Sermon for Mothering Sunday
1 Samuel 1
One of the great frustrations of most of my life has been trying to extract from my Grandmother how Exactly she cooked Yorkshire puddings, Or Egg custard tarts, or her famous blackcurrant mousse, which it must say became at once a cause celebre and a family scandal – or her currant tart – 'Fly pie' as we all learned to refer to it :) ( All I recall was a half and half pastry, with Lard and butter, and lots of butter and brown sugar in amongst the currants before baking)
Well Grandma wasn’t giving it away (apart from the mousse, which she had the audacity to spill the beans about to someone outside the family!!). Of course like most if not all women of her generation, she didn’t learn to cook from a book, but alongside her own mother, my Great Grandma Troughton (from whom I get one or two red hairs in and amongst the black and white ones :) ). Grandma Troughton as a girl had been in service and so had worked in many kitchens – a la Downton Abbey, although in Lancashire and not Yorkshire, and had learnt Much about food, below stairs – working alongside experienced chefs.
Indeed you cannot really learn how to cook from a book, like anything that is really Life giving, we need the Other to give it Life - there is as it were a deeper knowledge which can only be passed on personally, in the presence of another. I myself know this as I have struggled to learn to cook by correspondence with a friend in America – it would be a LOT easier if she was here to show me! And so it is with faith in the end – we need those who will walk with us and Show us this Life of Faith, as did Christ – and so often the first person to do that is our Mother.
And thus we can think of the significance of today, Mothering Sunday about that deeper knowledge which we receive from our Mothers and hopefully fathers too!
And Mothering Sunday was an important day for girls like my Great Grandmother who were in service (funnily enough I’ve never heard it referred to in terms of boys!) – because it was a Sunday Off – A day when they could go Home – to Mother, And to their Mother Church – places from which they’ve gone, places of life and Wisdom. A returning to Source if you like.
But also unacknowledged. You cannot express in words what any human life means to you and the closer you are to them the less easy this even seems. One cannot really put into words what our Mothers Mean – they have a huge influence on us – some for good, and some for ill – but their place in our lives is usually sensed as more significant than our father’s. Perhaps this is because we are supposed to search for the Father of us all, I don’t know. But Mothers occupy a huge space in our emotional and physical lives. I know that years after my mother died – I would find myself as it were falling into the space she had occupied. Like a familiar piece of furniture against which you leant – perhaps not aware of this huge influence until you leant on it once more and discovered it was no longer there. But that is in a sense the point
There is this one great Gift that Mothers are meant to give us, apart from introducing us to faith, is teaching us to Walk in it – to leave and follow Christ – A Mothers Great Gift to us is to give us up. To use an Avian Metaphor, to push us out of the nest :)
We should perhaps most give thanks to our mothers for letting us go. From that first letting go at the school gate, to sending off for sleepovers and trips away, to leaving to go perhaps to college or to seek work and perhaps marriage – it is that Letting Go, sending us on our way with Blessing that is the biggest gift a Mother can give. Just like Hannah in our story, she realizes that her son Samuel is not in the end meant for life in her house but another, not meant in the end to be Her possession, but to belong to the Lord. For we do not belong to our mothers, we belong to God. Home is in His presence –And this Letting Go – this Leaving, is like that first leaving, in giving birth, both painful and life giving. It is Truly Loving in that it Let’s Go.
How many of us first heard of faith on our mothers knee – first learned to pray from our mother – were first taken to the house of God, as Hannah took Samuel, by our mother – Given to the Motherhood f the church, Given to God? We are nurtured in faith often by our mothers and then Given – sent on our way
Hannah is Truly Wise – you may not be aware of this but Wisdom in the Old Testament is Personified in the Female – and Hannah reveals Deep Wisdom in her action –she Knows that a child is to be Released to find Life
She stands before Eli the priest and says
For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.’
We have to leave home to Live - to become ourselves, sources of Life. Actually my great Grandmother was called Hannah too J And she similarly pushed my grandmother out of the nest when the time was right - we have to leave home to find our true home
For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother,
The prodigal leaves home
Abraham leaves Ur and his father
And they left their nets and followed Him
We leave home – we leave our mothers, to find Life
God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. – God SENT his Son into the world
So finally see that Leaving is the Source of Life – The Son leaves his Father’s house to go to a far country where he will Squander the fathers Love on the world
So on this day let us all give thanks for our mothers, living and departed, and especially in how they were sources of wisdom for us, most especially in pointing us to our true home in God and Letting us Go