Let’s meditate a little on Mary from these four words. For we live in very unsettled times. Times when everything we have known is being overthrown. And in such times. we need Mary – not just as an archetype of womanhood, but as a living, breathing example of the approach we need to life and faith....
On this Mother’s Day we have a gospel text that has Jesus talk a great deal about the Father! That is only problematic, if we then falsely equate God and fatherhood. God is of course beyond gender and inclusive of all genders. So theologically the writer of John could just as well have written ‘I am in the Mother and the Mother is in me.’ Had they done so, the shape of church life down the centuries might have been a little different! But what they were most concerned about was not the gender of God, but the nature of our relationship with God. On the eve of crucifixion, Jesus is depicted reassuring the disciples that what matters is that we all have our home, our dwelling place in the heart of God and we can trust this no matter what. Our relationship with God is as intimate as that between parent and child; our home in God modeled on earthly hearth and home.
When in the 1870s Julia Ward Howe established a Mothers’ Day for Peace, she did so from the passionate belief that relationship is what matters and can make a difference. All mothers raise children for life, and not as cannon fodder for war and destruction. Mothers raise children to maintain relationship and to care for one another. They do so because they understand well that God cares for each human child just like a good mother, with tenderness and equal love, while cherishing their diversity.
Mothers indeed provide to their children exactly the gifts that Jesus promises the disciples – life, truth and a pathway to follow. Every human child relies on a mother for the gift of life, nurtured by them in the womb. Those who mother us in later life, whether our birth mothers, or others who tend to us with motherly care, then offer us the gift of truth – the truth of who we are and have the potential to become. No one knows us better than the mother figures in our lives – some of whom of course may be fathers! It is also the role of mothers to offer us pathways, ways to navigate the challenges of life, drawing on their own experience and the pathways shown to them by their own forebears. Many of us will have been helped along the pathway of discipleship by the mothering love we received in Christian community.
So today as we give thanks for those who have mothered us, we give thanks too for our relationship with God – a relationship of intimacy and care, in which we receive the gifts of life, truth and ways to walk – the gifts of our true Mother. Amen.
by Penny Jones, for Sunday 3 May 2020
One of the wonderful things about many Jewish people I have met is their capacity to wrestle with our human experience and ideas of God. They just do not settle for simplistic answers, especially when it is comes to the really big human questions of hope and suffering, life and death. Indeed there is a famous saying: ‘ask two Jews, get three opinions.’ Now, of course, this, can occasionally lead to a certain stubbornness and unnecessary conflict. It points us however to the very heart of biblical religion, especially as we find it in the Hebrew Scriptures. For the God of the biblical tradition is very much a God with whom to wrestle. We see this, not least, in the book of Hosea, from which we hear again today. Indeed, the God whom Hosea reveals is very much a God wrestling with God’s own compassion, very much as a parent wrestles with their own hurts and hopes for their child. This is the deepest, most mysterious, heart of love, and it is into this kind of love we baptise Margaret Rose today…
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…
"No one will snatch them out of my hand"
- what a wonderful promise - and how appropriate as we come to baptise Eliza today. No one is ever going to be able to snatch this little one out of the hand of God. This is true for all of us, yet I wonder how often we pause to think about it and to register just how safe and held we truly are...
"How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing"
Desire - longing - this is what is at the heart of the spiritual journey; of the relationship between any one of us, and God. This is what it is all about. This is why we have our Lenten programs, and our great festivals and our Eucharist.
God desires us. God longs for us and for every living thing that God has made. God longs for us with passion and intensity and single focus. But much, if not most of the time, we live as though that were not the case. The great Saint Teresa of Avila was spot on when she wrote, "All difficulties in prayer can be traced to one cause; praying as if God were absent."
God longs for us to spend time in silence and stillness and presence. God longs to gather us, to protect us, to nurture us as a mother hen gathers her chicks. Now when we hear that beautiful feminine image for God, two things happen. The first is that we reject it out of hand, because we are so used to hearing God talked about in exclusively masculine terms, that even today we still tend to brush the picture aside. The second thing that happens is that we tend to think, 'oh how sweet. We are like little fluffy chicks and God is mothering us and looking after us and it's all really lovely." Well yes - and if you have never thought of yourself as a little vulnerable fluffy thing in need of God's tenderest care then that is the challenge of that picture for you to take away and pray with this week. But there is yet more to that image...