day is it today? Mothers’ Day – is the wrong answer! At
least, it might be Mothers’ Day out in the world, but here in
Church it’s Mothering Sunday, and that, in fact, is only
tangentially about human mothers!
Today is the fourth Sunday in Lent, and it’s long been known as Laetare Sunday, or Refreshment Sunday – it’s half-way through Lent, and in days when people kept it rather more strictly than they do now, it was a day when you could relax the rules a little. And the tradition grew up that on that day, you went to the mother church in your area – often the cathedral, but it might have just been the largest church in your area.
Families went together, and then it became traditional for servants to have time off to go home and see their families on that day, if they lived near enough.
I don’t know if any of you have been watching “Lark Rise to Candleford” on a Sunday evening, as we have I bought the book to read on holiday, as they had reprinted it. In that, the author writes that girls of ten or eleven were sent into service, because their families were too poor to keep them at home. It sounds harsh, but often, when they went to their first place, they had never really known what it was to have a full tummy, and if they were lucky, they’d get given food parcels to take home when they went. Although gradually they got more regular time off, when it first started, knowing that at least on Mothering Sunday you would get home must have been really comforting for these kids.
It also has echoes of Holy Mother Church – not a concept we’re familiar with, but one that is meaningful to many Christians.
And is also a day for remembering God’s love for us. We’re having the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Lent today, but if we’d had the traditional Mothering Sunday readings, we would have heard Jesus weeping over Jerusalem:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Your people have killed the prophets and have stoned the messengers who were sent to you. I have often wanted to gather your people, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you wouldn't let me.”
The image of Jesus as a mother hen! What we remember on Mothering Sunday isn’t just our mothers, although that, too, but the home we have in the Church and, above all, the wonderful love of God.
So we’re going to sing “He’s got the whole wide world in his hands”, to remind us of that love!
(Words to that effect, anyway – I didn’t stick to my script!)
Return to sermon index
Return to home page