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John 19:25b-27 or Luke 2:33-35

Good Morning and Happy Mothering Sunday – my name is Reverend Jo Musson and I’m Vicar of Claines and St George’s in Worcester. I am also a mother, I have 3 daughters and 5 grandchildren.

Mothering Sunday is a special day. A day to give thanks to God, for all those who care for us, but especially for mothers, and those who have been like mothers to us. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on what it means that God cares for us like a mother.

I feel really blessed that I have such a wonderful Mum. She’s in her 80’s now, and I know it sounds like a cliché but she really is the best Mum anyone could wish for. She is truly selfless, caring, and kind and she really would do anything for me or my sister or her 5 grandchildren or her 6 great grandchildren. Actually I think she finds it impossible to say no to any of us! I count myself blessed because I know not everyone has that sort of relationship with their Mums.

When I was a little girl my Mum loved to give me advice. Actually come to think about it, she still does and I’m almost 60 now. But when I was a child she had advice for every situation: “Don’t pull faces – if the wind changes you’ll stick like it!” “Don’t talk when you’re eating!” but my favourite, and one which I have tried hard to overcome, was – ‘don’t lose your reputation – you’ll never get it back!’ Although we may not always appreciate it at the time, giving advice is part and parcel of the role of being a parent, and eventually we come to see that advice is intended to help us. If you think about it - when we’re born, we’re just tiny, little, helpless babies. Someone has to teach us everything, to walk, and talk and all the other things we need to learn about life and the world, we also need encouragement to become independent, and make decisions for ourselves. Sometimes we need more than a gentle push to leave the nest! Maybe the most important thing we learn from our Mothers is how to love and how to trust.

But being a parent isn’t always easy, it can also be painful. There’s no denying that when you love a child, you open yourself up to pain – from the everyday sharing of hurts, like when they fall and graze a knee to, in those rare and terrible cases, when people see their own child die. Many mothers will make sacrifices for their children and will come to know the pain of letting their children go and the guilt that comes with the question ‘did I do enough?’ Not all relationships between mothers and their children are happy, sometimes families grow apart and over time reconciliation becomes nigh on impossible, although with God nothing is impossible.

Mary was told right at the start that her Son would bring her pain, Simeon tells her ‘a sword would pierce her soul’, (Luke 2:34-35) warning her that her Son would bring suffering to her too, as he fulfilled his role in bringing in the kingdom of God. Tradition says, that after Joseph died, Jesus cared for Mary, possibly for many years. John’s gospel tells us that as Jesus hangs on the cross, his thoughts are for his Mother and Jesus passes on that responsibility of care for his mother, to his beloved friend. Jesus’s selfless example inspired the early church to put in place schemes to care for widows and orphans, and over time, the Church came to be called Mother Church. Even today there are still many charities and trust funds in existence that provide support for widows and orphans.

Though we most often refer to God as father, and Jesus tells us to pray to Our Father – the bible tells us God is also like a loving mother. ‘ Jerusalem, Jerusalem’... jesus cries in Matthew 23 ‘how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.’ (Matthew 23:37, NIV1984). And in the OT Isaiah wrote that God is like a mother who comforts us and carries us in her arms. Elsewhere we see God described as being like a woman in labour, as a midwife, or like a mother bear with her cubs. God’s love cannot be bound by any stereotype, metaphor or analogy we might create, nothing can exhaust or limit God’s capacity for love, because God is love.

As our heavenly Mother and Father, God loves us unconditionally, we are his children. God cries with us when we suffer. God weeps over us when we make mistakes. God will forgive us as many times as it takes. Through God’s holy word we are given wise advice and deep encouragement. Today, let us thank God for this gift of love, revealed in those who have cared for us throughout our lives, and perfected in his son, our Saviour Jesus, who made the ultimate sacrifice out of love for us his children. Amen

Questions:

  1. What advice do you remember your Mum giving you when you were a child?
  2. Does the idea of God being like a Mother Bear help or hinder you? Why?
  3. Can you think of another analogy that appeals more?
  4. Can you think of an event this week that might have caused God pain or anguish?
  5. Does God ever say No to us? How?