Sermon: Fourth Sunday of Lent, Mothering Sunday, 15 March 2015, St Mary Magdalene, morning

Reading  Colossians 3.12-17

Preacher  Canon Robert Titley


Sad news of two writers’ deaths last week. One was the great fantasy author Terry Pratchett, the other you may not have heard of, though you’ll probably know his work. Sam Simon was co-creator of The Simpsons. The series has given us so many great characters, and the one we have to look at on Mothering Sunday is Marge Simpson, long-suffering mother of Bart, Lisa and Maggie and even-more-long-suffering husband of Homer. Marge as voted celebrity mum of the year a while ago. So who is this mother of all role-models?

Marge goes to church. She prays, notably in times of trouble, as when she tells God that if he gets them out of a particular crisis she will recommend him to all their friends. When Homer starts his own religion to avoid going to church (which he finds a tedious experience) she tells him she has an obligation to raise the children morally, that church is part of that, and he shouldn’t make her choose between him and God – because he can’t win. She volunteers for church work (despite Homer’s warning that these ‘so-called “volunteers”’ don’t even get paid, and becomes a better pastor than Rev Lovejoy (which is not difficult).

She has thrown Homer out a few times but always takes him back and, when he is tempted to have an affair with country singer Lurleen Lumpkin she tells him, ‘You have a wonderful family, Homer. Please don’t forget it when you walk out that door tonight.’

Marge Simpson scores high on list of good stuff in Colossians 3: she is – very – forgiving, endlessly patient and above all she is loving. As Paul says, she ‘puts on love’ in her efforts to keep the family on the road. In this letter Paul is talking to mothers but not just them: it is all God’s ‘chosen ones’ – that is, to you and me who are called to ‘put on’ these virtues in our life together.

Deep down, Paul is not too bothered about what you are –  mother, father brother, sister, male, female – he’s more interested in what you turn into, what you become. And for him, whatever you are, there is only one thing to become, which is ‘more like Jesus’, because he shows us what our potential is, what we were created for, what each human life can be.

How do we do that? ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,’ says Paul. The word of Christ is that voice that comes to us through the reading and prayers of this service, and it can also come thought the warnings and encouragements of those around us. It may be your mother, it may be someone else, but we all need someone who can say to us what she says to her son,

Bart, sweetie, this is an opportunity for you to turn things around – yet again.

And I believe in you – yet again.

We are going to see this now, as we come to the other great thing today, Millie’s baptism. Helping Millie grow in faith is a big undertaking, in the first place for mother Nicky but also for father Stuart, and then for godparents Amanda and Leon. And it goes beyond them, because at the start of the baptism I will ask you, the people of God in this place, if you will ‘welcome Millie and uphold her in her new life in Christ’. That is a calling which we all share.

About Canon Robert Titley

Robert became Team Rector in 2010. In November 2015 he takes up a new post as Canon Treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral.
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