“Lo, children are an heritage from the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is a gift that cometh from Him.” (Ps. 127)
Read Father David’s sermon from Mothering Sunday
Mothering Sunday is a bit like Marmite – you either like it or hate it. If you are a Mum, then you may feel a bit special for a day, may receive a card and a gift, may get taken out to lunch if you are lucky. If the children are still small, there are the homemade cards, full of glitter, which leave little sparkly bits on the carpet.
If the children are older or grown up, then you may get bunches of flowers or boxes of chocolate . You may receive a visit, a phone call or even see them on Skype. In days gone by, servant boys and girls were allowed on this day to walk home to see a mother they may not have seen since this time last year; by tradition they would pick wild flowers on the way to present their Mums with a posy of flowers.
But is Mothering Sunday really only for Mums, is it really so exclusive? If you’re a Mum you’re in and if not you’re out? I hope not. Unfortunately that is increasingly the view of the secular material world; the media, the adverts all wanting us to buy into this mythical happy family of Mum, Dad and 2.5 children, all heavily into acquiring whatever they want to sell.
No the church, of all institutions, knows that no feast day can or should be exclusive to just one sector of society. Some of us might not BE mothers; but we all have, or have had mothers.
I had a good relationship with my Mum and still miss her even though she died 22 years ago. Today, is a day to remember and give thanks for her mothering of me. I realise others may not have been so lucky and may not have had such a close relationship, or may suffer pangs of guilt for things said or unsaid, actions now regretted. Perhaps today is the time to put all this hurt into the hands of God and move on.
But, of course, most people would agree that motherhood is often less than idyllic, from the tantrums of the toddler, through the illnesses, scrapes and breakages to the grunts of the sulky teenager, through all the hazards of the learner driver, and even worse, the newly qualified driver. Dodgy friends and just plain bad decisions. Parenting, at times, can feel like another emergency service without the equipment or the finances. No, motherhood is not always idyllic. Motherhood is an exhausting; nerve-wracking; challenging; privilege.
Even Mary is told ‘a sword shall pierce your heart’. Mary, has to watch her son – whom she named Jesus, at the request of the angel – walk towards suffering and death.
But, of course, the church is only too aware of those in their number who do not have children, the pain of couples who would have loved to have children, but for whatever reason could not; those who are single without children, the divorced, who may have difficult access problems to their children, the lone Mums, the lone Dads doing their best to be both Mum and Dad; the children who have lost their Mum; the Mums who have lost their children. On this Mothering Sunday, the church embraces all such people in love.
‘Mothering’ is the present participle of the verb ‘to mother’. The role of the church, after its primary function of worshipping God, is the care and healing of all those within its boundaries. And in doing this, the church, hopefully, does its best to reflect the love of God, the Father, in sending Christ his Son for the redemption of the world.
We are told ‘God so loved the world that he gave us his Son.’ That is the depth of the love we celebrate today. God is unconditional love. God is the love who mothers. God is both mother and father; God is the parent who heals through love alone.
So what should Mothering Sunday mean to us today, whether we are actual mothers or not? We are Christ’s hands and feet and voice here on earth. We are the church, the Body of Christ, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and sustained by His body and blood. We are called to do all we are able, to mother those around us.
Is there someone we have lost touch with, who would welcome a call or a letter, an email or even a tweet? Is there a neighbour who would welcome a visit or an invitation to coffee? In this overfed society, have we bought a little extra to go in the Foodbank to meet others’ needs? Is there someone we haven’t spoken to for ages, perhaps someone we fell out with ages ago, could we make the first move in reconciliation as mothers often have to? Is there a broken relationship to heal?
Is there someone missing from your pew, today? Is there someone, whom you think looks as though they would welcome a kind and supportive word over coffee afterwards.
Let us all make this Mothering Sunday a time of renewing our mothering skills, when we can try to emulate the mothering love of God and go out to reflect it in our community. Let us make this Mothering Sunday the start of our mothering of all those whom we meet today. And if just one human life is made better because of our Mothering, today, then for that, thanks be to God. Amen.