Dear Sisters and Brothers
It has been a confusing and difficult week for all of us and I do hope that we all manage to adjust to this new way of living as quickly as possible.
As a parish, we have put in a number of contingency plans and are doing our best to communicate with as many people as we can - using as many different types of media as we can think of.
If you are not already a Facebook user, can I encourage you to sign up so you can access the church Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/huttonparish
You will be able to watch us live every weekday morning at 9 am for Morning Prayer and on a Sunday at 9.30 am for a service of Holy Communion with a sermon.
I am also pleased to attach a sermon, for tomorrow, written by our own Chris Thomas who was due to preach in church but for obvious reasons, won't be able to. You will find this below, as the last part of this blog post.
Please do get in touch if you would like some resources to use at home to help you pray and worship. firstname.lastname@example.org or 01277 514896
Speaking of liturgy, here is a link for the service book I'll be using at Holy Communion tomorrow and a link to the pew sheet. You can download them and join in at home by watching the Facebook page.
With every blessing,
SERMON FOR MOTHERING SUNDAY MARCH 22nd 2020 by Chris Thomas
“Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you;
You are gentle with us as a mother with her children”.
These words come from what is called ‘A Song of Anselm’. Anselm, a Benedictine monk and known as the Father of Scholasticism, was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 11th-12th century and he composed this song as a reflection on the words of Jesus as he looked over Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, when he likened God to a ‘mother hen sheltering her chicks beneath his wings. I love this song and I often use it when I an interring the ashes of someone who has been a mother.
And this idea of “mothering” is what I want us to reflect on this morning as we look at the two scriptures appointed for today Mothering Sunday.
It is right and proper that this morning we celebrate and give thanks for mothers, for our own mothers, whether they are still alive or have died.
But not all relationships with mothers are as happy as some of the retail cards etc. would have us believe. I am always aware on this day, and with the run up ‘hype’ there is to Mothering Sunday, how some people may feel hurt or let down by bereavement or loss in some way or by thoughtlessness or damaged by broken relationships, especially when families units are not always as simple as they have been.
But is all this is beginning to sound rather gloomy I want to look at our two readings through a more positive and hopeful lens.
As we give thanks for mothers I also want to think today about those other people who can be, and possibly have been mothers to us, and to whom we can or have played the role of mother.
Our reading from Exodus is possibly one of the most well-known stories from the Old Testament. I don’t know about you but this story of Moses in the bullrushes was one which I heard time and time at my mother’s knee, at my grandmother’s knee and at Sunday School, from which I still have a vivid memory of stamp albums in which this frequently appeared.
Do you remember those? I am showing my age here of course!
And I am sure you are all very familiar with the story, although we need to remember of course why the Levite woman had hidden this child in the first place and then found it necessary to take this chance with her baby.
The book of Genesis (which we have been reading at Morning Prayer over the last few weeks) ends with the death of Joseph who had become an important man and reared a numerous family at the court of the Pharaoh of Egypt.
As years went by the descendants of Joseph and his family became very numerous and prospered - much to the fear of the later Pharaoh’s who had not known Joseph, and they began to use the Hebrews, as they were called, as cheap slave labour and began a policy of what we would consider a sort of ‘ethnic cleansing’.
All boys were to be killed by the midwives who in fact with great bravery devised a scheme to avoid this. Thereupon Pharaoh said they were all to be thrown into the river and drowned.
You can imagine the horror of those poor Hebrew mothers, and perhaps the latent anger, but this Levite woman took the brave decision to try to keep this baby safe –which she managed for 3 months.
I would think that at that stage the situation grew impossible –we know how a baby as it gets a bit older and a bit stronger and a bit hungrier will make its presence known! So she made her papyrus basket - you can still buy baskets called Moses baskets of course - and placed it in the reeds on the bank of the river.
What a chance she was taking! But God was watching over this child and the daughter of the Pharaoh of all people found the child and seeing him crying she ‘took pity on him’.
Moses was brought up as her child and lived at the royal court until he was grown up, but nursed, due to the wily thinking of his sister, by his own natural mother.
So this precious baby, the future prophet, the one to lead his Hebrew people from Egypt back to the land of Canaan, was saved from death by the goodwill of Pharaoh’s daughter and the bravery of his mother and I have to say the craftiness of his sister Miriam.
Three women all with a hand in the upbringing and nurture of this child, a child saved from death to become the leader of his people.
Our Gospel reading tells us of another mother, a mother unable at the last to save her son. Mary stands at the foot of the cross and watches the child she had held so tenderly in her arms die on the arms of that cruel wooden cross.
It is that moment which we can see pictured in All Saints Church in our East window and on our Rood Screen before the chancel.
Not many mothers in this country will have the awfulness of seeing their child die. Some, of course, do have to sit at bedsides when children are ill, and even as some die as a result of illness or accident and many have suffered as their children went to war.
Most of us will do it the right way round and will sit at the foot of the bed as our parents die, and many of you will have gone through that or are facing that possibility, and that is painful enough, but Mary was one of those who had to stand and watch whilst her beloved child died.
Mary, perhaps like us, experienced all the ups and downs of being a parent, but she had to endure the agony of watching as her child suffered and died on an instrument of torture.
And Mary stood it out; with courage and with the consolation of friends to support her. She could only stand and gaze with anguish and love at her child. She was the Stabat Mater –the mother standing. Indeed what mother could do any other as her son breathed his last in his dying agony?
But that gospel reading ties in with our Old Testament reading.
With Mary at the foot of the cross were other brave and loyal women and also “the disciple whom he loved standing beside her”. By tradition this is John.
They are all there of course because they loved Jesus and He loved them but he singles out Mary and John for a special task. Even in his dying agony, Jesus was making sure that his mother had a protector, someone on whom she could lean and rely.
Jesus in the midst of his own agony and loneliness thought about the future loneliness of his mother in the days to come and he gives to her another son.
And he gives to John another mother; he gives John into the care of his own mother. Jesus knew that both would need the love, the support, the cherishing of the other in the days ahead.
And for me, this speaks of that wider relationship which we all have in the love of Christ. As we approach the foot of the cross this Lent, as we stand there with Mary and with the other women and with John, is it too fanciful to think that Jesus gives us over into the care of each other?
So today on this Mothering Sunday, this very strange Mothering Sunday, when we cannot meet as a church, and maybe we cannot meet as we would have wished with mothers and family, let us remember nevertheless, and thank God for, the mothers who gave us life. For the mothers who nurtured and supported and stood by us through life.
And let us pray for those who have not known the love of a mother, have not been able to be a mother, or been unable to love a mother; for those whose relationships have been difficult or flawed.
Let us thank God for Mary’s motherhood and know that she can be a model and example for all of us – whether we are actual mothers, or grandmothers or godmothers, or mothers by proxy – we can all be ‘mothers’ to other people.
And let us also thank God that we can be ‘mothered’ by others, as Moses was by Pharaoh’s daughter, as John would be by the mother of Jesus but above all ‘mothered’ by that God who, as Anselm wrote “comforts in sorrow and binds up our wounds, in sickness you nurse us, and with pure milk you feed us” as He ‘feeds us as a mother feeds her children at the breast’.