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 thanksgiving.


“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 in turn.

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.


Some Prayers


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 children.


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




Mothering Sunday

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