March 15, 2021
Categorised in: Sermons
Sunday 4 March 2021
Exodus 2: 1 – 10; John 19: 25b – 27
Mothering Sunday comes as sunshine during Lent, an opportunity to celebrate our mothers, focussing both on the women who carried us and brought us to birth, and also the women (and men) who’ve mothered and nurtured us through life. It’s a chance to give thanks to Mother Church and to remember those who have taught and nurtured us in faith. Usually there would be a lot of visiting, flowers and gift giving in person and of course, eating together.
And Mothering Sunday is always a time for sensitivity. Being a mum, or a dad, isn’t easy, we know that we fall short of ideals. In a previous year I asked a friend, with small children, what she was giving up for Lent. She replied: ‘after a great deal of thought, I have decided, to give up shouting at my children…’
I’m not sure how that resolution turned out. And although there are signs of change, in the pandemic, Mothering Sunday 2021 still falls within a time of restriction governing meeting in person. We are separated from those we love. And many of us are living with bereavement and other kinds of loss.
So this year, as we turn again to scripture, it is, perhaps with heightened sense of knowing our need of nourishment, wisdom and strength that faith gives amidst the changes and chances of the present time.
The Book of Exodus recounts how the exiled Hebrews living in slavery in Egypt grew in number and became perceived as a threat. Pharaoh instructed the Egyptian midwives to do a terrible thing and to kill Hebrew boy babies at their birth. But the midwives disobeyed him, so Pharaoh changed tack and decreed that all Hebrew boy babies would be thrown into the Nile. When baby Moses was born, his mother and sister hid him for three months and then came up with a desperate but ingenious plan. They laid him in a little floating basket and set him on the water, among the reeds on the bank of the river Nile. What could have easily become his coffin – became the means to save him, as Pharaoh’s daughter spotted the baby and decided to keep and raise him as her own child. Providence was at work and the baby Moses grew up to become a great leader of his people, out of slavery.
In any hierarchy of needs safety is basic. For parents, keeping a child safe is a key responsibility and usually a fundamental drive. The story of the deliverance of Moses speaks of the courage and ingenuity of his mother but also of her desperation. In order to keep her son safe, she’ll give him up, let him be adopted by the enemy. It speaks of the lengths that parents go to, the sacrifices that they make for the safety of their children.
This past year of pandemic has given us personal insight and experience into making sacrifices for the safety of others, both young and old. Using ingenuity to overcome distance. The challenge now, surely, is to channel this experience into greater sympathy. Pharaoh’s daughter responds in sympathy to the foreign baby and raises him as her own son. Can we take our experience of suffering, and need for safety, and direct it to greater concern for others, those whose lives are never safe, who see their children suffer, those who flee violence?
This past week we’ve seen a profound and powerful image of mothering from Myanmar, you can see on the screen now. We can see a Nun, she’s a Roman Catholic Nun named Sr Ann Rose Nu Tawng, kneeling with her arms outstretched. She is placing herself in the way of danger, beggin soldiers not to shoot the young people gathering to protest the military overthrow of the elected government. So a nun beceomes a symbol of mothering, nurturing the safety of others, pleading for the lives of ‘the children’ as she put it, at great risk to her own safety. A symbol both humble and humbling, as we see from the response of two of the soldiers.
And so, fittingly, to our gospel which takes us today to the place of crucifixion. Where, in St Johns gospel, Jesus shows his love for his mother as he hangs dying. Mary is there, brave and faithful to the end, standing at the foot of the cross. And Jesus creates a new family. To his mother he says, ‘Woman, here is your son’, and to the beloved disciple, ‘here is your mother’. This is highly personal to the people he most loves, and also symbolic of the sacrificial love that creates new communities as well as new families.
There’s a simple observation that seems very apt to me, as we come out of lockdown, and hopefully move into recovery and to the healing process of meeting and embracing loved ones again, the observation is that: ‘the adversities of life can either make us bitter or make us better’.
Can we take the hardships and sacrifices of the past year and become people of greater sympathy, stronger bonds of compassion for others, greater determination to oppose and end human suffering, wherever it takes place? Can we, like Sr Ann, see every child, every person, as members of our one human family? Because from suffering and death, Christ can bring new life and new community, if we have the courage and the will to say yes.