I’m sure not many of us could have imagined a few months ago that we would be keeping this fourth Sunday in Lent, Mothering Sunday, at home with churches closed for public worship. It’s especially ironic as the tradition was that folk would travel from near and far to visit their ‘mother church’ on this particular Sunday. It was an opportunity to gather as a family, with workers given time off to share this precious time in the place of their baptism or home. Now in 2020, we are called to physically distance ourselves from each other and avoid any gatherings at all.
Being Mothering Sunday it means meals out, family celebrations and visits have been cancelled, and although it is a time of sadness, for some others it may be a relief. While many have mums to celebrate and give thanks for, there are others who find this day difficult for all sorts of reasons.
We always live with this tension, this two edged sword…joy and grief, health and sickness, life and death. Mary, the mother of Jesus knew this sword all too well. In the Gospel reading we hear of the old man Simeon holding the baby Jesus in his arms and seeing this double edged sword. On one hand this child would grow to bring joy, truth and new life, but as a result he would face condemnation, betrayal and death. Mary knew this deep in her heart and must have felt a twinge as Simeon predicted this sword would pierce her own soul too. She must have wondered just what lay ahead…. A bit like us today…what indeed lies ahead and what can we do?
I think the readings can help us a little. Hannah, in the Old Testament reading prayed for a child and was eventually given Samuel. Yet rather than keep him for herself she gave up her son to minister in the temple, ever thankful of this gift from God. Perhaps Hannah’s faith, love and generosity can teach us in these times not to keep our gifts to ourselves, not to hoard what we have…but rather to share and be generous to those around us. Perhaps it helps us understand that all we have been given, including our life is a gift.
Paul in his letter to the Corinthians reminds us that God is our consolation, our comforter and when we are aware of that, we are better able to give that care and comfort to others. Rather than focus inwardly we begin to look outside ourselves to care more, not only for those around us, but the whole of humanity and creation. God is like a mother who cares for each and every one of us no matter who we are, who picks us up if we have fallen, nurtures us and gives us peace and comfort….we too can reflect some of this in our lives.
Throughout the bible we have this imagery of God as a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wings. Keeping them in the shadow of her wing while danger is near. The hen cannot stop danger happening ..the fox may still come …but under her wing the chicks are cared for and loved. It is the same for us. We live in a world where there is free will, so danger will come as will suffering. But we are never abandoned, God embraces us and offers peace and calm and love, we only have to be open to it, we only have to shelter under God’s wings.
I was struck, the other day, on the news by the image of a family in a refugee camp. The mother was afraid, her children were already poorly and Covid 19, this virus was working its way through the camp. The weather was bitterly cold, and medical supplies scarce. Overcrowding meant serious illness was a certainty. Yet every night she would boil water on a fire and fill a water tank, then she would place it in her shelter so the children could huddle around it to gain some heat. She then wrapped her arms around them as best she could. Very like the mother hen and her chicks, like God wrapping arms around her children. Maybe we can draw some perspective and compassion for the whole world in this image.
Whether our mums have been the best in the world, or exactly the opposite, whether our mums are close by or far away, whether they are living or dwelling in eternity, God holds us all.
Life is different this Sunday and we may wonder what lies ahead…yet that two edged sword has hope and love on the counter side of worry and fear. Hope and love in acts of kindness to others. Hope and love in the medical staff who care for those who are sick. Hope and love in the patience and courage of those whose jobs mean they can’t work from home. Hope and love in the signs creation is healing as our destruction of it is has stopped, for the moment. Hope and love in the God who has promised us we will never be abandoned.
We are all interconnected in this world and beyond…and the smallest thing we do has an effect. So whether you are a praying type or not consider lighting a candle this evening in prayer and solidarity with the rest of the nation and the world. Celebrate and remember… if you can, all those mothers who brought us into the world, and remember too the God who gave us life....the God who loves us and will never leave us to face our troubles alone.