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15th March 2015 - Revd. Preb Maureen Hobbs

Talk for Mothering Sunday Morning
Exodus 2. 1-10
John 19. 25-27

I wonder if you have been given a card or a present yet today?

I wonder if you can remember any of the presents you have been given over the years?

The presents we give tell a story - a story of a relationship.

Perhaps you made a card or a gift for your Mum at school or at home?
Perhaps you saved pocket money to choose something special?

Most mums and grandmas will say "it's not the value that counts, but the thought and the time that goes into the present....

And each present is a story, a memory, even when we have grown up.

I have heard it said that when you have a child - whether you are mother or father, it is as if your heart starts to walk around outside your body.... because part of you - a vital part of you - is bound up in this special person... and it doesn't matter how old your child becomes. That will still be the case - they still carry part of your heart with them.... which is why it is both wonderful and very painful at the same time to be a parent.... Something that is very obvious in our two stories today...

The two items I have brought along today are very special to me. And they have both happy and sad memories connected with them.

This one is a present that I bought for my Mum. She enjoyed doing needlework when she had the time - not that I remember her doing much as I was growing up - she was usually too busy balancing work and home. But she taught me to embroider. And I still enjoy using that skill.

Later, when she was 'retired' and before her eyesight started to give her problems, I remember buying her this picture to do as a kit....

Later still, after she could no longer do anything of this kind, she gave me her workbasket - a small cabinet full of cottons and needles. I have it still. And amongst her things I found this embroidery, half completed... she gave it as a present to me - so I decided to finish it and then had it framed.

Each present is a story, a memory even when we have grown up.
Even if we never knew the people involved.
The stories of the people we care about are really important
- and perhaps one of the most important is the story about when we were born.
That story isn't just about Mums. There are nurses, midwives, doctors, fathers, grandparents, maybe brothers and sisters for some of you.

And in the story of Moses, they all played a part in keeping the baby safe.
If Moses were giving a present to say 'thank you', he might have to give something to the Princess who found him and rescued him, and brought him up.
He might have to give something to Miriam, who watched over him, and to his Father - as well as to the Mum who gave birth to him and then came as his nursemaid...
Because the kind of love we think of when we think of Mums - protective, defensive, caring, kind, thoughtful - is also shown by others and to others, not only to their own children.

Some people don't know the story of their birth, they don't remember their family - but maybe what they remember is when someone else showed them love and welcomed them in - perhaps as a foster parent, or a friend's family who welcomed us as children or as adults?

That is what happened to John in the second Bible story this morning.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was able to share her love with someone different, welcoming him into her life and beginning another story of love.
So today we give thanks to God for the story of love that we know in our lives, love shown by mothers and others,
Love that we can give to our children and others,
And as we say thank you, we remember too the great love that God shows for us and which we remember each Sunday in bread and wine. Amen.

15th March 2015 - Sermon for Mothering Sunday Evening

Sermon for Mothering Sunday evening

Exodus 6. 2-13
Romans 5.1-11

On a day when we celebrate the intimate, the personal joy of relationships in human families, it is surely right that we think of God in such terms too. But God can be such a slippery character, can't he? If we think back to our first reading this evening, God appears and yet withholds something of his identity too. Human beings can never quite get to grips with him. Not Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or even Moses - although he gets closest.

But God wants what is best for us - like any loving parent - God's covenant guarantees a homeland - even to a people who are in slavery in a foreign land...

God wants to care intimately for his people and to bring them out of slavery and oppression. This is the message Moses carries to them - but they are unwilling or incapable of listening to him and hearing his message. Incapable of responding to God...

I am reminded of a clip on YouTube this week of dogs unable to cross thresholds of doors, even when the door has been taken away. Because they are so used to a physical barrier being in place, they sit and whine and bark and scratch to be let out - even though there is nothing stopping them passing through the doorframe. And even when their owner demonstrates by walking through it themselves, they still cannot believe that they are able to do so. Only when the 'door' is opened will they walk through.

Dogs are intelligent animals, but they are also programmed to obey - especially to obey their favourite humans. And once trained, it is very difficult to break that training.
The Israelites we are told are incapable of hearing Moses' message of coming liberation, because of their broken spirit and their cruel slavery.
But just because they cannot hear the message, Moses still has to persist. He is sent to try and convince Pharoah to allow the Hebrews to leave Egypt. A hard task indeed.

We might smile at the antics of the dogs. We might feel pity for the enslaved Israelites incapable of hearing God's message of liberation and the hope of going home.
But how often do we stop to ask ourselves if we too are inclined to stop our ears and refuse to hear the Good News that would set us free? And are we inclined - as Paul says actually to revel in our sufferings? Thinking that they bring us closer to Christ himself.

But does Christ - does God - ever want his creation to suffer? Even if it does produce character? I find that very hard to believe.... but maybe it is more that God can use even our sufferings to transform us into the truly human people we were made to be?

Today, Mothering Sunday, we think by tradition of those who have nurtured us through our lives and through our Christian Journey. That may include mothers of course, but may also include fathers, siblings, grandparents and other extended family, friends and even strangers who may have touched us at a vulnerable moment with the right word at the right time.... it may even include the occasional vicar! All of them exert an influence on us and make us into the people we become. Why should it not be reasonable to assume that God has some influence too?

And so we carry on carrying on. We hope even when the situation appears to the outsider to be hopeless. We may look foolish in the world's eyes - waiting for something we cannot see... No doubt the Israelites looked foolish to many of the Egyptians as they set out into the desert on the vague promise of finding a promised land somewhere. Life may have been hard - but at least they were fed if they could work. At least they had a roof over their heads! No matter that they were enslaved...

But Paul wants us to listen for God's message and to hear it for ourselves. Not to retreat into our known world and our enslaved condition. But to strike out in faith into the future... even though we may not be able to see immediately where that future leads us. We need, in short, to trust in God's promises and purposes.
Paul is telling us that those who belong to Jesus are in fact the new heirs to God's covenant - they are those in whom all the promises given to Israel come true.

Of course, being Paul, he cannot leave well enough alone and immediately takes us on to ever more complex arguments and proofs, that frequently have us reeling till we cry out - "No more..... I can't take any more.... leave me be!"

But that is what happens when someone takes away the old certainties, the old fixed barriers. Our small minds may take a while to realise that they are no longer there. We remain, metaphorically, whining and scratching at a door that has long ago opened wide before us and is inviting us to step through. That is the hope and the reconciling Peace of God that awaits us - if we only take advantage of it, - push through the open door and embrace our full potential.