1 Samuel 1.20-28; Colossians 3.12-17; John 19.25-27
Mothering what? It was very confusing for a young cub scout; they said this was Mothering Sunday, but not Mothers’ Day. It wasn’t about our mums, it was about the church being our mother – though we still had to take a sprig of rosemary home to our mums. And I thought if it was about the church that “mothered” me then why was I at St George’s in Frankton, Hamilton, and not at First Church around the corner, where I was definitely nurtured in the faith as a child. But because I wanted to be a good Cub I went along with it anyway. Wasn’t church as I knew it: sit-stand-kneel – when? how? And now look, here I am; sitting, standing, saying the responses. So this Sunday we do acknowledge the role our mothers and grandmothers played in our development, and the nurturing role the church played in shaping us; and of course we give thanks for those who so shaped us. For this bride of Christ, this precious life sharing, life communing, life shaping organism of which we find ourselves a part – whatever shape or variety it takes.
Giving them up Hannah’s story is one that is delightful; joy tinged with courage and the pain of surrender of one’s dearest to the purposes of God and of His community. Imagine giving up your treasured little 4 or 5 year old to some old guy who runs a religious organisation. (Weaning happened much later then than is the custom these days.) But Hannah was thankful for God’s improbable answer to her impassioned plea, and saw that this special child had a place in God’s plan that required her surrender.
This was Mary’s burden too, and likely her joy; but at the Cross what horrendous pain what massive questions must have assailed her now. Throughout those last three years she must have risen on waves of pride as her son taught and ministered with such wonderful effect in people’s lives, but also she must have felt those waves ran her close the rocks of despair as people lied about him and tried to trap him – while people gossiped about him and sought to assassinate his character. And yet here she is given to the care of a loved friend.
A community of nurture is an important role for the church. This community is the agency of the Holy Spirit for our growth, nurture and the development of our ministries and roles in both church and society. In that many have served the Lord and have served us with the gift of their time and their talents, their Spirit-endowed gifts – awakening and refining ours. Educating us in the faith and in the ways of God, those who comprise the living body that is the church brought us to where we now stand. As surely as we want to give thanks for the nurture of the Church, we also want to honour those whose loving service and kindly mentoring have been as Christ to us.
It’s not just those who have taught us, or lead various groups in which we have been given life to share, but also those who have quietly and faithfully, for their love of God, served unnoticed and never thanked. Those who cleaned the church or polished the furniture or the altar furniture; those who made sure there was enough money in the bank to enable us to function as a frontier for Christ’s mission in our place and time.
Being held together However to achieve any of this we have to have shown to the community around us, that we have something quite wonderful and distinctive. An environment filled with the Presence and power of Christ, an atmosphere that is sufficed with the gratitude of people who know that something quite undeserved has done for them that has secured for them an eternal destiny that is out of this world – beyond dreams or imagination. The costly love of God in Christ sets a tone of which values like compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience are characteristic. Where because God loved us even while we were still His enemies, we find ourselves willingly putting up with annoying quirks of behaviour, forgiving slip ups and even deliberate offences. We create, nurture and perpetuate an environment in which love is the cardinal virtue, the great communal distinctive. We seek ways in which we encourage one another – we find the good to praise – we speak words that only put hope in people’s hearts. Everything, everything is about giving thanks and praise to God for what He did for us in Christ, and offered through Jesus who has help the door of heaven’s throne room wide open for us.
Mother church not only gives life, but encourages and praises generous Godly virtues and behaviour.
Who deserves your thanks today for their sharing of life that never ceases, never diminishes?
Who needs your encouragement today?
What in the wonderful liberating work of the Christ and His Cross deserves your praise?
Who can you bring it to even in the coming week?
What is your gift? What is your role in this nurturing, witnessing body of life eternal?