I was asked by some of my parishioners to post my sermon from Mothering Sunday (which was nice of them) - so here it is.
As we meet today we celebrate 3 things – we celebrate what we know as Mothering Sunday, we celebrate the baptisms of Isabel & Elanor and we celebrate our Eucharist – the communion feast of bread and wine.
Those of you who have been hard at work giving something up for Lent, chocolate, wine, unkind words, might be relieved to know that the real name for today is “Refreshment Sunday”. It’s a chance for refreshment in the thoughtful and perhaps challenging season of Lent – and a chance perhaps to indulge in the things you've been fasting from. So you can have sin free chocolate today. You can toast Isabel & Eleanor’s celebration without guilt – but if you want to use unkind words I’d be glad if you could wait till you get home from church and just shout at the telly.
We've heard two bible readings this morning – stories which can break your heart – about Moses mother giving her child away to save him from death – and about Jesus on the cross giving his mother into the care of a friend. Sad readings perhaps – but also readings which tell us something about what it means to be family, what it means to love.
These stories can be really helpful to us today as we all, Shelly & Matt as parents, Kay, Charlene & Simon [needs correction - some godparents missing] as godparents, and all of us as the community who will support these girls as they grow, make promises which we want to keep, we long to keep, but which we might sometimes fall short of because we are human.
Our first reading from Exodus tells us that complex families are not the invention of the late 20th century. Moses ends up with a mother who he knows as his nurse maid, a birth family who watch him from afar, he is saved by a woman who should be his enemy – but shows compassion and mercy and love - not just saving him but bringing him up in a role of great importance, great privilege. There is great heartbreak in this short story – but there is also life and love, flourishing despite all circumstances which should have squashed them. Sacrifices are made, sacrifices which we might look at and say "such sacrifices are beyond my strength". I remind you today of the challenges that each parent here has already faced. I ask you to listen carefully when we pray the prayer over the water in a few moments which reminds us of the time after time after time that God has offered his strength and love to his people when things seemed impossible. As we assert that Isabel & Eleanor are not alone but have God with them – remember that you have too.
The second reading we heard is about Mary – Jesus mother, as she stands at the foot of his cross – witnessing something no parent ever wants to see in their lifetime. And what Jesus tells us from the cross as he speaks to his beloved disciple John saying ‘this is your mother – this is your son’ is that what God is calling on all of us to be to eachother is as loving parents. We need to know that the best love and care we can experience in our families is the goal that we are reaching for in how we treat all our brothers and sisters - the people we meet every day. It is our goal when we promise as a whole community to encourage Isabel & Eleanor as they learn and grow, to pray, to know God.
Today we celebrate the gift of motherhood, of parental care, knowing that our real lives and real relationships are often complicated and difficult. For some of you today is a day of celebration – for some a day of mourning good things past – for some a day of regret and misgivings for relationships which haven’t worked or don’t work as we’d like them to.
But we are not alone – Moses family, Jesus family – neither simple. Jesus had a step-father Joseph, a good man who accepted him in the most difficult circumstances. He had many half-brothers and sisters who he grew up with who loved him but were hurt, confused and rejected at times when he taught that his other brothers and sisters in this world were just as important to him as they were. And he had a mother – who knew her child was special, the most special child who all Israel had been waiting for, but who had been told that an arrow would pierce her heart before his story was at an end.
When I think of Mary at the cross I am always transported back to watching The Passion of the Christ – the Mel Gibson film – to the moment when Jesus, carrying his cross to Calgary, staggers and falls under its weight. His mother, watching, sees in her mind’s eye the little boy running in the yard of his step-father the carpenter’s house, stumbling and falling – and she rushes to comfort him, to lift him up, to rub his knees and make everything better with her love.
The purpose of this morning’s short gospel reading is to show the other side of that coin - that even in the midst of the hardest times – God’s love is there for Mary and for each of us. Jesus is making provision for his mother – thinking of her and her needs despite what is happening into him. In what he does on the cross he makes provision for all our needs and offers us love which has no boundaries, no exceptions.
Today we celebrate with Isabel & Eleanor and family as they take the next step in their journey in God’s church, our mother church. We might perhaps think about God our parent creator – how God, so often referred to as father though of course without gender, can also be thought of as mother – and how this might help us better understand the God who loves us and gives us life. And we remember that through the waters of baptism, and sharing in the feast of bread and wine at God’s table in our Eucharist, we know that whatever the good or bad of our earthly family, we are brothers and sisters all in Christ’s body, part of the family which God has created, and which in Jesus he gave his life to show love for. Amen.