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Sunday 31 March 2019: Mothering Sunday

Doubt filled with light

Exodus 2:1-10, John 19: 25b-27


By Liz Oglesby-Elong

Vicar of St Luke, Eltham Park the Anglican Diocese of Southwark


Context: all-age Parish Mass in a suburban Anglican parish

Aim: to explore what ‘mothering’ means on a day when we celebrate and give thanks for mothers and the gift of mothering



Jack frowned as he stood in front of the card section:

‘Can I help you?’ asked the shop assistant.

‘I’d like a card for Mothering Sunday,’ Jack explained. ‘But they all say Mother’s Day.’

‘Same thing,’ came the reply, but Jack shook his head.

‘No, they’re not. The lady I am buying for isn’t my mum,’ he said, ‘but she’s been like a mother to me.’

Jack was right. Mother’s Day and Mothering Sunday might fall on the same date, but they’re not the same thing. One celebrates mothers, the other celebrates mothering.

Originally, Mothering Sunday had little to do with human mothers: it referred to the Church, and God, as the mother of us all. On Mothering Sunday, the Church encouraged people to return to their ‘mother Church,’ the one that had nurtured them. Lots of young people worked away from their families, perhaps as servants, and so on that day they would be allowed to return home and spend the day with their families, often bringing with them a bunch of spring flowers for their mothers.

So today we too give flowers to our mothers and those who have been like mothers to us – as we thank God for mothering, loving and caring for each one of us.

Our two readings today help us to understand a little more about what Mothering Sunday is all about today.

Moses was born in a time when there was much hatred and struggle going on between the Hebrews and the Egyptians, and Moses, as a Hebrew baby boy, was in danger. The situation may have seemed impossible, life was difficult. Through the care of three women, God saw that Moses was looked after in a time of great conflict.

[Ask for Three Volunteers: have a baby (or a doll and Moses basket if you happen to have one available!) – and pass baby/doll on as you explain how Moses received mothering in different ways from different people in his early life.]

  1. He had care from his mother, who looked after him from birth, feeding him and hiding him to keep him safe.
  2. He had care from his sister, whose quick thinking returned Moses back to his mother so that he could be cared for.
  3. He had care from Pharaoh’s daughter, a princess, who took pity on him and gave him the best education on offer.

[Gather children and walk to the Station of the Cross that shows Jesus with his mother Mary and the beloved disciple John.]

Look and see: Jesus, dying on the cross. Pause…

Jesus’s words show us how God cared in a motherly way for both his mother and his beloved disciple John. Asking them to each take care of the other, as they watched and waited upon Jesus dying on the cross.

Let’s stop, think and reflect. Think of those who particularly care for you, in the past and present. Who are you mother to, or who are you mothering?

Mothering Sunday is a good day to stop, think and give thanks for our own mothers – and all that they do, or once did for us.

Mothering Sunday is also a good day to stop, think and give thanks for all those who have been like a mother to us, those who do or who have cared for us.

Mothering Sunday is also a good day to stop, think and give thanks for the Church, which nurtures us on our journey of faith. God our Mother mothers us. Just as God did for baby Moses, and Jesus for his own mother Mary and his beloved disciple John.

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