On Sunday 11th March, we will be celebrating Mother’s Day. In my research for this piece, I found a helpful website that said, “Mother’s Day is the day to shower your mother with cards, flowers, jewellery and luxurious clothing and to treat your mother to a spa day or a fun outing!” What a good website I thought. I must casually attach it to the next WhatsApp when communicating with the children.
In church, of course, we celebrate the far more inclusive day of Mothering Sunday, where traditionally people returned to the church in which they had been baptised. It is an opportunity to give thanks for Mother Church, and for those who nurtured us in discipleship and faith – who fed our roots.
The most obvious model of this is Mary. She is referenced 20 times in the New Testament and from her story we learn that mothering at its best, is not smothering but fosters strong roots and involves sacrificial love. In so doing so the child is enabled to achieve their potential in life, to fulfil their own calling under God. Mary provides a picture of nurture and relinquishment and letting go. Like her, we too may have to abandon our cherished ambitions for those we love, our own ideas about how their lives will unfold. They and their values may not be quite the mirrors of ourselves that we anticipated.
A second picture of motherhood we’re offered, as Christians is that of the mother church, which is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “The Church, considered as a mother in its functions of nourishing and protecting the believer”.
This model of the church as mother ensures that no one is excluded from the task of making disciples, because we’re all called to use our gifts to enable the flourishing of others. St Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians, ‘Some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.’ Witnessing to God’s great love for creation and we his creatures, the Church can serve as an example of nurturing, loving service for wider society.
This privilege, however, can be a daunting challenge and to undertake it with integrity, we will need to look forward just one week to Passiontide and the Holy Week liturgies, which lead up to Easter Day.
This short season in the liturgical year reminds us that as repentant sinners, as those acknowledging our need of God, we must die to self and be reborn into the Body of Christ. This process reflects the sacrificial love of Christ on the cross. It is the sacrifice of dying to self, in order to allow others to be reconciled to God, for them to live.
Looking to the church as mother offers us the hope that by following the example of Jesus Christ, by dying to self, we will draw others into the Body of Christ. This is the Good News, that through the Word of God in the Gospels we are nurtured; through his Body on the Cross, we are nourished. His death offers us life, and through the forgiveness of God we, and all his children can be set free. So Mother Church gives us roots, nourishes us for and on our journey, but also, sacrificially relinquishes us to fulfil our calling. As Wesley Methodist Church has sought to do for 120 years may it so continue.
Rev Julia 2018