Mothering Sunday 2020 – Sermon by Rev’d Sarah Nesbitt

(adapted from the sermon delivered on Sunday 22nd March 2020,
live streamed from Shiplake, available here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5c41j9rhNzPhORRKGf3BHQ )

Readings: 1 Samuel 1:20-end
Colossians 3:12-17
Luke 2:33-35

Holy Spirit, take my words and speak to each of us according to our need.

So here we are on Mothering Sunday 2020, not one we will forget in a hurry. Thank you for
being with us.

Mothering Sunday began to be celebrated in the Middle Ages and was a day when people
took time to travel to the Mother Church of their area or Diocese, which would often have
been the cathedral. So how appropriate it is that today, when many people are unable to
travel to any church because of the COVID-19 situation, that our own cathedral church,
Christ Church, is live-streaming its very first Mothering Sunday service. You can see this
here: https://www.facebook.com/dioceseofoxford/videos/246200659897959/

Mothering Sunday has since become a time to reflect on the Motherhood of God, the
example of Mary the mother of our Lord and on thanksgiving for those who have mothered
us. The verb ‘to mother’ means to treat someone with great care and affection, to nurture,
protect, tend.

Our Old Testament reading today might sound somewhat painful. A mother, Hannah,
dedicates her longed-for son into the service of God. Behind her joy of receiving a child lie
many years of childlessness, reflecting some of the complex feelings that Mothering Sunday
may provoke in those who long for their own children.

In our Gospel reading from Luke, which follows on from the Nunc Dimittis, Simeon’s prayer
of thanksgiving to God for bringing the Christ child to him, Simeon offers Mary a prophecy
of pain ‘and a sword will pierce you own soul too’.

Both narratives highlight the challenges facing parents and children and those longing to be
parents, or for whom childhood was not a happy time. How often do we help people to be
honest about these challenges? Do we encourage people to keep up appearances, to hide
their difficulties behind facades?

These stories illustrate the cost of love; if we didn’t care, it wouldn’t hurt. The gospel
narratives tell of the reality of Mary’s faithful obedience, something we are asked to nurture,
that faithful, costly obedience to God’s call. They call us to be a community of nurture and
mutual care, doing God’s will in our own families and communities.

Some of us will be struggling to care for those we love in this time of physical distancing and
isolation. Yes, we have technology solutions: Facebook, Zoom, Teams, Duo, Messenger,
WhatsApp…but none of these will replace the physical presence of the people we love and
enjoy spending time with. And what about those with whom we are confined for the coming
weeks?

Christine Sine, creator and founder of the online blog ‘Godspace’1 writes some suggestions
for this time, for those who are currently cooped up with someone you love.

• Make room for one another
• Take time for each other
• Pray and read scripture together
• Learn something new
• Have fun together

For those we love but can’t be with physically, she recommends that we:

• Help them to know they are loved and that you’re thinking of them
• Text, phone, message
• Write a letter
• Send them books to read – and then discuss them together over the phone

This is a time when we also need to learn how to accept help from others. Fierce
independence is fine, but the gift of receiving is as important as that of giving and is satisfying
for both parties. I had to rely on a friend to get some fresh vegetables yesterday, because
there hadn’t been any in our local shops for several days. She happened to be at a farm
shop, so bought some and dropped them in a bag outside my front door for me. Ask for
help when you need it. God might hear our prayers, but your neighbours can’t.

Look outside! Spring is stunning. In this time of slowing down, listen to the birds, audible
now as there is less traffic. Watch spring unfold, get ready for our Creator’s show. The
overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God,2 on show for all of us to see. Our gift
from God. Let us receive it with joy.

What does God ask of us? From Paul’s letter to the Colossians: to clothe ourselves with
compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience; forgive one another; clothe
ourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony; be thankful. Let
the word of Christ dwell in you richly, give thanks to God the Father through him.

1 https://godspacelight.com/2020/03/18/strengthening-family-bonds-in-a-time-of-social-distancing/
2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sc6SSHuZvQE

So on this day, Mothering Sunday, when we are thinking about nurture and care of self and
of others, let us clothe ourselves as the flowers. Consider the lilies of the field – even
Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these (Matthew 6:28-29).

Here, we have a selection of flowers, a virtual bouquet for you.
We have asters for patience and wisdom; a pale pink rose
for kindness; freesia for thoughtfulness; Alstromeria for
friendship; blue iris for faith; a daisy – well, the nearest I
could get to a daisy at this time of the year, a Gerbera
(which itself symbolises cheerfulness, something we
need right now!) – for hope; and tulips for love, lots of
them.

If we take a little time to clothe ourselves as the
flowers, it might help the coming weeks to be a little
easier.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…and be thankful.
Thankful for what we have.
Thankful to be able to be in touch with others.
Thankful for spring, bursting forth around us.
Thankful for those offering care and support.
Thankful to our Lord for his compassion, his love, his mothering.

Let us take this time of change to slow down, pray, be with our Lord in prayer, know His
presence with us. He won’t be self-isolating! He is here, with us, always. Praise the Lord!
Amen.

Sources of inspiration:
NRSV Bible
http://www.theology-centre.org.uk/reflections-on-readings-for-mothering-sunday/
https://godspacelight.com/2020/03/18/strengthening-family-bonds-in-a-time-of-socialdistancing

Download the sermon in printable form