Summary: Not roses, Not Teddy Bears but this ...I will buy you a round of beers if anyone can find me a Mother’s Day card with this particular image on it ....
According to Clinton Cards 27th July is Auntie’s day; 3rd October is Grandparents day, 21st June is Father’s day; 20th February is Pet’s day and today is Mother’s Day. In fact find a relative and the card manufacturers will invent a day for it. I am sure that very soon there will be a great Aunt twice removed day.
So today apparently is Mother’s Day - unless of course you are in church, in which case vicar’s up and down the country reminding you that today is not Mother’s day, it is Mothering Sunday, and we will come to why in a little bit.
So what do you find on your cards from Clintons or the card factory? Teddy Bears? Roses? And what does the church of England give us as a bible reading for Mothering Sunday. John 19. Mary standing at the foot of the cross watching her son die. Anyone get a card this morning with a picture of that? I will buy you a round of beers if anyone can find me a Mother’s Day card with a picture of Mary standing at the foot of the cross.
The biblical picture of Motherhood isn’t quite the saccharin image that we have from Clintons.
In our first reading we have Hannah - finally finally giving birth. This is Hannah living in a polygamous marriage, trapped for years in the pain of infertility, taunted by her sexual rival, made to feel not good enough because she could not have a child.
Then we have Mary. Mary the teenage mum becoming pregnant when she is not yet married. Mary the young widow - we don’t know exactly when Joseph died, but we know that by the time Jesus is a grown up , Mary is maybe 45 or so, and Joseph is dead. Mary who stands at the foot of the cross watching her son die. Mary - and this is an image I would really like to be able to project up for you because it is so powerful - Mary in Michelangelo’s powerful statue of the Pieta, cradling her son’s dead body.
The biblical image of Motherhood doesn’t quite match that of the card manufacturers where nothing is ever difficult and everyone has 2.4 children.
Except of course that even plain and sailing motherhood isn’t quite like that.
One woman who had three children was asked, "If you had it all to do over again, would you have children?" "Yes," she replied, "But not the same ones.
Another mother says, "The joy of motherhood is what a woman experiences when all the children are finally in bed." (1)
In the church we are careful not to call this day Mother’s day, because there are people in our own congregation and in every congregation who find Mother’s day day. Everyone can mother other people and everyone needs mothering. There are those like Hannah struggling with infertility or those who never met the right person or who for whatever reasons can’t have children. There are those like Mary cradling the dead Jesus for whom today brings up thoughts of grief. In my previous parish but one of Holy Trinity Barkingside, we had two members of our congregation Rita and Jesse who had seen their adult child before them. There are many others for whom it is the loss of their mum that is painful. We may not all be mothers or have mothers but all of us need mothering.
There’s a well-known saying, origin unknown, “It takes a village to raise a child,” in other words, every single one of us needs more mothering than any one mother could ever provide. And although motherhood is a unique honour and challenge, all mothering takes place within families and communities and networks of support and influence. (2)
In our reading “Jesus entrusted Mary to the disciple John but he didn’t entrust her to his brothers and sisters who were still alive. We know that he had four brothers - James, Joseph, Simon and Judas - and some sisters who are not named. That seems a little strange. Surely one of them could have looked after their mum into old age? But Jesus doesn’t pursue that option. Why? What else is going on here?
There is something quite profound about what Mary and the disciple John represent to us here. Because here are two people who are there with Jesus at the foot of the cross, two people who believe in his mission, two people who believe in his claim to be the Son of God – the Lord and Saviour of the world. This is in stark contrast to Jesus’ brothers. In John 7:5, we are told quite starkly, “Not even his brothers believed in him.”
So it seems that what is happening here between Jesus the Saviour and the two people at the foot of the Cross who believe in him, is that a new family is being created.