Come young and old, women and men, parents and children: come one and all to give
thanks to God the Father of us all, and to Jesus Christ his Son, our friend and brother.
Come, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, rejoice that we are one everyday in praise
“And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:35)
Sue was glad when the phone rang and the number it showed was her eldest son’s mobile.
She hadn’t spoken to him for a week or so, and was always glad to have a chat. She
asked him how the sale of his house was going, and was a bit surprised to discover
that he had already moved. She would have liked to know all the details, to have
a look at the new house before work on it started, maybe to help with the clearing
and packing. But she knew that he and his wife liked to do things their own way,
and they would have managed it all perfectly well. After she put the phone down,
for a moment she wondered whether she was a neglectful mother, missing whole areas
of her son’s life. But really she knew that it had been right to let him go, to let
him manage his own life and involve her as much or as little as he wanted or needed.
Motherhood has changed a lot since the time when Mothering Sunday began as the day
when live-in servants who were little more than children were allowed a home visit.
Often there are huge expectations placed on mothers and on their relationships with
their children. With increased equality in the workplace for women and men, similar
demands are beginning to be loaded onto fathers as well. Parents’ lives are expected
to revolve around their children. It is a very challenging role, yet those who decide
against taking it on are seen as odd, or even selfish.
The Bible is, on the whole, fairly unsentimental about motherhood. At the time it
was written, producing a child who lived to adulthood was a challenge in itself.
The Old Testament regards children as a blessing from God to be welcomed and celebrated,
and assumes that in the extended family each generation will look after the other
But it also recognises the demanding nature of motherhood. Eve is warned of the trauma,
both physical and emotional, that becoming a mother entails. Moses’ mother takes
extraordinary measures to save her baby boy, including allowing him to be adopted
by her oppressors. Hannah, distraught from the stigma of childlessness, is finally
granted her wish; but she gives the child back to God when he is a small boy, seeing
him only once a year when she touchingly goes to the holy place where he lives and
gives him a new coat to keep him warm as he grows.
And then there’s Mary the mother of Jesus, having to watch as her boy grows away
from her, creates for himself a new family of followers, wilfully puts himself in
danger, and finally is painfully executed. No wonder Simeon tells her right at the
start that a sword will pierce her soul. But like Hannah and like the mother of Moses,
Mary knows that the best thing parents can do for their children is to let them go
and do what they have to do for themselves.
God is spoken of in the Bible as a father, but also occasionally as a mother. If
good human parents know that they need to let go and allow their children the freedom
to grow up and make their own way, how much more must God our father, our mother,
know that same truth?
Sometimes we are tempted to make the parenthood of God an excuse to adopt a childish
attitude to our relationship with God. We expect God to tell us what to do, to answer
all our prayers and manage our life for us. As God’s children, we evade our responsibilities.
We go to church to be told what to think and what to do, and avoid the hard work
of thinking and decision-making that goes with being an adult.
But God is a good parent, one who knows about giving up control and letting children
grow up. God wants us to be adults, to make our own choices, even if that means we
make a mess of things. Of course God also wants us to keep in touch regularly, to
talk about what has gone right and what has gone wrong, and to get a fresh perspective.
God is still, as it were, waiting for the phone to ring.
We pray for the Church, the family of God, as it enables its members to mature in
their relationship with our heavenly Father. May all Christian people learn and grow
so that they may proclaim Christ in the world.
We pray for mothers and fathers in places where their children are at risk as a result
of war, famine, disease or natural disaster. In their anxiety and grief, may they
find help, comfort and justice.
We pray for parents in our communities as they experience the challenge of caring
for their children, guiding them, and letting them go. We pray especially for parents
who are anxious about their children’s lifestyles or who are estranged from their
We give thanks for our own families, and pray for them. May we have wisdom and strength
to be grateful for the ways in which our parents helped us, and to forgive them any
wrongs they did us.
We remember members of our families who are no longer with us, praying that they
may find rest in the arms of our heavenly Father.
Heavenly Father, as you trust us to care for one another and for your world, so we
entrust to you all for whom we have prayed in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Rev’d Stuart Ansell