Sermon for 22nd March Mothering Sunday.
1Samuel 16. 1-13, Ephesians 5. 8-14 and John Chapt 9.
May I speak in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our scriptures this morning make us look at choices and the consequences of them. God said to Samuel, “I don’t make decisions the way you do. Men judge on outward appearance, but I look at a man’s thoughts and intentions.” I think we are all guilty of judging from appearances. Samuel looked at the tall, strong, handsome young men before him and saw kings. God looked at a young shepherd lad and saw the greatest King Israel ever had.
The blind man in John’s account of Jesus healing him saw only the kind action, the miracle which only God could give. In the rather humorous exchange with the Pharisees, all their ranting and trying to change his view could not budge this man; he was blind, now he could see. How could anyone evil do that? He judged Jesus on what He did, His heart of compassion, and when he saw Him face to face and Jesus said He was the Messiah, the man chose to believe instantly and worshipped Jesus.
Paul, in Ephesians says our actions should show only the light of Christ not the deeds of those who live in darkness. Jesus said He came to bring light into the world and that light should now shine through us. We have choices to make every moment of the day!
Today is Mothering Sunday. As a little girl I used to think it was my Mother’s special day, as it usually fell on her birthday and I was not surprised we honoured her in church, I knew God loved her as I did.
She was such a special person in my life even though I only had her with me for the first 17 years. Most of the choices I have made in my life and the way I look at people are very much as a result of her example and wisdom and joy. She was a gentle, loving person who could see no wrong in anyone. She loved Jesus and I think I saw so much of Him in the way she lived, it was almost inevitable that I should love Him too. Apart from God taking my mum, He has always been so good to me and has guided and protected me, even when I didn’t really want Him to.
When I worked in Social Services I devoted the last 18 years of my work to Adoption and Fostering and worked closely with children and teenagers whose parents, mostly their mums, had made bad choices. I worked in child psychology for many years and developed, with a colleague, Child Attachment Therapy or The CAT. Where attachments are insecure in childhood because of poor nurturing, and abuse, children can grow up chaotic, constantly seeking attention and assurance that they are loved. Their behaviour can be disruptive, even violent, and exhausting for those caring for them. We saw that attachment was the key to a secure development and growth into a balanced adult. Without attachment there is no trust from the child and without attachment there is no protective holding from the adult.
My work was so rewarding seeing chaotic unattached children forming secure and nurturing attachments with new mothers and fathers. I used to call nurturing carers “mummy or daddy people” because the thought of a mother or father could be totally distressing and negative, given past experiences. So we looked at people and the way they nurtured us. It was a successful way of helping children who could project their own ideas onto these people, whom I would find to place them with.
To be as simple as possible. If a parent meets a child’s need when the child needs food, warmth, comfort, love or whatever it demands, each time the need is met, the child develops trust. He begins to know his needs will be met, and he attaches securely to his parent or carer. Trust leads to a deep attachment and because the parent has a child who needs and comes to them, they feel gratified and happy and successful as a parent and become very protective of their offspring. It is a simple cycle of mutual trust and love.
The opposite is also possible: baby cries because he is hungry or uncomfortable, no one comes. He cries louder. No one comes. He becomes depressed and isolated and never knows if his needs will be met. His crying becomes constant, until in despair, he stops. A stressed and addicted parent who isn’t able to respond to their child, can’t understand or cope with the constant crying and later on, tantrums, and feeling useless and a failure, they lash out, they punish this “naughty needy “ child and the cycle of abuse begins. No attachments are deep and the desire to protect doesn’t develop. So you see the cold, snotty little one with a bag of crisps sitting outside the pub. Exposed to harm by others and the elements.
I loved my work and on Mothering Sunday I think of the many children who went into successful adoptive families and who went on to be successful parents in their own right. Mothering doesn’t always come naturally. Mothers need help and prayer.
Mother Earth can become chaotic too and because of our wrong choices and misuse of resources, not responding to her needs or the needs of other species, she can bring much misery and suffering through violent or unpredictable weather systems, earthquakes and the extinction of species through pollution or loss of the habitats which she used to feed and home them. It is a cycle of non attachment, we don’t seem to care for Mother Earth, to respect or honour her. We poopoo her careful ecosystems and impose our own. Self centred behaviour, as with demanding children, has caused Mother Earth to appear to have removed her protection, cycles and routines from us. It needs a healing my CAT program cannot influence.
And Mother Church? The waiting Bride of Christ, is she always as nurturing and accepting as our Lord would want her to be. Does she always make good choices? Many now don’t go to church and their reasons are real enough. But Mother Church is more than an institution, it is a family. Now some people entering churches may have a very unattached relationship with God their Father. He can appear distant, aloof, everything wrong in the world is His fault, why doesn’t He come and intervene in all this evil around us. They don’t pray, just rant, they don’t try to understand His word, only criticise it without understanding. It is very dysfunctional like the children and families I worked with.
Well, God has come to intervene, in Jesus, and we killed Him. He told us, for “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believed in Him would not die but have eternal life”. That is quite some promise to not only us but to the world. God loves all His creation and we should too. We have not right to take everything from them and allow them to pass into extinction. There is no attachment there and no protection. Wrong choices have been made.
To have a deep and loving and protective relationship with God as our Father, we need to talk to Him in prayer. As we pray, He answers and our trust grows. It may not be the answer we want, as with any good parent, making good choices; God will only act in our best interest. As in all relationships, we need to get to know God. I loved to hear stories of my mum and dad as they grew up. I have lovely life story books for my children and grandchildren so they can know their grandparents too. The Bible is sort of part of God’s life story book and ours too, in our relationship with Him. We see His nature, we understand Him as best we can, we begin to grasp His purpose and feel drawn to this love and grace which wants to forgive and offer us a home, an eternal home, with Him in heaven. My adoptive families offered loving homes which gave damaged children a place to heal, how much more can God’s family and home give us peace and joy beyond imagining.
And that is the next step. Love God, love His family, His children and His creation. Looking through His eyes, we see such a different world. Our choices should begin to change, we should begin to love and cherish Mother Earth and all she offers us, and we should look at other species and other peoples and see the beauty God sees. We may admire the young rich with their perfect bodies and beautiful lives, like Samuel admired the strong young sons of Jesse, but the marginalised, the ragged and the downtrodden are maybe where our attentions should lie. We should be choosing to help and heal them as Jesus did. He mixed with both great and humble because He saw the beauty of souls created by His Father,
So, choices. Today as we choose to honour and give thanks for our mother, let us too honour and give thanks for our heavenly Father and make today the day when we nurture our relationship with Him, strive to be like Jesus and be part of that loving community which calls itself, God’s children. Amen.