Mothering Sunday marks the fourth Sunday in Lent. Few of us make significant changes to our routines for Lent these days. But when Mothering Sunday was invented more than a thousand years ago this day marked a genuine relief from the privations of the extended fast. Even so, we can glimpse something of the mile-post signified by today. Half-way through Lent we sense our destination. Even for us comfortable Christians it gets serious from here on in.
These next weeks are overshadowed by the inevitability of suffering and death facing Jesus and the connected fact of our own mortality. Of course we cannot fully appreciate the sense of impending crisis facing the disciples who had heard Jesus foretelling nothing but death and dishonour at the end of the road. As Sabrina was reminding us recently, Jesus likened himself to a mother-hen longing to keep her brood safe from harm but knowing that they would not come when he called. Love would pay the price for that. On another occasion Jesus compared his suffering to the birth-pangs of a mother; yes there is joy at the new birth but at that time many women died in labour. Such mother-love is as far from sentimentality as you can get, whatever it says on the cards on your flowers.
Which bring us back to where we are, half-way through Lent, thinking ahead to the suffering and death of Jesus himself, the labour pains of eternal life. What we need to know is not only that God in Christ somehow took our part in the suffering and death of Jesus of Nazareth back then, but that God continues to share with us in this present time. There is an illogical almost foolish way through the valley of the shadow of death and that is the way of relationship with God himself, inside our human story for the duration of time and space. God in Christ gives us not an answer but a partnership; Jesus remains Emmanuel, God alongside, through everything. This is the kind of God God is. Love pierces the heart of God, not only Mary’s heart. Mothers can glimpse this. Love hurts; but love prevails. Let it be your treasure, received with thanks and shared with all, for Jesus our mother’s sake who has brought us to life and hope.
Revd Peter Brain