Fourth Sunday of Lent - Mothering Sunday
9am and Choral Eucharist
Preacher: Canon Wendy Robins,
Honorary Canon & Assistant Priest
When events such as those which happened in Westminster on Wednesday occur many find that they need their ‘family’. I put the word into inverted commas because for some this will be their actual family but for others it will be their friends and community or some mixture of all three. We need to cling together with those whom we know in order to feel sustained and less fearful in these difficult times and I am sure that the people of Liverpool feel the same this morning , waking up to the news of the gas explosion in which so many have been injured.
Unusually, I was not in London on Wednesday afternoon but rather in Canterbury. And so the shock felt somewhat removed but I was very aware – as I watched things unfold on the television after the meeting had finished – of the need to contact those whom I knew might be in the Westminster area. I knew, too, that I needed to reassure my mother – whom I wasn’t sure I had told I was away – that I was fine! Then, at the appointed time it was a great relief and joy to be able to go into evensong at Canterbury Cathedral and to pray for all those affected. You see, as well as our families and communities at times of great challenge we often need ‘Mother Church’ too.
And so today, Mothering Sunday, we come together to give thanks for our mother the church and for those who have ‘mothered’ us, in one way or another throughout our lives.
In the passages which we have heard read we have heard the story of one mother who was willing to do anything to save her son’s life; of one set of parents who are warned of surprises concerning their son and another of the kinds of qualities that we should each strive for as Jesus’ followers.
Those of us who are parents or who have in anyway been involved in the nurturing of young people will know that life is full of surprises with them. Whether we are parents, godparents, aunts, uncles, foster carers, teachers – the list is endless - few of us will have had such a statement made to us as the one that Simeon made to Mary and Joseph. A statement which must have been confusing and worrying in equal measure. But, even though such statements may not have been made to us, helping people to grow is always a challenging experience and so it is really important that the parents and godparents who have brought their children for baptism today take seriously all that will be demanded of them. Bringing a little one to adulthood is an amazing experience but it is also not an easy one and parents grandparents, godparents and the whole community are necessary to ensure that the children gathered here today are raised in the best way possible.
Hillary Clinton wrote a book entitled ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ a title which is taken from an African proverb and onwe which I think expresses well the fact that a child is not simply the product of one environment but of the many influences which are placed upon him or her as they grow. Each and everyone of us here is a part of how someone grows up and we each here have an especial responsibility for the young people whom we welcome in to the family of the church today.
It is our role as part of God’s church to help each other and especially the young ones with whom we come into contact, to grow up into the likeness of Christ. As the passage from Paul’s letter to the Colossians reminds us we are each called to show compassion, kindness, meekness and patience in the way in which we live. This is not always easy and it is especially hard to model this for others but that is what we are called to do.
As a community here at Southwark Cathedral, we seek to be an inclusive Christian community growing in orthodox faith and radical love and one of the marks of our community is that we should love London. As a community I know that we grieve about that which happened here in London on Wednesday. Thus is our home and London as a place nurtures us as we grow and we in turn help to shape it. That’s why gathering here today to give thanks for those who have nurtured us is so important. For if we stop – and I urge you to do so now – and think of those who have been positive influences for good in our lives – of those who have nurtured and ‘mothered’ us then I hope that this will inspire us all to want to continue to nurture those around us. For such nurturing is the work which will ensure that our young people and the older people into which they grow will not feel disenchanted nor in need of acting to harm others in whatever way this might be.
Some of you will have been in this Cathedral a week ago on Friday -St Patrick’s Day - to see the new Bishop of Woolwich consecrated and you may also have seen the interview with him in Thursday’s Times. The article picks up on one thing that he said, which was that he felt called to come to Britain, nearly thirty years ago, because of the spiritual deficit he saw in the west. I was fascinated that it was this point out of so many that he made that the Times journalist chose to focus on but that's not somehow surprising. It is not often we get a Bishop who will speak in such a compelling way about reverse mission – as he called it - about teaching us about what we once as a missionary nation taught others.
I want to suggest to us all gathered here today and especially to those who have brought Johnny, Kemena and Lauren to baptism that it is our role to nurture others in the faith so that we can share with them the importance of the one whom Simeon claimed, was ‘destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed’. I’d like to suggest that as we give thanks to God for our lives and the lives of those who have touched us and whose lives we will touch we pray that God will help each of us to live out our Christian calling by showing love, compassion, patience and forbearance to those around us and by helping them to grow in understanding of how they can show these qualities to others.
Today I want to give thanks for my Mum, but not just for her, I want to thank God for the other members of my family who have helped me to grow, for my godparents, for those who helped me to come to faith and for the church which has nurtured and shaped me in it. But I want also to give thanks for the next generation - those that come after me - for they too have helped to shape and nurture me. I want to give thanks for my children, for my godchildren and for all those younger than me from whom I have learned so much. I was at a meeting yesterday and thought how wise those who came after us are and we should not forget this.
Today as we give thanks and pray for Johnny, Kemena and Lauren and pray for them and all who will help them to grow in life and faith let’s not forget and give thanks for all those who over the years have helped to nurture us and whom we have helped to nurture. Let’s be thankful that we have known a community here which can help to care for and protect us and for the Cathedral church here which nourishes us as a mother nourishes her children and above all let’s commit ourselves to praying for each other and our world such that it may be a place of peace and plenty for us and the generations which will follow.