Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday – March 19th 2023 – Rev Alison Way

Phil 4;4-9, John 19:25-27

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen

Mothers or people who have been like mothers to us, or people who care for us come in all shapes and sizes. Quite who has this kind of caring role for us depends a lot on what stage we are in our lives. The Children’s Society suggested that one way to identify who does the mothering or caring in our lives is to ask the question who does our laundry?

For some of us here present that might be our mothers or parents or other people who help us practically (for example for my mum her carers do this for her). We also might be doing it ourselves or someone in our household other than us who isn’t in a mothering or parenting role to us. Doing the laundry is a role we associate with caring. In my childhood I only recollect one time my dad did the laundry, because my mum was unwell. And it didn’t end well as one of my brother’s red rugby socks turned a selection of things pink!

Continuing to think about our clothing, as well as who has washed our clothes pointing to people who care for us, what have we chosen to put on today? Something practical, something smart, something comfortable, something to ward off the coolness of our church building. Billy Connolly famously said that there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong sort of clothes. How many times have we been caught out by wearing something that isn’t quite right?

Like wearing black when everyone else at a funeral is wearing bright colours (and we missed out on the instructions to be colourful). Or the first time I went to watch the Masters snooker at Alexandra Palace. I dressed in winter weight clothing (as this event happens in January and it was a cold day!) This venue turned out to be rather like a sauna and in my experience gets hotter and hotter as the match proceeds. Especially if you are well up the tiered seating (as heat rises). It is hot primarily because of the lights, but also because of the table heaters and the proximity of 2500 people in a relatively small space! The first time I went I boiled in my sensible thick winter jumper – and ever since have worn breathable thin layers with a thick coat to put over the top!

Paul uses the imagery of clothing to point to a caring approach to life in his letter to the Colossians which was our first reading today. Sometimes Paul has high and dense theology and philosophy (as he has done in the last couple of week’s readings from Romans). But this week we get a very simple and practical picture to help us understand. As we have already discovered (Sorry if I am rambling abit!), in our households it is not just mothers who sort the washing, ironing and putting away. The clothes we put on help keep us and protect us. (And somehow it feels like a ‘motherly thing’ to care about what those we love are wearing).

Paul in this case uses the image of clothing to describe the depths  of what it is to love in a household and community. What it is to put that love into practical action. It says

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

Kindness and patience should sound familiar as these are the last two fruit of the spirit we have thought about.  We can be thankful for those who have been kind to us in our lives (and been wearing kindness in their attitude to life). This can be our mothers or our fathers, or others who have and are caring for us. This can be a selection of other people in our lives too!

Tom Wright describes Paul’s different clothing as Being tender-hearted, kind, humble, meek and ready to put up with anything. Definitely well rounded characteristics of those who have cared for and loved us over the years in our mothers, fathers and others who care for us.

It is important to widen the scope like this (and be honest). Mothers or those who care for us come in all shapes and sizes and so do our experiences of them. As well as all the fun and positive stuff we have been hearing for some Mothering Sunday can be difficult. Where we had a difficult relationship with our mother or our mother has died (especially if that is recent). When we never knew our mother or found mothering hard or someone else has acted in a more mothering way in our lives – than our actual mother. Or that we really wanted to be a mother and couldn’t have children.

Our second reading finished with a pointer to the challenge of mothering. A sword will pierce your own soul was said to Mary. Jesus was a 40 day babe in arms at the time. Just as our relationships with our mothers may be great or difficult, being a mother or someone who cares in a mothering way can also be wonderful or difficult.

The ideas from the Children Society describes their BRICK project, as if it is piece of clothing of enfolding love and care. It is an example of the deepest support to struggling parents and carers (in the worst of circumstances and addictions) to provide care for their children.

From all this it is important to remember it is not always appropriate to hang caring (and being thankful for caring) specifically on mothering and our experiences of it. Especially today as the 19th March is also the day in the church calendar we particularly remember Joseph (Jesus’s earthly father). One thing that matters is it is possible for all of us to put on caring clothing for each other.

Paul tells us that the love of God will protect us and sustain us and warm us. Especially in situations where people are under the greatest strain. If you like Paul’s prayer is that it will be the love of God which people see in us when they come to church. Making a caring or motherly choice of clothing means people see others who enable them to love and forgive. People who are patient, and who bear with each other. Worn well such clothing becomes second nature like your favourite shoes, which you hardly know you have on.

Paul invites us to think of what we choose to wear and why? Today is the day to hear a voice telling us to choose the right clothes. Being as Tom Wright had it – Clothes of tender-heartedness, kindness, humbleness, meekness and ready to put up with anything.

All too often we may think of God as remote and mighty, but God is also motherly and very close to us. Let God clothe us in his love and be loving with each other. Whether our experiences of mothering, parenting and caring our something that brings us great thankfulness or where these things bring memories of the toughest of times and unfulfilled hopes. Putting on love ourselves can change things around us.

That is exactly what Jesus did when he came to earth. He put on love. Love as deep as love can be and as sacrificial as love can be. This love works in us and through us if we wear it as well. And as St Paul ended our reading today – And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Amen

References:, The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible 1989 ©  1995