Preacher Canon Robert Titley
As we think about the first reading, here’s a good question for Mothering Sunday: ‘Who’s holding the baby?’
Previously in the book of Exodus – the Israelites are slaves in Egypt, and the Pharaoh is worried that there are too many of them, so he has issued a terrifying order, that all male Israelite babies should be killed.
One Israelite couple has a baby boy, and they hide him in a waterproofed basket in the river. Whose holding the baby now? No-one – except that the boy’s sister is keeping an eye on him. The Pharaoh’s daughter walks by, sees the basket, sends a slave to get it, opens it and sees what’s inside. Whose holding the baby now? A princess (or probably her maid, as she’s uberposh). Then up pops the sister, who says, ‘You look like you need a nanny. Shall I sort that?’ ‘Good idea,’ says the princess, and the sister comes back with the perfect candidate. Whose holding the baby now? The baby’s own mother, masquerading as a childcare professional. The princess calls the baby Moses – a pun on the Hebrew word ‘to draw out’ – because she drew him out of the water (think ‘Paul’ and ‘pull’ in English).
Motherhood – what we give thanks for on this day – is a unique calling, and at its heart is the nurturing of new life. But if Moses’ mother is to protect and preserve the new life of her son, the only way she can save him is by losing him, and then by sharing his care with others. And there will come the moment that will be a real sword in her heart, when she has to hand the child – her own son – back to the princess, or else her cover will be blown.
Most children in this country, thank God, are not born in such terrible circumstances. It’s still true, though, that to give the best care to a child, the mother (or father) will need to share the care with others: with sisters, brothers, friends, playgroup leaders, teachers. And that sharing means that this day of mothers can also be a day for people who are not. Like me.
The forces of consumer capitalism on the high street call today Mother’s Day, a day for a particular person in someone’s life, for whom they can be persuaded to buy a card and flowers and chocolate, and you either are that person or you aren’t; you’re either in or out. The Church, however, calls today Mothering Sunday, a day to celebrate particular people, but also a day to celebrate – what? – an activity, a role, a way of being that is open to anyone who feels called to care for someone else.
We all know how to negotiate the difference between ‘-er’ and ‘-ing’. Someone’s wants you to be in a show or a concert and you say, ‘I’m not a singer but I’ll do some singing,’ or if they want your help redecorating St John’s vestry (which now looks great, by the way): ‘I’m not a painter but I’ll do some painting.’ (It doesn’t work so well with solicitors.) so this day of mothering is not just about ‘What am I?’ but ‘What am I open to?’ Who is God calling me to care about, to help?
The answer to that could involve people at any stage of life but, as our readings this morning are about children, the child Moses and the child Jesus, let’s look at children and young people. There are nearly ten thousand people in our parish. Of these, 15% – nearly fifteen hundred people – are aged fifteen or younger (about the same number as those aged sixty-five or over).
Here in the Richmond Team Ministry, mothers, fathers and others share in the sacred task of nurturing young people and helping them have a sense of God in their lives. They help lead our Junior Church and Sunday Schools on Sunday mornings, our toddlers groups – ABC at St Mary’s and Eaglets at St John’s – the new Seven Up group and the photography workshops. And they need you. They need your prayers, your thanks, your encouragement. And from some of you they need your time and your gifts to be joined with theirs for this great work.
That is how God has made us. We are made to need each other. That was true of Jesus himself. From the day Mary and Joseph took him to Temple to the day he was hanging on the cross, he needed the help of others to complete the great work he had to do, and he didn’t too much mind who they were. That’s why he said, ‘Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister and mother.’ (Mark 3.35, Matthew 12.50)
Parish statistics See our Parish Spotlight http://extranet.southwark.anglican.org/Unrestricted/OpenContent.aspx?id=336a48cdd37b4846bbd51bf7d6743d64
Ministry among children and young people To find our more about this, please be in touch with our Administrator, Teresa Cross firstname.lastname@example.org, who will be glad to put you in touch with the right person
St John’s Sunday School Fiona Morgan
St Matthias Sunday School Judith Pearson
St Mary’s Junior Church Fiona Haigh and Sarah Brown
Seven Up Alice Eastaugh and James Titley
Photography workshops Paul Bunnage
ABC Sue Eastaugh
Eaglets David Gardiner