Mothering Sunday

Today the secular world and the Church combine in saying thank you for the mothers among us and for all those: men and women; old and young who have the ability to mother others when that is most needed. I suppose that is at the root of the two names we have for this day. Mother’s Day is focusing particularly on the gendered mothers among us whereas the more seemingly old fashioned ‘Mothering’ Sunday invites us to have a wider understanding. ‘Mothering’ is active and intentional and can be done by anyone.

In St Luke’s gospel Jesus says, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Luke 13.34:

Jesus and the Church after him has the capacity to mother in an active sense, though the Church has often failed to carry out satisfactorily this aspect of its ministry.

Today’s chosen readings show us some of the characteristics of ‘mothering’ which we all need not only when we are children but throughout our lives.

Patience is an important aspect of mothering. Patience to listen to the need that is being expressed and patience to wait for what is going to happen. In today’s first reading from the 1st book of Samuel Hannah had not been listened to by the priest Eli because he thought she was drunk but later her prayers for a baby were answered and she decided to give her child to the Temple to serve the Lord God. Once her child had been weaned she took him there herself to grow up as a servant of the Lord. That might to our modern understanding seem like the last thing a mother should be doing but in terms of the Bible account it was the right thing to do as the child grew up to be the great prophet Samuel.

By contrast, when Mary and Joseph took their child, Jesus, to the Temple when he was a month old, they paid their dues and brought him home again and, in the little stained glass window picture that I hope you can all see, there is an imagined occasion with Jesus helping Joseph in the carpenter’s workshop.

So patience and appropriate response are important aspects of mothering. The lovely passage from the letter to the Colossians shows us a variety of ways in which we can ‘mother’ each other: through compassion, kindness, love and forgiveness. Thinking needs to be borne out in action when that is appropriate. Hannah made Samuel a little robe, a little bigger every year she visited him in the Temple and in Colossians Paul also uses the language of ‘clothing’ when mentioning the gifts of the Spirit above.

Mothering also enables us to go beyond ourselves. Jesus is pictured in his father’s workshop as already being aware of his future death on a cross. In today’s gospel Jesus showed his own capacity to mother others undimmed by his own suffering and pain. He is able to look down at his own mother, Mary, and his friend, John and give them into each other’s arms so that they can take care of each other in their grief. In this way they are forming an embryo Church which has witnessed to Jesus’s death and is to go forward in hope and trust, mothering others. The Church has the capacity to be a mothering organisation but it has often failed in that task.

The Church has much to repent of in terms of abuse and collusion. And yet there are also many projects around the country today where the Church is helping people who need mothering to find new hope and practical advice to enable them to resolve problems of debt, or drink and drugs and to regain their self respect.

I’m going to end with a prayer for our own mothering so that we too can go out and mother others. At this time of self-distancing and anxiety try to relax and enfold yourself in your own arms and after a while say,

Circle me, Lord.

Keep protection near

And danger afar.

Circle me, Lord

Keep hope within.

Keep doubt without.

Circle me, Lord.

Keep light near

And darkness afar.

Circle me, Lord

Keep love within

And hatred out

Circle me, Lord.

Keep peace within.

Keep evil out.