The question I am thinking about today is: “Why Mothering Sunday?” or “How does Mothering Sunday help us in our understanding of God? “
Today can be a very difficult day for many – that is why we have the candle burning on the communion table; in memory of those mothers who are no longer with us, to mark those who experience of motherhood has been marked by loss and sadness and also as we acknowledge that family relationships are not always what we would hope for. I am sure our hearts are full of sadness for those for whom it is a far from normal every day – those who are refugees – from the terrible events in Ukraine or other countries experience conflict and war
Yet here it is again, always in the UK, the fourth Sunday of Lent. Can this special day, that used to be about those in service returning home to their mothers, and their mother church, a day that perhaps has the potential to be a difficult day, or with stereotypes in abundance, or about simnel cake, how can this day enlighten us about our God? Enlighten us about Jesus?
Looking at the readings today. In the Exodus reading Moses’ (as he is later called) mother knows her child is in danger, and so, although with all her heart she wishes to hold onto him, she places him in a basket. She is literally, entrusting her child’s life to God. Her child’s safety is more important than her longing and so woven into her mothering is that giving up, that sacrifice. Moses mother cannot hold onto her son, infact by doing so would have ensured his death, and has to let go. Shockingly we have seen images in the news of people desperately passing on their children to others to ensure their safety, families split apart and separated. I hope we are never in that situation but also in our context it is a hard lesson for us to come to terms with that our children are not ours to own – sometimes as they grow older they are not interested in our advice or guidance! When they are babies they depend on us, but they have minds and wills and paths that are ours to help and guide, but not to control. In that way we can also know that our mothering loving God, without whom we would not know what love is, is not a divine puppet master pulling the strings of our lives. God does not force our affection or our loyalty. God is always with us, nothing can separate us from the love of God, but God does not force us and manipulate us. God’s mothering is about supreme love and also sacrificial pain.
Then in the story of Moses’ survival enters Pharaoh’s daughter. It is part of our makeup that we are often kindest to those we perceive are like us and can more easily ignore “the other”. Here we see the “us” expanded in a radical and rebellious way, as due to the kindness of Pharaoh’s daughter, mothering extends from the palace to the Hebrew children. Mothering is shown not to be solely about familial blood ties as Pharaoh’s daughter brings Moses up as her son.
So…. is mothering exclusively for women then?
Well let us look at the Gospel Reading. In Luke and Matthew we hear Jesus look on Jerusalem and say, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often have I wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me (Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34). Isn’t that a wonderfully mothering image; a hen tucking her fragile chicks under the strength of her wings to keep them from harm. And in our reading we have Jesus, even in his greatest agony, seeing his mother, also in her greatest agony of grief, caring for her and ensuring that his mother and John are both cared for and supported. Isn’t that an example of mothering, of taking care, of offering loving kindness even in his own pain.
I hope this Mothering Sunday has helped us understand, enlightened us, about the nature of God, the mothering of God. We know it is not about control and manipulation but involves loving sacrifice. God models that in the person of Jesus.
We learn that mothering is not solely about biology, or blood ties. The princess gives Moses life as did his mother
Mothering is also not just for the women. Binary understandings of who we are, male and female, are being broken down and are expanding. Role delineation – men do this and women do that, are now challenged.
We all, as expressions of God’s love, have within us, like God, that ability to mother. To give people a new fresh chance, support, life in all its fullness. Jesus expands the idea of mothering.
Familial, loving relationships – well Jesus knew that they did not depend purely on a blood tie. Jesus created around him a higgledy piggledy group of people that were like family, who cared for and supported each other – rather like the church family here
I don’t know what state of mind you have come to church today. I hope it is a happy day today for you, when you feel loved and appreciated. However should you have come, maybe in need of mothering yourself, come to God, come to Jesus, as you sit quietly in your seat, or come up for communion or a blessing, and allow yourself to be tucked under that maternal wing.
86 A Song of Julian of Norwich
1 God chose to be our mother in all things ♦
and so made the foundation of his work,
most humble and most pure,
in the Virgin’s womb.
2 God, the perfect wisdom of all, ♦
arrayed himself in this humble place.
3 Christ came in our poor flesh ♦
to share a mother’s care.
4 Our mothers bear us for pain and for death; ♦
our true mother, Jesus,
bears us for joy and endless life.
5 Christ carried us within him in love and travail, ♦
until the full time of his passion.
6 And when all was completed
and he had carried us so for joy, ♦
still all this could not satisfy
the power of his wonderful love.
7 All that we owe is redeemed in truly loving God, ♦
for the love of Christ works in us;
Christ is the one whom we love.