Mothering Sunday


Press the play button to listen to the recording or click on the download link to download a .mp3 file to your computer. 


Exodus 2:1-10 2 Corinthians 1.3-7 / Luke 2.33-35


If you were to place an advertisement in a newspaper for an ideal mother – where on earth would you begin??

Loving, unselfish, tireless, wise, generous, forgiving –

a good driver, a good cook, a good negotiator, a good listener –

a booster of bruised egos, an unflagging agony aunt, 

a promoter of confidence (honest yet diplomatic) –

a teacher, a comforter, a taxi-driver, a holiday organiser, 

a tolerator of doubtful friends, a detective,

a saver-of-money-who-knows-when-to-be-extravagant –

wise beyond her years yet ever youthful –

one who will let you go ….. yet always be there for you.

I wonder if you know the story about the woman who was a huge devotee of Mary, the mother of Jesus. When she died and got to heaven, she went straight to Mary and asked her:

‘All my life, I’ve loved to see pictures of you –

and you always look so young and beautiful – 

and there you are, with your beautiful baby.

But you always look so sad.You never look happy.

Why are you never smiling?’

‘Oh,’ sighed the Virgin Mary. ‘I always wanted a girl.’

Mothering isn’t all delight and happiness, is it? Do you remember the story of the 12-year old Jesus? Staying behind in the Temple in Jerusalem and giving his parents the most dreadful, anxious time, because they realised they’d lost him when they started the journey home.

Nicola Slee – a theologian, musician and poet - writes:

When wasn’t I angry, for heaven’s sake? ….
When the child disappeared from our straggling caravan
and we had to retrace our steps
up and down the dark alleyways of the city bulging with pilgrims?
I swore he’d feel the back of my hand 
when we found him!...
And matters didn’t improve when Jesus grew up:
What didn’t we have to put up with?
The visions, the voices, the countless disappearances,
the crazy idiots and hangers-on he brought home with him,
expecting me to feed them and find beds for them all….
I was no stranger to fury, let me tell you….’
(The Book of Mary, p108)

It sounds very realistic and 21st century, doesn’t it? Mary was warned, wasn’t she, that ‘a sword would pierce her soul', but she can hardly have imagined how bitterly Simeon’s prophecy would come true. There is little that’s tranquil and undemanding about the birth and upbringing of any child. Put yourself in the position of Moses’s mother, who had to hide her son from the Egyptian authorities. There was at the time a law of ethnic cleansing by which all Hebrew boy babies would be killed – only the girls could live. Watched over by his sister Miriam, in great secrecy and, no doubt, trepidation, the baby Moses was placed in the waters of the Nile in a waterproofed basket and - through a mixture of good planning and good luck (and some oversight from God?) - he was rescued by the Pharaoh’s daughter and lived to be brought up in the royal court.

So, unquestionably mothers are amazing – but we all know they aren’t all the paragons of virtue our advertisement demanded.

Moses’s sister was vital to his safety, too. And where would Mary and Jesus have been without Joseph’s breath-taking generosity & faithfulness?

There’s a saying that it takes a whole village to bring up a child and no doubt many people – fathers, godparents, youth leaders – act in a mothering capacity to young people.

Many a time in the Bible, God’s infinite capacity for forgiveness and understanding are likened to a mother’s, sad Jesus hints at the nations of the world gathering - as chickens shelter beneath the mother hen’s wings. The Psalms describe emotions from the wildest joy to the depths of despair and many of them link the love of God and the love of a mother.

The tradition of ‘Mothering Sunday’ goes back a long way, to the 16th century, I understand; when serving girls and boys who’d been sent away to work were allowed to go home for the day, so that each family group could visit their local mother church or cathedral. What a day of delight it must have been!

Fortunately for those of us who find it impossibly hard to give up chocolate – or biscuits – or wine – for the whole of Lent – today’s the day we can, with a clear conscience, let the Lenten discipline slip. It’s ‘Mid-Lent Sunday’ or ‘Refreshment Sunday’, which is also convenient for chocolate manufacturers who want to blackmail children into buying sweet gifts for mothers. But Mothering Sunday is so much more than ‘Mother’s Day’ which seems exclusive and secular, because in all sorts of ways, Mothering Sunday marks

  1. the connection between God’s love and us,
  2. our connections with our own mothers;and
  3. the mothering love in so many different relationships.

Our mothering may be but a pale reflection of God’s love for his world, but we can all do our best. 

We go back to Mary, where I began – and another thoughtful poem of Nicola Slee’s: ‘Mary teaching the child Jesus’

You think of me as mother,
but now I will be your teacher.
Do not listen to those who say
your birth was shameful and you yourself unchosen.
Later, when these same ones turn their backs on you and worse – remember,there isOne
whose face is never turned away……
Understand that you will grow 
far beyond my understanding, little one,
but never beyond my love.That is all…..


  • I made a distinction between ‘Mother’s Day’ and ‘Mothering Sunday’.Do you think there’s a difference and does it matter?
  • Mothering Sunday in the middle of Lent – (this one specially, in the midst of all the anxiety people are going through) – speaks of continuing, unflinching love, nurturing and hope.
  • Are there useful ways we (as individuals and as churches) can act in mothering ways in our communities? 

Page last updated: 4th May 2020 1:44 PM
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