‘Turning aside to the miracle’ – 14th March 2021 – Mothering Sunday

The Readings

Exodus 2.1-10

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him for three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. ‘This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,’ she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Yes.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, ‘because’, she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’


Luke 2.33-35

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is 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—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By the Revd Canon Dr Alan Billings

Mothering Sunday – or Mother’s Day - affects people very differently. For some people this is one of the most important celebrations of the year. It’s a chance to be pleased and proud that you are a mum, or to give thanks for your own mum, or both. It’s an opportunity to give thanks for the blessings of family life.

But other people might have come to church today – if you can remember when we used to do that - and felt uncomfortable, or they wouldn’t come at all. There are many reason for that: it may be because they are not mothers; or they couldn’t be mothers even though they wanted to be; or they are mothers on their own; or because they had bad experiences of their own mother, or bad experiences of being a mother; or they just feel the whole motherhood-childhood-family thing has been overdone or sentimentalised.

So we ought to begin by recognising that Mothering Sunday is a day of mixed emotions.

It’s also a day that has been somewhat hijacked. When it began in the distant past, this Sunday, mid-Lent, was not particularly about mothers. It was about taking a break half way through Lent when you may have been fasting, and having a bit of a holiday, going to mother church, and saying prayers before an image of Mary the Mother of Jesus.

Servants were given the day off and not expected to work – and that would mean big numbers of people, especially women, who were in domestic service. Many took the opportunity of going back home. My grandmother was in service when she was a teenager and recalled this practice in her later life.

Over the past century Mothering Sunday has gradually turned from all of that to being a day to celebrate mothers and for families to get together. So the church’s Mothering Sunday has turned into the card, chocolate and flower-sellers Mothers Day. Nothing wrong with that, and many will get great satisfaction and pleasure from it.

But what about those who are not so sure? If you are someone who might feel left out or this is not for you, cheer up. There are helpful things we can all think about today – sub-themes of Mothering Sunday if you like.

Let me suggest one.

Quite a lot of those who will receive flowers today are not just mothers, they are grandmothers as well. I have heard being a grandmother called ‘the vocation of the second chance’. A second chance either to do again all those things you did with your own children the first time, or, more likely, to do those things which you never quite had the time to, or got round to, the first time.

Above all, it’s a second chance to receive – to receive and enjoy being in relationship to another human being.

Perhaps it’s around the idea of receiving from another human being that we should concentrate our thoughts this morning.

When we are parents we are often very busy, very rushed, very tired, very preoccupied people. We don’t always have the time or space or opportunity to be able to step aside and receive what the old Mothers Union prayer called ‘the blessings of family life’.

One young mother told me some while ago that she and her husband had decided they needed a weekend away without the children – though they loved them dearly. To get to know one another again – as she put it. They stayed at a nice hotel - but spent most of their weekend asleep, they were so exhausted.

Our society values being energetic, getting things done. We champion the vigorous virtues. The downside is that it does often squeeze out time for simple appreciation. Giving and making a contribution may be prized above receiving. So perhaps grandmothers on Mothering Sunday have a role in helping all of us to understand again the importance of just receiving.

We need to be able to do two things simultaneously:

We need first to recognise how God’s greatest gifts to us often come through the ordinary things of life – like having children, like being a mother or grandmother. And that requires of us a certain attitude, a proper humility, to be able to appreciate and give thanks for the ordinary things God gives us day by day.

And second, we need to seize the moment. Mothering Sunday says to us: those precious moments that God wants to give us will come in the ordinary relationships of life. So don’t get into such a pattern of busyness that you can’t seize the moment and appreciate them when they come.

RS Thomas the Welsh poet and priest once wrote this:

Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

When God lights up the ordinary for you, seize the moment.

The Prayers
From Common Worship, copyright © The Archbishops' Council 2002 and published by Church House Publishing.

As children of a loving God who always listens to our cries, let us pray to our Father in heaven.

Loving God, you have given us the right to be called children of God. Help us to show your love in our homes that they may be places of love, security and truth.
God of love,
All hear our prayer.

Loving God, Jesus, your Son, was born into the family of Mary and Joseph; bless all parents and all who care for children; strengthen those families living under stress and may your love be known where no human love is found.
God of love,
All hear our prayer.

Loving God, we thank you for the family of the Church. We pray that all may find in her their true home; that the lonely, the marginalized, the rejected may be welcomed and loved in the name of Jesus.
God of love,
All hear our prayer.

Loving God, as we see the brokenness of our world we pray for healing among the nations; for food where there is hunger; for freedom where there is oppression; for joy where there is pain; that your love may bring peace to all your children.
God of love,
All hear our prayer.

Loving God, accept the cries of our heart as we offer you prayers;
through them transform us and all creation until you are in all and through all.
We ask these and all our prayers in the name of Jesus.