‘Mother church’ Sermon for Adel Parish Church at a Eucharist celebrated on behalf of the parish – Mothering Sunday 2020
Exodus 2:1 – 10; 2 Corinthians 1: 3-7; John 19: 25 – 27
When I started work as a curate – the problem arose of what title I should use in the schools of the parish. The vicar, Matthew, was referred to as ‘Father Matthew’…not too formal, not too familiar.
So what were the options available to me? Just to annoy me, Matthew liked to refer to me as ‘Mother Ali’…but it never felt right. As Mothering Sunday approached I have been pondering why this was.
I suppose it was because I am a mother of two, and I have a completely different relationship with them to anyone else. I certainly hope our school pupils wouldn’t be quite so rude to me…
In fact my reaction was similar to my discomfort in some ways with the whole idea of Mothering Sunday. It seems to take really important roles then recognise and celebrate them in just one person. Good mothers help us work out who we are; they teach us right from wrong and forgive us again and again; they feed us; they give us a place in a family…but those aren’t things only mothers can do.
Mothering Sunday is always a difficult day for many. We can’t all be mothers, some of us don’t want to. Some of us have lost mothers or children; relationships with mothers aren’t always good. This year it’s going to be difficult for everyone as we face the unknown with fear and anxiety.
So perhaps this a good time to rediscover one of the early meanings of Mothering Sunday – when people returned to their ‘mother church’.
How does our church provide ‘mothering’ and what does this mean to us in these times?
At the back of church we have our font – where for many the Christian journey begins. In baptism we join the body of Christ. We come as frail, fallible humans and are given a new identity. The words Jesus heard from God at his baptism are for us too “You are my child my beloved – I am pleased with you.”
Whilst our world changes about us: jobs and finances uncertain; children no longer in school, we can’t visit and care for people in the same way…that identity as God’s beloved children becomes more important than ever, because it is an identity nothing can change.
When we come to church together, we often begin with prayers of penitence – saying sorry to God, in front of each other, for the wrongs we do. We think about where we’ve fallen short, in the hope we might begin to do better. More importantly we then receive God’s forgiveness. We know God loves us even when we fail – and that gives us courage to try to do better.
As we face what this emergency exposes in our lives…the temptation to stockpile food, perhaps just a little, because others are…the urge to stop giving to food banks or other charities because life is no longer normal…the temptation to ignore rules on distancing, because we are not at risk…the way our patience is surely going to be tested…we can offer these to God, knowing that we are forgiven, and receiving the strength and encouragement to try to be more Christ-like.
Week by week, in this church, we share in the Eucharist, the bread and wine. We bring our hunger…for love, acceptance, faith, hope, peace, joy…and are fed with the bread of life and the cup of salvation.
In this meal we’re assured that Christ is with us, making us truly alive…giving us love, acceptance, faith, hope, joy, peace. In this meal, begun just before Jesus went to his death – we’re reminded that he chose to experience the worst as well as the best of human life – that he suffers with us.
Through this meal we have hope that even death is defeated so that whatever happens, we and those we love are held in God’s hands. You cannot physically take part in this Eucharist – but you do so spiritually just as much as if you were here.
Finally – at the end of our services we are sent out to ‘love and serve the Lord’. Hopefully transformed just a little into the likeness of Christ, so that we can become what we are…the body of Christ.
This Mothering Sunday comes at the start of frightening, challenging times. But mothering has never been just for the good times. I reckon one of the most important things good Mums do is help us through the tough times. However much we argue – when things are bad it’s often Mum we want. Good mothers sort of say ‘Look – we’ll get through this, because I’m here with you.’
Jesus knew that – even as he was dying on the cross. He knew once he was gone things were going to be tough for the tiny, new church. He knew some good ‘mothering’ was going to be needed. So, as we heard in our Gospel reading, he created a new family…with his mother and his disciples…a new place where mothering could go on. A community to bring hope when things were tough.
So whatever challenges today brings to you – remember Mother Church…
- giving us our identity as things change around us
- reminding us of God’s forgiveness and love
- satisfying our hunger for love, faith, hope, joy, peace
And remember – we are the body of Christ – so we are all called to give this sort of mothering to one another and the wider community.