Saturday, 20 March 2010

Sermon for Mothering Sunday, 14th March 2010

Exodus 2.1-10; Luke 2.33-35

Collect for Mothering Sunday:

God of love, passionate and strong,

tender and careful:

watch over us and hold us all the days of our life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Moses in the bulrushes is one of the first Bible stories I remember hearing. It ranks alongside Daniel in the lions’ den and David and Goliath for drama in the Old Testament.

What a lot of resourceful women looked out for Moses. The extract we’re given today doesn’t say why Moses’ mother did such a strange thing as putting her baby afloat in a basket in the river. She was one of the Hebrew people in slavery in Egypt, and the Hebrews were becoming so numerous that Pharaoh had a cull of these over-fertile slaves, and ordered the baby boys to be killed. They were to be thrown into the Nile. A simple but effective means of keeping their numbers down.

But first the midwives hid the fact that the boys were being born, and then Moses’ mother, when she could no longer conceal him, took this drastic step of floating him in a basket where he would be likely to be found.

And Pharaoh’s daughter surely knew she was going against her father’s orders when she rescued this baby from the river, but she did it anyway.

And then Moses’ sister, Miriam, watching from the river bank, achieved a real coup and fetched her mother to be a wetnurse for the baby, in the employ of Pharaoh’s daughter. So she had her son for some time longer.

Real ingenuity to protect the baby Moses, who would later grow up and lead his people to freedom from slavery.


There is a blessing in the Gospel reading, and also a shadow, a warning of tragedy ahead. Simeon warns the young mother, ‘a sword will pierce your own soul.’ Yes, this child was more special than any other child ever born, he would bring change to the whole world, but it would be at a price. Simeon, in the wisdom he had acquired through a long life walking closely with God, had recognised this baby as the Messiah he had longed to see, and he rejoiced at seeing him, but he also glimpsed something of the pain that could not and would not be avoided. And when a child suffers, the mother suffers too, and this is the essence of Simeon’s warning to Mary.

Moses was saved from death at the hand of Pharaoh by his quick-witted mother and sister, and subsequently led the Hebrews to freedom out of slavery in Egypt.

Well over a thousand years later Jesus was saved, in the first instance, from death at the hand of Herod when he had all the baby boys in Judea killed because he wanted to kill this new King of the Jews the wise men had talked of. His earthly father, Joseph, whom God trusted to bring up his Son, had a dream in which God warned him of the danger to Jesus, and Joseph took his family away to safety into Egypt, which seems ironic. The place of slavery for the Jews in former times became the place of safety for the infant Messiah.

The parents of both Moses and Jesus went to great lengths and ran great risks themselves to protect their children.

There is something divine happening here.

This is a model of God’s love and care for us. Mothering Sunday may be a difficult day for many people, whose relationship with their own mother has been interrupted or damaged in one way or another. This is a different kind of pain, and one which can be so difficult to overcome. And if God is our heavenly Mother as well as our heavenly Father, a parental relationship which falls a long way short of the ideal can damage our relationship with God.

But it needn’t.

If we are very fortunate we have earthly parents who love us completely, so understanding the love and care God has for us probably comes fairly easily. But if we are less fortunate, understanding that God is the heavenly parent who loves us completely might be difficult to grasp. But that is the truth. That is a part of the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We might say: if God is such a good parent, how could he allow his own Son to die such a terrible death? The thing is, Jesus is one with God. He is the human face of God himself, wholly human and at the same time wholly divine. God himself was nailed to the cross on that first Good Friday, in the person of Jesus Christ.

It isn’t that God loved Jesus less, but that he loves us more than he loves himself.

And he wants to be part of our lives. He wants to share the happy, joyful times, like today, when we give thanks for Anna together with her family - that’s lovely!

But he also wants to share in our darker times, supporting us to bear painful experiences.

And that same something divine happens whenever we manage to suffer alongside someone else in their darkest times, and when people manage to think of others in spite of their own pain.

Who give comfort where comfort is needed, and who suffer with us and for us when we suffer.

Sure, loving means sharing life’s joys, but that is the easy, happy part of loving.

But sharing the suffering, being there for each other through sad times, through difficult times, is the other side of loving, and it is costly.

And sometimes there isn’t anything we can do for each other but be sad together.

That is what God does too. Jesus didn’t come to make everything fine and to take away all the bad things that happen, but he came to be with us always. Just like a loving parent who cannot always make everything right, he stays with us, all the way, all the time, to the very end. He was faithful to the very end, on the cross.

And the strange paradox of the cross is that that instrument of torture and death became the Good News of salvation to all the ends of the earth, because through that cross Jesus put us right with God.

Moses saved his people from slavery. Jesus saves his people, he saves US, from sin. He frees us from the consequences of sin. The wages of sin is death, and we are free.

This is the Gospel, the Good News. Believing this Good News means we are right with God. That we turn to him in faith.

We ARE right with God. Not by OUR actions, but by HIS.

Are we right with each other?

Are we right with the people we care for and who care for us?

If we know we are not right with them, is there anything we can do about that?

Maybe… maybe not. Sometimes just wanting to be right with someone isn’t enough. But trying to make it right might be worth a go, even though it may be costly. And sometimes all we can do for someone is pray for them. And that is always worth doing.

There is something here we can do for people we ARE in touch with, to show our love and appreciation:

The beautiful posies we traditionally have for Mothering Sunday are here ready, and I’d like to invite everyone who would like to, take one, to give to someone who mothers YOU, in whatever way.

It might BE your Mum!

Or someone else… it might even be a MAN!

Someone who looks out for you, who cares for you, and who you would like to show that their care is important to you, and that you care for them too.

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