Fourth Sunday in Lent - Mothering Sunday
Today is Mothering Sunday
This is a day of celebration, a pause in the austerity of Lent to have a time of celebration. Today we thank God and thank our mother’s for our nurturing, for our upbringing and the chances in life, which they have given for us, often sacrificially. And it is also a day, to learn from the example of their love.
We have had some really bad examples of parenthood recently. In our own country and in other countries news stories have show parents who have treated their children really badly. Yet these cases are all the more shocking because we know that the true nature of parenthood is one of care and compassion and protection.
Mothering Sunday is a wonderful day in which we celebrate the nurture of parents and of course especially our mothers. As Christians we believe that we are able to speak about what God is like, because Jesus shows us God in human form. When we look at Jesus and his life we see the very best demonstration of the qualities which we need to be good parents.
Parents love their children
One thing which we saw very clearly in the life of Jesus was that God loves his children. When Jesus lived in Palestine he opened himself up to all sorts of people and showed an indiscriminate love. he welcomed thousands of people to the hillside and taught them and fed them all. He got along with the outcasts and the bad people, the undramatic and ordinary people, he loved them all.
This is what we expect from human parents, because we expect parents to love their children.
I always have a difficulty when parent show me pictures of their babies, because in truth they all tend to look very much of a muchness. Most babies are not very pretty, their faces look like all squashed and distorted. Have you ever wondered why they put boys in blue and girls in pink? It is because when you look at babies it is usually extremely difficult to work out whether they are male or female. Occasionally somebody will say, O what a pretty baby and frankly I just cannot see how this is the case. But speak to a parent or a grandparent and their child is fabulous! Parents have a wonderful capacity to see good.
Today is a day in which we celebrate Mothers, one of the features of mother’s is that they love their children. They love them so much that they continue to love them even when they are naughty or they make sill mistakes. A mother will repeatedly forgive children their mistakes, because they realise that mistakes are a part of growing up and a part of the learning process.
I read this week of a little girl called Jasmine Mirza who had a double transplant, her father gave his liver and her mother gave a kidney. This poorly girl received this double transplant and was the first child in Britain to receive a double transplant from both parents. When the parents spoke on television this week, they showed that it was clearly not a decision they had any difficulty over. Their child need something which they had and so they were willing to give freely.
This sacrificial love is something which we recognise very easily in Jesus. We can know that God loves us like they very best human parent. He too forgives us freely, God knows that like children we all make mistakes and that to err is human. We know from the way that Jesus treated people who had made terrible mistakes in their lives that God doesn’t use that as an opportunity to criticise us, but rather to forgive and hold out the opportunity to try again.
Just like those parents of Jasmine, we see also in Jesus an example of that self-giving love, Jesus is shown to loves us so much that he is prepared to die for us and at Easter that is made very clear with his crucifixion.
Parents try to provide a good example
This is where it gets harder, but we all know that if we want our children to grow up into great adults we have an important part to play. There is nature and there is nurture, both are important. Now it must be said that parents are not fully responsible for how children turn out—this is good news for parents. However If we deliver a good example, a suitable role model, then our children have more of a chance of turning our right. But if we are a poor example then our children have little to base their lives upon.
Of course in the life of Jesus we have a brilliant example of what we should be like. Jesus lived a human earthly life and gives us an example than we can all aspire to. Jesus tells us the way to live and he shows us the way to live.
Of course just like those parents of Jasmine, we see in Jesus that God does not count the cost but gives of himself and in Jesus we see God give of his life.
I want this morning to ask, what we can learn as a church from the example of good parents, of good mothers, of the teaching, life and example of Jesus.
First of all it is good to be reminded that we are all God’s children. We have a shared parenthood by virtue of our common humanity and demonstrated forcibly by baptism.
Churches are supposed to be places where God is found. Where the qualities of our heavenly parent are made apparent.
There is a word which is often used of churches, sometimes when people are in trouble we say that they can go to church and find sanctuary. There are two ways of looking at the word sanctuary. Somebody once told me that we couldn't do certain things in church because it was a sanctuary. The church has always been better stopping things than getting stuff going.
But there is this other meaning for the word sanctuary of course, it is a place of refuge, a place of asylum. A place where those who need a home and have none may find it. Now in law there is no such thing as a vicar of a church being able to stand there and prevent the officers of the law taking away a fugitive. But there is something enduring in the notion that all who come will find in the church a place of safety and refuge. I like the concept of the church being a safe place for all. Sanctuary is a word which shows the church as a place of open doors and open hearts. It encourgaes us to be the kinds of people who show that forgiving nature of mothers.
Today we remind ourselves of the fact that we are all part of God family. Jesus told us that we could speak to God as we speak to an earthly parent. We are all children of God and the church should be able to embrace all God’s children and welcome them with a love which demonstrates the best qualities of parenthood, to the extent that we are able to think of a ‘mother church’ which loves all Gods’ children as God loves them himself. Amen.