We all know that no matter how many times we say that today is Mothering Sunday, for most folk it is and will always be Mother’s Day and even with the current restrictions’ mums are waiting to be thanked, treated and loved. Quite right too, as there is nobody like your mum.
It is 26 years since my mum died but I thought about her today (I think about her every day) and I remembered her view about this particular day, a view which can be summed up as: Everyday should be Mother’s Day. And that’s quite right as well, because although my mum did not claim to know everything, she did sort of hint that she did. She was and is the best.
So today, I give thanks for my mum’s love and, I give thanks for our bond, a bond that even death could not break. That is why I read both gospels offered for today, because they are not alternatives, they go together. These two incidents in the life of a mother and a son are reminders of the bond between parent and child.
There are the new parents (because we should not forget Joseph) taking their son to the temple to do what was right under the law. There is the widowed mother feeling the force of that prophesied sword again and again as she watches the awful agony of her child. Here is Mary suffering and mothering. Here is Mary glorified by many scorned by others.
Mary is surrounded by so much mystery that we can easily forget the woman, the girl, the mother behind it all. We forget that everything began when she said yes. Yes, to the unexpected and unlooked for pregnancy. Yes, to the birth in the straw and the dirt assisted only by a man she still hardly knew. And yes, for a child she could barely comprehend.
Surely, she must have wondered where it would all end? Perhaps she analysed every detail, every word of foreboding seeking, as she did so, for a way through even, a way out for her child. Still, she said yes and in that yes is the cost of love because saying yes to love means she (and anyone of us) also say yes to vulnerability, yes to risk, yes to suffering. Mary helps us understand that love can create a pain beyond anything we can imagine bearing; but we do and can bear it because we love.
A great cost
Perhaps this is why Mothering Sunday is placed so near to Holy Week to remind us that to offer yourself to, and for, love is to accept that sometimes the cost is very great indeed. In order to love, in order to create and accept a bond with another we have to be willing to open ourselves to the possibility of pain and suffering. All this Mary understood when she said that first great yes. All this she understood when looked up at her Son on the cross. And all this she understood when his lifeless body was laid in her arms.
Of course, we who live this side of that first Easter know that the Cross would become the place of victory and that after that apparent defeat would come the triumph of life over death; although we would possibly prefer to forget the cost of such love; especially if we are ever called to pay our share. But if we want resurrection, if we want new life in our own lives and in our relationships then we must be prepared for the way of the Cross. Resurrection can come only through risk, pain and suffering. Resurrection can only come through love. And resurrection can only come through saying yes. It is the yes of Jesus and the yes of Mary which prove to us that the only sort of loving and the only sort of living that are worth having are those which involve risk.
Sustained, nurtured and guided
Now, I think that any mother, any parent will understand this as they know that raising a child is probably the greatest risk they have faced. So, on this Mothering Sunday it is right that we honour and celebrate all those who have said yes to mothering and provided it – in OUR lives. Those who have sustained, nurtured and guided us, whether they bear the title of mother or not. Because mothering can come from unexpected people and mothering can come at unexpected times, even the darkest of times…
As Jesus hangs on the cross his mother and his friend close by. In his agony He says something profoundly important for all of us. To his mother he says, ‘Here is your son’, and to his friend, ‘Here is your mother’. Christ gives them a responsibility to love and care for each other in order that they could continue to follow his way. And that is the responsibility – that is the gift – he gives to you and me.
You see, what binds Christ’s followers together is more than just a willingness to believe; it is the recognition of our shared humanity (with all that brings) and the need to both give and to receive love. It is the acceptance of a new way of relating to one another which finds its origin and expression in the God who is love.
2000 years ago, a family was made in the dirt and the straw 30 or so years later another was made in the shadow of the cross. And families are still being made today. Because today we are proclaiming the same truth that was seen on that first Good Friday: Here, is family. Here, is love. Here is the bond that was made through the blood of Mary’s son. And this IS the bond that will never be broken.
‘Thanked, treated and loved’ was a sermon delivered by Elizabeth Binns on Mothering Sunday, 14th March 2021, at Christ Church Walmersley. It’s based on Luke 2:33-35 and John 19:25-27. Beryl Cook’s picture of Madonna and Child is Elizabeth’s favourite picture and is shown here with grateful thanks. Copyright © John Cook 2021. www.ourberylcook.com.