Sunday, 30 March 2014

Can't make it to church?

So here we are at one of the most misunderstood (even - or should that be especially? - by some clergy) celebration of the church's year. A misunderstanding that causes pain and confusion and brings about some of the very worst preaching of the year.

So let's try to sort out some of the confusion:

It is not about Mums, nor is it about being a Mum and definitely not about having never been a Mum, and yet this is what many will hear and will take comfort, sadness or distress from it!

Today is something which dates back to the fifteen hundreds (16th Century) when Christians returned to the place they were baptised and celebrated their membership of the Church in their 'Mother' church.

A day when, the service done, people often visited the family home and, picking flowers on the way (a tough task in later industrial Britain), gave Mum a small gift (cheap - not expensive).

A day when those in service were given a day off to go 'a mothering' (days off not being that forthcoming) and so it was also a celebration - one which centred upon being part of the family: Physical and Spiritual.

The problem we have is that there will be people in our congregations this morning who having never been a mother will be feeling that this is something that speaks of their barrenness. Others who have had mothers who were less than perfect and never had the love, care and support that so many assume that women all possess will find the lauding of mothers painful and will hear words that speak of the paucity of love they have experienced. Some, whose mothers have departed this earth will be sad as they remember the woman they no longer see.

And then there are the mothers who are still with us and who are celebrated today as Mothering Sunday and Mother's Day (a truly secular shopping opportunity) collide.

Today is a day that proclaims LOUDLY this truth:

Today may we all, male or female, find the comfort and joy of this truth residing in our hearts.

For those who get presents, flowers and the like - enjoy it, for the role of being a mother is a tough and demanding one - one for which the help, inspiration and enabling of God is an added boon - and you should take the applause that is truly deserved.

For those who don't - look to the cross and the greatest gift we can have, the assurance of acceptance, love  and belonging and rejoice in that added gift of eternal life.

And for those whose mothers are no longer with us - we commend them, once again, to God's grace, love, care and mercy and give thanks for their lives and the nurture and love we received from them.

I have to include this because it made me smile - and I hope it has the same effect on you too:

Collect for Mothering Sunday
God of compassion, whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary,
shared the life of a home in Nazareth, and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself:
strengthen us in our daily living that in joy and in sorrow
we may know the power of your presence to bind together and to heal;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Exodus 2.1-10
Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him for three months. When she could hide him no longer sh got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He w crying, and she took pity on him. ‘This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,’ she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go an get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Yes.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child and nurse it for me and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, ‘because’, she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’

Colossians 3.12-17
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Gospel John 19.25-27
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 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.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Post Communion
Loving God,
as a mother feeds her children at the breast you feed us in this sacrament with the food and drink of eternal life: help us who have tasted your goodness to grow in grace within the household of faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Oddly, you might think, being mothering sunday here;s a piece of music I think fits the bill:

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