Today is Mothering Sunday here in Great Britain. Today the kids have carefully wrapped a present for Beth. They are going to cook her favourite lunch this afternoon. And, yes, they will do all the washing up! In Great Britain, Mothering Sunday is closely connected to the church calendar. It is celebrated on the fourth Sunday in the Lenten season. Yep, that means that it moves each year. (The Lenten season is based upon Easter and Easter’s date is determined by the Lunar calendar, not the Georgian calendar.)
The traditional Scripture readings for this Sunday in the church’s year show God’s nurturing nature for His children, passages like Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 1, verses 3-7:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation.
Many times people are too quick to pronounce God’s judgement and condemnation. Granted, we should not minimize God’s demand that we should live in the righteousness that He offers. We all suffer from sin: the things that separate us from God, from others and from ourselves. However, God offers a way that we do not have to remain mired in that sin. The Easter event, Jesus’ death and resurrection mean, that He has offers forgiveness of sin. The preparation for the Easter event is marked by the Sundays of Lent.
The Christian life is not meant to be lived alone. At its best it is celebrated in a community Christian believers known as the Church. Though human frailties sometime put a blight on the Church, God continues to faithfully minister to His children through the times when the Church faithfully responds to Him. Mothering Sunday remembers the way the Church nurtures believers in times of affliction and in sufferings. It celebrates the way God uses the Church to console us and brings us hope unshaken.
During the worship today, I thought about the church communities God has used to do just that in our lives. I thought about the way the wonderful people of Carrville Methodist Church have welcomed us as one of their own. I thought about the churches of my childhood: places like First Baptist Church of Mounds, Illinois where I remember singing “This Little Light of Mine” as a kindergartener and Dyer Hill Baptist Church of Burna, Kentucky where my grandparent’s grandparents (and all the generations between) worshipped. I thought about the churches of Beth’s childhood in California and South Carolina that taught her the message of God’s Love at a young age. I fondly remember the churches we’ve served together like Christ United Methodist in Mobile, Alabama and Fairhope United Methodist Church in Fairhope, Alabama. I am thankful for the way God has used the people of these Christian communities to strengthen us, and our children, in the faith over the years.
In its purest sense Mothering Day is a celebration of the gifts God gives to mothers to nurture their own children. Many of us have had great experiences with our earthly mothers. For many of us Mother’s Day bring up some difficult memories. My mother died when I was seven years old. Though it has been more than three decades since she passed, I really miss her on days like this. At the same time, I give thanks for the women in my family and our friends who stepped in when my mother could not be there. I am so very grateful for them. On this Mothering Sunday, I am thankful for God’s compassion, consolation, and unending hope most of all. My prayer is that we all may contemplate such profound Grace that loves with the perfect example of unending love.
God of compassion,
whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary,
shared the life of a home in Nazareth: strengthen us each day,
that in joy and sorrow we may know your presence;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(A prayer for Mothering Sunday from The Methodist Worship Book, The Methodist Church in Britain)