Colossians 3:12-17 & John 19:25B- 17
Mothering Sunday, we believe, originated in the 16th century when people were encouraged to return to the church where they were baptised or the main cathedral or church in their area, where a special service was held. As time went on it became a day when domestic servants (there were lots and lots of them) were allowed a day off to visit their families to go with them to church – they had little if any other holiday it seems: which with varying working conditions made meeting together as families difficult. Children, as they walked back to those services, apparently picked flowers on the way and gave them to their mothers.
Mothering Sunday had lapsed but began to be revived in the 1920’s and by 1950 was widely practiced.
Here, at St. Luke’s, it was one of the largest all-age services – sometimes even more than Christmas and Easter. I was given a white egg cup with a violet in wet sand to present to my mum when I was about 4!
More recently Mothering Sunday has merged with the more commercial Mother’s Day.
So Mothering Sunday is a time to honour mothers and be grateful for our families – but we need to be aware and sensitive for those for whom Mothering Sunday is painful – those who longed to be mothers and for whatever reason are not, or who have become estranged from their families.
A good family will be a place which is secure and safe; a place of healing, forgiving, growing and developing.
In our Gospel reading we see Jesus’ mother, with her sister and close friends (including John) at the foot of the cross as Jesus slowly dies. She’s obviously in shock and despair at what was happening when Jesus lovingly points out that she is to be looked after in future by John – and consider him a son. In a sense she became part of a new family.
In Colossians, Paul is writing to those who have recently become Christians, urging them to remember what they used to be like and how they used to live and behave, but also encourages them that now all of that needs to be left in the past; a bit like taking off old clothes and putting new ones on in their place.
Paul encourages the Colossians to remember, as a foundation, that they are now chosen and dearly loved, and, in the light of that, urges them to ‘clothe’ themselves anew with different ways of behaving: i.e. have compassion, kindness, humility patience, and bearing with each other, forgiving whatever grievances they may have against one another. He reminds them that the Lord God has forgiven them and so they must forgive too - and then over all these ‘clothes’ they should wear a ‘cloak’ of love. In addition they must allow the peace of Christ to rule in their hearts.
I have watched various odd episodes of Eastenders and it seems to me that they often represent the behaviours that Christians should leave behind and that we, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, need to remember that we have been given a new life by the Lord Jesus and should do all we can (again, with His help) to live lives that reflect His values in our families and the wider society.
But what of the family of the Church?
It must grieve our Lord that, sadly, all too often we seem to find it hard to practice what Paul is encouraging. We can gossip, get cross and fall out and, instead of trying to put things right and forgive; acting lovingly and peacefully, we, perhaps, walk out and find another church! (After all, there’s plenty of choice; according to Google there are at least 51,000 protestant Christian church ‘denominations’ worldwide).
This week we heard of the death of Martin McGuiness and the terror attack at Westminster. The Archbishop apparently said on Friday evening here at the ‘Waypoint Project’ launch, that in Parliament - even though people can violently oppose one another - instead of resorting to violence they talk and discuss.
For us, let us resolve with God’s help that we will remember that we have put off ungodly behaviour and clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility gentleness and patience; bearing with each other and forgiving as the Lord has forgiven us, being loving and trying to allow the peace of Christ to rule in our lives.