Mothering Sunday Sermon
John 19: 25-27(NRSV)
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.”
27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
Let me just check if there is anyone here who really should be here!
If you are a mother, please raise a hand? OK hands down
Anybody here – If you were baptised or Christened at this Church please raise a hand?
So which group is right?
The answer is everyone is welcome and everyone here should be here but Mothering Sunday historically has a special place for those who were christened and who returned and if they were in service as many were when this tradition developed this was the one day each year they might expect to get back to their home church and back then where you grew up was probably where you were christened and in all probability where your parents still lived so you may well see and stay with your mother on your return, if she was still alive. But the mother in mothering Sunday refers not to going home to see your Mum, though chances are you did but going back to your mother church. And this term was used variously to describe the church of your christening and also the diocesan cathedral. So I have seen old church records of bequests from this county made in wills to the mother church which there meant the diocesan cathedral and in view of their age that mother church was Lincoln whose diocese famously stretched from the Humber to the Thames. Often small amounts tuppence or sixpence but they all added up across such a vast area. I have often wondered how many of them ever visited Lincoln Cathedral? I suspect not many. But it was the mother church.
Last year I met a volunteer at our current cathedral – Peterborough and she was passionate about the cathedral, while not declaring any Christian faith, she nevertheless described the cathedral in essentially spiritual terms. It was like a great blanket covering and protecting her she said with the sense of all the souls who have inhabited the Abbey over the centuries. She was passionate about the mother church and because of that passion she gave of her time resource and really loved it. And we like that about our mothers too. Wanting as children to bring Mum breakfast in bed on Mothering Sunday or draw a picture or find some flowers. We need to do something. And Jesus hanging on that dreadful cross as his mortal life sapped from him sees John, the disciple who Jesus loved standing beside Mary and said behold your mother and to Mary; woman behold your son. We know Jesus had a brother James and yet his passion for the wellbeing of his mother leads him to make this statement from the cross. Woman behold your Son. To secure her future care and love and at the height of his passion and pain to focus his earthly passion on his mother. And we see that love and passion for mothers repeated in every generation. Not always – sometimes it is tough, sometimes that love is shattered or abused but generally that parent child love and devotion is echoed down the centuries.
So how do we apply that same passion, that same love to the mother church? Indeed do we? What is our passion? What “floats our boat”? Our favourite football or rugby team? Our favourite TV or film celebrity or band? Our car? Our pet? And how much time and money do we lavish on our passion?
The French writer and aviator Antione de St Exupéry wrote this – strangely about boat building!
“If you want to build a ship. Don’t summon people to be workers, to prepare tools, distribute jobs and organise their work. Rather motivate people to yearn for the wide boundless ocean.”
If you want to grow your Church’s income and resources. Don’t summons them to Church and browbeat them into stewardship but tell them the Gospel and the love that Jesus has for them worked out in His Church. Does that seem a fair comparison with the quote of Antione de St Exupéry? I suggest it might be.
Growing churches often have growing incomes available and resources to deliver mission. Manchester United is a very popular football team far more popular than my local football team, Barnet football club where supporters were known to walk out of the game during the match even when Barnet were winning, which admittedly was not that often! Whereas Manchester United supporters go around in the red and white club strip, travel hundreds of miles to get to Old Trafford, pay extortionate gate fees whether their team win or lose. Because they are passionate about their club. Much the same could be said of passionate collectors of whatever and people passionate about their hobbies. Are we passionate about Jesus and what he has done for us? As passionate as we might be for the wellbeing of our own mothers?
I saw this story in a recent flyer from a medical charity about a woman in Old Fangak in South Sudan, beside the White Nile.
A woman came into the clinic in this remote swampy area. It was the rainy season although it seems that makes little difference these days and the Marram runway was now mud and incapable of being used. The mother was haemorrhaging and losing dangerous amounts of blood. She was a mother and had 5 children in her care. They had come with her but her condition was worsening and in danger. The children were all tested for blood types as supplies were so low and they brought in as many people as they could to give blood if they were suitable and found 3 but it was not enough. The woman needed surgical procedures that would have to be done in the capital Juba but they could not get her flown out. I have driven a car in such conditions and it is pretty scary an aeroplane would be out of the question. It would take days to cross by boat and land to get to Juba and there are no good roads. The woman did not have a few days. Then news came in that a helicopter was passing nearby the next day and they offered to winch the woman up and fly her to Juba. Within a week she had been treated, recovered and that mother was starting her 500km journey back to her family.
There is no suggestion that the Doctor who wrote this account was a Christian but his observation was that it was the generosity, passion and commitment of this mother’s family, friends and professional carers that saved her. That same word again – passion and linked here with generosity. Features we see at this time each year, Mothering Sunday and features we need to see throughout the year for the Bride of Christ which is the Church – the mother church.
I finish with a quote from the Confessions of Augustine – he of Hippo, which was a town in North Africa, not a reference to his horselike features (although photography was pretty useless in the 4th century!) “You called, you shouted, you broke through my deafness, you flamed, you blazed and being led in my blunders you lavished your fragrance – AND I GASPED!”