Luke 2: 33-35
In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
Today is Mothering Sunday when we celebrate our mothers, grandmothers, foster mothers and celebrate the mother Church which holds us together as the family of God.
So what is a mother, she’s the person who sees only 4 pieces of pie, when there is 5 to feed and then says I don’t want any. Of course there is much more than missing out on a piece of pie for pudding. The pleasure of seeing our children taking their first steps as babies turns into the joy of watching them take their place in the world.
But today most of us won’t be seeing our mothers or children in the flesh due to the Corona Virus, maybe we will see each other over video calls or many other methods our modern world has to offer. Many of us will have telephone calls to wish them or us a Happy Mothering Sunday. We are at the beginning of a different world.
In fact, you’re not in Church either! I hope that you have been able to sit and watch our service. You must remember that you are the Church, not just the building.
Well let’s look at this morning’s gospel reading, Simeon told Mary some amazing things about her baby son, Jesus. However, in our reading she also learns that her privileged position will not exempt her from the costs of motherhood.
Mary and Joseph had travelled to the Temple in Jerusalem to perform the ceremonies required after birth. Women were expected to offer a sacrifice for their purification. In addition, because Jesus was Mary’s firstborn son, parents were required to present an offering of five shekels because such a child was believed to belong to God.
At the Temple they came across a holy man called Simeon, who had been told by God that he would not die before he saw the Messiah. The Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon that this child, Jesus, was the much-longed-for saviour. He approached the family and, holding baby Jesus in his arms, declared that this little one would be a blessing to both Jew and non-Jew alike. However, he had unwelcome news too – not everyone would accept Jesus. He would divide opinion and Simeon recognised that this would have grave implications for his mother, who would suffer as a result, most tragically through her son’s death.
But it was not just Jesus’ crucifixion that would cause Mary to suffer. People often misunderstood her son and the crowds that surrounded him were not always supportive. In chapter three of Mark’s Gospel, for instance, Jesus is declared to be “out of his mind”. So anxious were Mary and the rest of her family over these words that they travelled to find Jesus “to restrain him”. This suggests that Mary did not always comprehend what her son was doing, something which must have caused her great anxiety.
No wonder Simeon uses such emotive language to explain the pain that motherhood will bring Mary. The Greek word for sword used here describes a long, large blade and the “soul” was understood to represent the centre of emotions and feelings.
Simeon, then, recognises that, despite knowing the joy and privilege of bringing such a wonderful baby into the world, Mary’s experience of motherhood will also involve intense emotional pain.
Strange as it might seem, Simeon’s words might even reassure parents who are finding their roles difficult that they’re not alone; that parenthood is a sacrifice and that it incurs a cost. Simeon acknowledged that motherhood can bring anxiety and stress – parents fret over their children even when they’re grown up, and suffer when they’re hurting, often more than when they are in pain themselves. Simeon’s emotive imagery of a piercing sword acknowledges that this sort of emotional pain can hurt as much as a deep, physical wound.
Simeon’s empathy with Mary inspires us to pray for and support mothers within our churches & Communities It’s easy to judge and criticise people’s parenting, but let’s be people who offer encouragement and blessing to those with children, for it is a truly difficult job.
But showing motherly love is not limited to those with children. On Mothering Sunday, we remember all those who have mothered us spiritually. Every individual in a church community will have been nurtured and supported by the hard work and sacrifice made by Christians before them. May we, too, show this same kind of motherly love and build up and encourage others in faith especially at the moment when life is so different.
Today we are indeed a church in a different world and for the moment we need to do Church differently, we need to help those around us who are in need. We need to keep praying about our world and for an end to this virus. May God bless you all this Mothering Sunday. Amen