|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Those of you who have read Elizabeth Gilbert's best selling novel, Eat, Pray Love, or seen the movie,may remember that towards the end of the story she identifies a key word that speaks to her life. It is the Italian word attraversiamo 'let us cross over'. Our gospel story today embodies that word. It is a story about power, and faith and love and in each of those deeply important areas of human life it shows the importance of a willingness to cross over.
Mothers Day – what do we make of it? In some ways is a strange, and very modern, development. Indeed, if we ever needed an example of how culture shapes an idea in different ways, then Mothers Day is it. Originally it was a revolutionary rallying call to mothers to take action to save their children and stop war. Yet today it is a much tamer and commercialised affair: a largely domesticated call to do something for mothers, however small. Instead of mothers themselves organising campaigns for peace and justice, as they did when it began, Mothers Day today is mainly an opportunity for mothers to be pampered by their nearest and dearest, at least for one day. So where does God’s love fit in all of that? Is there anything Christian faith might have to say to affirm, deepen, and expand our meaning of Mothers Day? Well, yes: especially on this particular Mothers Day, which is also the feast day of the medieval saint Mother Julian of Norwich, and the first day of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Both of those events help us see and use Mothers Day more fully, as an opportunity to share the mothering love of God more abundantly: not only by rightly valuing that love in our own mothers, but by renewing that love in our own selves, and by extending that love to others, different to us and further afield…
Many years ago I ministered with a wonderful older couple. Let us call them Bill and Beryl. They were faithful Christians and stalwarts of our church, and, among other things, I remember their 60th wedding anniversary celebration which brought terrific joy to everyone. Like all of us however they had their quirks, some more endearing than others. As they grew older, for example, they grew less able to come to worship and I began to visit them to share holy communion at home. Each time I visited they would have created a huge feast of salad and salmon sandwiches, none of which they ate but all of which they felt I should consume. Such are the perils of pastoral visiting! Indeed, Beryl also had a huge cupboard which was full of massive quantities of tinned salmon, various assortments of which she always insist on giving me when I tried to leave. Was that an addictive practice, I wonder? Was her salmon hoarding perhaps also a reflection of growing up in days of scarcity and rationing on Tyneside, always, to this day, an economically poor an challenged region of England? I never quite found out, for what concerned me more was Beryl’s often unhealthy attachment to the physical and pyschological wounds in her life, and her frequent inability to respond – like the man in our Gospel story – to Jesus’ call to ‘stand up, take your mat, and walk’...