope. Faced with the tragedy of the death of his ex-wife and mother of his children, Bob Geldof reacted with love. Geldof’s relationship with Tiger Lily’s parents is well documented: he argued with Michael Hutchence on the telephone in the hours before his death; at the time she died Paula was involved in a bitter legal battle with Geldof over custody of their daughters. But in the face of the horror of death, there was love, and hope for the future. As Desmond Tutu has said: “Goodness is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death. Victory is ours, victory is ours through him who loved us.”
esus showed his humanity and love on the cross and asked his beloved friend and his beloved mother to look after each other. Paula Yates, whose death was sudden and accidental, did not have the opportunity to make provision for her daughter, Tiger Lily. But out of love for Paula, her ex-husband took care of Tiger Lily and raised her as his own daughter. In our daily care of our loved ones, we show our love for each other and for Christ. There are many who have taken on a caring role for the children of friends who have died. On Mothering Sunday, we remember the children who have lost their mothers and those mothers who have lost a child, and the need they have of our love and care. We remember too the hope and the promise of the resurrection, which could not have happened without Good Friday, and the words of the lover to her beloved in the Hebrew Song of Songs: love is strong as death.