Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Mothering Sunday

First Reading Exodus 2.1-10

1A man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. 2The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him for three months. 3When she could hide him no longer she 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. 4His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him. 5The 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. 6When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, ‘This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,’ she said. 7Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’

8Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Yes.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9Pharaoh’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. 10When 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.’

Gospel John 19.25-27

Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory.
The Lord is a great God, O that today you would listen to his voice. Harden not your hearts.
All Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory.

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.

25Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ 27Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.


Mothering Sunday
What new to say that has not been said before?

Today we affirm the importance of motherhood, not only in our own lives but as the essential building block our family life, our society and our wellbeing and our flourishing as human beings.

Few things could underline the importance of motherhood as much as today’s gospel reading. John 19 – virtually last page of John’s gospel. Last para. before the one headed The Death of Jesus. It witnesses to his very last act on this earth. His last thought before saying “It is finished. “

Seeing his mother Mary standing near the cross, with her sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene and John – Jesus provides for her future by asking John to take her into his home and care for her. This would have been vital, since the fate of a widow unprovided for and without the protection of a husband or son was a bleak one in those days.

We all have mothers. Their relationship with us is bound to be closer than any father, however dear. Their commitment to us spans many years and is especially intimate. Their sacrifice to give us life and sustain it is unmatched by any other human being. So it’s right we should celebrate and mark Mothering Sunday. It’s appropriate we give thanks for our mothers.

Mother God
These very characteristics of motherhood mean that for many of us the love of a mother for her child is the closest human love we will ever know that is truly like the love of God for us, his children.

You may be shocked and recoil when occasionally some Christians refer to God as Mother. Of course, there’s no reason for the divine to have any gender assigned. In fact, there’s every reason for us not to think of God as either male or female for that matter.

But sometimes, our understanding is helped by making the link between God and the love of a woman, whether as mother or wife, sister or friend – whatever. The Bible does it often. There are far too many to list each one.

In Genesis, the Spirit of God broods over the waters in creation. In fact, the Holy Spirit is feminine throughout Scripture. In Isaiah, God is likened to a nursing mother. In Hosea, God is a mother caring for a difficult child. The Psalms are full of allusions to feminine characteristics for God. In one, we are portrayed as slave girls whose eyes are fixed on their mistress who is God.

Throughout Proverbs, Job, and in the Apocrypha and elsewhere God is Wisdom, and wisdom (Sophia) is feminine.

It’s not just the OT. In the gospels, Jesus likens his Father to a mother hen gathering her chicks, or a woman who sweeps the room to find her lost coin.

Some observers have suggested that whilst motherhood is honoured, it’s the traditional role of fathers that is under threat. In the UK, over 90% of lone parents are female. Psychologically, so much of what we become depends on the quality of our childhood, and for many of us the predominant role model is that of our mother.

In the church’s calendar, Mothering Sunday is a religious festival, whereas Father’s Day is merely commercial. It explains why most churches seek to make Mothering Sunday into much more of a family celebration than one centred on motherhood alone. It also seeks to involve those of us who no longer have mothers who are still living.

Mother and Father
Much of the Bible’s teaching applies equally to fathers and mothers. Honour your father and mother is 5th commandment in Exodus 20. Jesus repeated this commandment in the gospels – honour your father and mother, and love your neighbour as yourself.

Even so, Jesus’ own mother was not allowed to divert him from his mission. In Mark 3:

31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mother Church
Coupled with our celebration of motherhood, and refreshment at the mid-point of Lent is our place in the mother Church of which we are members. This is the church that is both the bride of Christ, and our spiritual mother. Today we honour both, as we gather round the table in our shared communion.

Let us pray
“O Lord Jesus Christ, Who came to live among us as the child of an earthly mother: Bless us, we pray, as we gather in your house, the mother Church, to worship you and to give thanks for our mothers. May all our children be nurtured in your love, and our homes be havens of peace and joy, filled with your presence. Amen.

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