Sermon, Mothering Sunday

Readings Colssians 3, 12-17, Luke 2, 25-38

Mothering Sunday. A time to give thanks and celebrate our mothers, whether still with us or past, and we had a lovely time doing that with some Mums and families at breakfast church this morning. It’s a lovely thing to do, yet mothering Sunday has not always been just that. In the higher Anglo-Catholic tradition it’s a day to celebrate Mary, mother of Jesus and tradition tells us it was once the time when people returned to their mother churches to visit families.

Of course, in modern times, like everything else, it has become commercialised, yet it doesn’t hurt to look at what the day perhaps means for churches, as well as Mums.


Our reading from Luke, has Jesus’ parents, mother and father, take Jesus to the temple to be met first by Simeon, then by Anna. The immediate realisation by both of this child’s identity and destiny must have been quite amazing for Mary and Joseph, yet for Mary to hear that her heart would be pierced, that there would be grief to come must have been shocking to hear at what should have been a joyful occasion.

Then there was Anna, her own mother is mentioned by name, but it is not revealed if she ever became a mother. She had been widowed most of her life, likely to have been over 100 years old, which in those times was very old- and she had been waiting for that day to say her prophecy over Jesus.


Two very different women, but both who bore pain and hope simultaneously.

There’s a contemporary Christmas song “Mary did you know” which asks if Mary knew what was to happen to Jesus. It raised some debate when it first came out, some claiming of course she knew, she’d heard the angel, Simeon, Anna, she knew being the mother of Jesus would be tough- she’d already experienced that at his birth and fleeing from Herod. Others would say that humanly she would have had no idea.


I cannot imagine the joy, the incredible feeling of a baby growing inside you that a mother has, and then the pain and joy of birth, I have marvelled at Alison with each of our children. And, as much as I know a father’s love, I can’t imagine the pain when a very part of a mother, the child, suffers or dies. And yet motherhood is complex, some are denied it, some do not wish it, some yearn for it, some curse it.

I have sat with a mother as she cradled her murdered baby, I have seen and shared the daily anguish of a mum who returned home one day to find her teenage daughter hanging inside the front door, I’ve wept at the distress of the death of a neglected child of a drug addict, and then the mother’s suicide her first day in prison, I’ve rushed for an ambulance for the child who has taken her mother’s methadone and been ignored as her mother drank herself into a stupor. I’ve felt helpless as a mum’s come to me after umpteen miscarriages, I’ve comforted the father of the baby whose mother has ended her life though postnatal depression and my heart has gone out to the young women who have given up after multiple IVF attempts.

 I’ve seen the women at the foodbank despairing because they can’t feed their children or heat their rooms, and I’ve gone day after day to sit with a mum in hospital as her child slowly wasted away.


Mary did you know, the song went.

 None of these women knew, or expected what was to come, the pain, the grief, the hopelessness for some, the ending of life.

But I have known too, the joy of a twin birth after many failed pregnancies, the thrill of acceptance for adoption and the new child being brought to me in their happiness, the wonder of watching children grow and make their mum proud, the love that binds mothers to go through anything for their children. And the many, many families who’ve passed through my churches or my pharmacies with all their problems and issues, but where love binds them together with a bond which, even though it might go through the traumas of life, holds those families together.


And I know through it all, as it was for Mary, that despite anything and everything, God is always there and even at our lowest point God’s love is unfailing. The lectionary reading from Colossians this morning happens to be one of my favourite in all the Bible, for we all are God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved and, because of that we must be clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience and bear with one another, forgive one another and always love. Not just the qualities we might admire in a mother, but the qualities we should all have because we are loved by God.


Mary did you know, the song said, did she know as Simeon said a sword would pierce her heart. I don’t believe she did, but despite Simeon’s words and in the face of Anna’s faithfulness, she had the deepest trust in God.

Would be that we all could know that love, that trust and know the peace of Christ in our hearts .

Whatever you do, our reading said, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God, the Father and  Mother, through Christ.