Imagine the scene. Two young children creeping into mum and dad’s room on Mothering Sunday and in not so hushed tones, wake their dad up.
‘Dad, you said that mum breakfast in bed so that she could have a lie in. Can we do it now?’
That was my sister and I. By the time dad was out of bed and we were talking about what we were going to make mum for breakfast, it was obvious that mum was not going to have a lie in. About 20 minutes later we were back upstairs with a cup of coffee, a bowl of cereal drowned in milk and toast that was a lighter shade of burnt. We sat on the bed pushing our presents on mum and the flowers that we had picked out of the garden. We finally left the bedroom with the comment, ‘were going to be good today because it’s Mother’s Day.’
Now imagine this scene. Jesus is on the cross, bruised and blooded, life seeping away from him. And there, at the foot of the cross was Mary his mother, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene.
The two scenes seem incongruous and yet both are appropriate for Mothering Sunday.
This mothering Sunday is a poignant day in terms of COVI. It is nearly a year ago that we first went into Lockdown. Many of us have not been able to see our loved ones, been able to hold their hands, hug or embrace them.
Some of us have been separated by COVID restrictions.
Some of us have been separated by distance.
Some of have been separated by death and over the last year may not have been able to say goodbye properly.
Separation is a key feature in our first reading. An insecure and jealous Pharoah, with a hatred for the Hebrews, decided that genocide would prevent an increase in numbers. He ordered all the new born male to be thrown into the Nile. Jochebed, the mother, had no choice. She had hidden Moses for three months, but he was now too difficult to hide. She knew that the soldiers would come and make sure the baby would be thrown into river. If she refused, she would be beaten, possibly killed and her baby would still be taken and killed.
She made a papyrus basket for him, covered in bitumen and pitch and placed it the river, hoping that God would keep him safe. The separation wasn’t as permanent as it could have been as Jochebed was appointed as a nurse midi whilst Moses was younger and then grew up as Pharoah’s son.
Separation is more prominent in our gospel reading and coming as it does in Lent, it is appropriate to find the crucifixion of Christ with Mothering Sunday. The two events bring together the creative pain of motherhood and the creative pain of the crucifixion where we are given new life.
We are confronted by the sheer pain of this moment. A dying Son. A bewildered disciple. A mother whose heat was breaking. Mary knew what it was to suffer.
For this Son, Mary experienced the strain of martial disbelief, arduous travel in the name of political statistics, the discomfort of giving birth in a filthy stable, poverty and exile as a refugee of a violent, frightened dictator. There was the fear and confusion of a parent who misplaces a child or discovers within them a wisdom beyond their years and now the terror of watching that child be hijacked by the unwillingness of leaders to face truth and change – the brutality of a regime that kills troublemakers. And here, at the foot of the cross, Mary suffers as she sees her child crucified for a crim that he has not committed. Mary stands, her heart breaking in solidarity with her first born, his body wrecked ad tortured by the torture of the cross. We can’t begin to imagine the pain in her heart and soul. As Mary thinks about her son, so Mary thinks about his mother He knows what she is suffering, watching her pain was torment enough, let alone everything else he was going through. They looked t each other. They couldn’t embrace but were together in vice like grip. Those who saw it knew that it couldn’t be undone. In his dying and reaching out to those from whom he learnt what it meant to be human, we can see what love looks like,
Love isn’t a remedy or a good luck charm. Love is not ‘falling in love’. Love is the costly and determined insistence to stick with what is right and to go on standing by those you love.
And so, Jesus speaks to his mother and the disciple he loved standing there. He said to his mother, ‘he is your son’. Then to his disciple ‘she is your mother’.
Even in his dying moments, Jesus’ concern was for the future well-being of his family.
But perhaps there is something more than meets the eye.
But John and Mary are at the foot of the cross. Two people who believe in his claim to be the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. A new family created at the foot of the cross. Through the cross, a new home, a new community, a new family is born. John and Mary, forming the church in their relationship with each other. They offered one another comfort and support. They strengthen each other and shared hospitality together,
Surely these are the hallmarks of church today. In our Colossians we are told to cloth ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, to forgive each other. But above all to clothe ourselves in love, which binds thins together in perfect harmony – both in our family life and in our church family. The hallmarks of our lives together. And we need those hallmarks all the more.
Going back to our first two scenarios I started with, this morning we have focused on the second scenario. This afternoon we will focus on the first scenario, the celebration of our mums and carers to say thank you for their lives. This will be at 4.00pm online, led by our young people in church. There will be the ash factor, with paintings and photographs. It is a celebration of mothers and their love.
Through the years we relate to our mothers differently.
At age 4 we say, ‘my mummy can do anything.’
At age 12 …’well mum doesn’t know everything.’
At age 14 …’ my mum doesn’t know anything’.
At age 18 …’Mum is out of step with the times.’
At age 35…’Before we decide to do that, let’s get mum’s opinion.’
At age 45…. ‘I wonder what mum would say about this?’
At age 65 ….’I wish I could talk with mum.’
When Jesus died on the cross, he never stopped loving and caring for his mother.
As we celebrate the Eucharist at the foot of the cross, we are continuing the work that Jesus started that day, the formation and deepening of the church and the celebration of those who love us and have loved us but are no longer with us and those from whom we are separated from. May we clothe ourselves in love for our natural families and for our church families and bear the hallmarks of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness and above all, love.