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Mothering Sunday

Here are some thoguhts for Mothering Sunday – I cant claim they are all my own as they come from various ideas Ive found in the past on sites – but the feeling behind them is definately mine!


2 Corinthians 1 v 3-:  Luke 2 v 25-35

An 102 year old lady was asked if she had any worries.

She replied “ No, not now that I have got my son into an Old  People’s home! “

Which is  one way of saying that most parents really don’t ever stop

worrying  about their children.

Today is Mothering Sunday – a day which some approach with a sense of gratitude and celebration, and for others it can be a very difficult time.

Back in the seventeenth century in this country the tradition of giving young people a holiday on Mid-Lent Sunday enabled them to visit their parents. Bishop Wheatley, a C of E Bishop writing in 1720 commented that even then the custom which he called  “Midlenting” or “ Mothering” was ancient.

This annual return visit, marked by gifts on both sides, must have strengthened and renewed family bonds during those centuries when children often left home at a very early age to work in service of some kind. The ancient practice on this mid-lent Sunday was also to visit the Mother Church of the area – maybe the cathedral or minster church from which smaller daughter churches had sprung up – my guess is that peoples from LP would have worshipped at GP in years gone by on this day.

One gift the young folk took home was a small cake known as a simnel – coming from Latin Similia meaning wheat-flour. In the NE of England and in Scotland, the dish shared by the family was called Carlings – steeped peas fried in butter with pepper and salt – hence Carlings became the local name for the day.

“ Tid, Mid and Misera – Carling, Palm and Paste-egg Day – remains in the North of England as an enumeration of Sundays in Lent and of Easter Day. The first three taken from names in the ancient service books for the respective Sundays.

My mother can remember as a little girl in the 1920’s  saving up her 1d a week pocket money so that she could buy her mother a bunch of flowers on Mothering Sunday from Boscombe High Street. I’m sure many of us will remember making cards at school in preparation for this day.

So, how best can we use this day in our modern age?

It can be a day to give thanks for the church we regularly worship in and find fellowship from. It can be a day to give thanks for mothers who have been or who are very much still in our lives.

I find it helpful to reflect on some of the gospel stories – and discover what they tell us about Jesus and parenthood with all its highs and its lows.

A few verses before our gospel reading starts, we find that in verse 19 when Jesus was born the shepherds visited the holy Family and told of what the angels had said to them and “ Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”

When my two children were young, I remember often wondering what they would be like when they were in their 20’s and 30’s – what job they would do – what they would make of life – and how life would treat them. Being a parent is a mixture of highs and lows and just like the old lady in the opening tale, – my experience of being a parent is that you never stop worrying about your boy or girl. The truth is, of course, that whenever we love someone, there will always be moments of pure joy and of heartache as well.

Human relationships are never easy and being a parent is never simple – to love is hard work. It means making ourselves vulnerable in self-giving – sharing emotionally at a deep level in someone else’s life.

Here is a true story about a mother called Susanna – Susanna Wesley – the mother of John Wesley the founder of the Methodist movement.

Susanna had 19 children – 10 of whom survived and she had a tremendous influence upon her son Jacky – more so than her husband, Rev Samuel Wesley who was Rector of Epworth in Lincs.

In 1709 there was a great fire at the Rectory and Jacky had to be rescued from an upstairs window. From that time onwards his mother became more and more convinced that her son was “ a brand plucked from the burning”  and that God was calling her to be particularly careful  of the soul of this child “ he had a special purpose for him in life. In subsequent years she had a great deal of influence in his developing Christian life and a conviction that he would be ordained – as he did indeed was.

In our gospel reading – we find Mary and Joseph taking Jesus to the temple “ to do for him as the Law required”. Jesus had already undergone the ritual of naming and circumcision – now 40 days after his birth Mary returned with Jesus for the ritual of  her purification along with the offering of the poor – two pigeons.

We hear how the old  Priest Simeon speaks those lovely words as he holds the infant Jesus that we know as the Nunc Dimittis and verse 34 says

“ Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary “ This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be spoken against” And  despite Mary’s joy, in verse 35 Simeon spoke of a sorrow “ like a sword will pierce your own soul too “ Yet he would be a light for revelation to the gentiles and for the glory of your people is real.”

Just as life is full of highs and lows, so is the Gospel of Jesus Christ full of:

Suffering and healing

Judgement and salvation.

Darkness and light

Evil and good

Death and resurrection.

Sorrow and joy.

Throughout his life, Jesus presented those who heard him with choices – and for those who followed him – as for us who follow him today – following involves spiritual and emotional struggles.

Joy and pain will be very much part of our lives as Christians – just as it is part of a parents life – just as it is part of the life of anyone who takes the risk of loving someone else.

How do we cope with this?

How about these wonderful words from our epistle this moring:

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God

It does work – having that sense that God is with us in the hardest of times – giving us strength then give comfort to others.  How Ive needed those words these last few weeks as I have encountered some very sad situations.

How about taking this  picture to take away with you:

When he was 21 years of age, Michaelango completed a sculpture called the “ Pieta” it took him two years to craft it. It stands in the Vatican in Rome carved out of a single block of marable.

It depicts Mary holding Christ newly taken down from the cross.



She looks very serene, considering what had taken place in her young life – and that she has just lost her beloved son. Most images we have of Mary show her cradling her infant son. But this is very different – and at first glance all could seem hopeless.

However, if you look at the two hands of Mary – you see two things – resolution and great love.

There is grief in her left hand as she cradles Christ, but her right hand is open  in gesture – as if accepting God’s will and whatever is to follow.

Sorrow and joy – held together in this most tender of  images

So what is the message for us today if we look beyond all the commercialism of Motheirng Sunday?

Simply that today is a mixed bag for many people. For some it may be that they haven’t had the opportunity they may have liked to have become a parent.

Some may have lost children or become estranged from them.

Some may be weighed down with worry about their children and find parenting very tough.

Some may be feeling the death of their mother or never had a good relationship with them.

For some, being a parent brings much joy and fulfillment and a wonderful way to give and receive love.

Life is indeed a mixed bag – but through it all, Jesus offers his constant love and hope. For the Jesus which  lay lifeless in Mary’s arms was to rise to new life on the first Easter Day.

If anyone is finding today hard for whatever reason –remember the two hands of Mary  – love and resolution, of surrender to God’s will  – and remember the hope of future joy which there always is in the midst of sadness.

God bears many of the characteristics of motherhood as well as of fatherhood – on this Mothering Sunday let us remember his love and care for us, that he shares in our joy and pain, that he is here to embrace us with his loving and healing arm and that he can give us the strength we need on our journey of faith.

Remember that he can bring new life into the world, that he can release us and our communities to discover life in all its fullness- and that he offers us the hope of eternal life.

The 102 year old woman worried for her son. How much more does God our heavenly parent care about us. He doesn’t always promise an easy life –for we can never expect anything different from the experience of the Lord we follow. But he promises to be with us always – even to the end of time.

Amen.

Women collecting Water – imagine having to go out and fill up with buckets every day – us  comfortably off ladies dont know how lucky we are!


March 13, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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