A day to say thank you
Thank you to our birth mothers, - those who carried us in the womb, laboured to bring us into the world and who, often, continued the hugely demanding work of raising us...offering us unconditional love, looking after our physical needs, modelling patterns of thought and behaviour and sometimes of faith to last us all our adult lives
Thank you to those many others who shared in that work of love and nurture too, without any biological ties to constrain them.
Whatever your relationship with your own parents, I hope and pray you'll know what I mean, that you will have encountered many to mother you.
On Tuesday I was privileged to give the address at Eirene's funeral.
Eirene was, most certainly, my second mother...
My own mother was an invalid, often in hospital as I grew up, and she died when I was just 18.
I loved her dearly, and she taught me so much...but she knew, as I did, that when the day came that I was left without her, Eirene would continue to do a splendid job of cooking me meals, listening to my joys and my woes, offering wise advice when asked and supporting me when I ignored it....
That Eirene would continue to model generous living, compassion, and that all important unconditional love which we need if we are to flourish and become fully human.
She did this for me, and for my children, for the next three decades and more...so I am particularly aware today of all the ways in which I've been mothered by her
But of course, at the moment when I might most have needed that sort of loving support – she was unable to give it.
Her children and I negotiated the reality of her death without her because that's how it works.
And it was hard, and it was sad but – God had put others in place to carry on that work of loving, supporting, listening, advising...others to model generous living, compassion and acceptance.
Others to mother me...for this, of course, is the work of the Church – our mother in faith.
I'm blessed in belonging to not just these two church communities of our benefice but also through the social networking site, Twitter, to another community of some 900 assorted friends who have chosen to be linked to me, who read my comments (in just 140 characters) about what's going on for me in my life and my faith, who share their own highs and lows and the stuff in between...
140 characters may not seem long enough to share very much, but over the past few years the friendships forged have become very real and very very strong.
When I talk about my “twitter family” I'm really not using the term lightly.
So as I wept at Eirene's loss, as I tried to negotiate my own grief while responding with love and care to the griefs of these parishes (for in the 3 weeks since Eirene died I've officiated at 10 other funerals), as I struggled with the emotional roller coaster that bereavement involves, it was the twitter community who heard my laments, who prayed me through the anxieties, who wept with me as I wept and did all that it could to carry my burdens for me.
As I stood up to speak at her funeral, it was with the knowledge that several hundred people who had never known Eirene, but knew who she had been to me, were praying for me and for all of us gathered there – and of course, the knowledge of their prayers enabled me to speak the words that were filling my heart that day.
Twitter, in short, did all that a church could do...all that a church should do....
Loving, supporting, listening, advising, praying
The work of the Church as a family, bound together through faith, hope and love
A family there for one another...sharing the work of mothering together.
So today I invite you to pause and give thanks for those people, and those communities that have mothered you...
and to pray a blessing on those whom you mother.
Some may be members of this church family...some may be part of that great multitude who now rejoice around the throne of God...
To some you may have the strongest of blood ties...others you may know by chance, by happy circumstance...
But all of them and all of you are caught up in this God given work of mothering....Because it is as we learn to give of the best we can manage by way of unconditional love that we become, each one of us, more truly Christ like...
Human relationships exist so that we can learn about that love which is at the heart of our relationship with God...a first taste of that relationship that he longs to have with each of us.
Julian of Norwich talks often about God as our mother – and sometimes people seem very shocked by this...but God uses the same sort of language speaking in the Old Testament through the prophet Hosea
When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.[a]
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
4 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them.
And through Isaiah
“I will comfort you just as a mother comforts her children”
Even Jesus uses these same profoundly motherly images
“Jerusalem...how often have I longed to gather your children together as a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wing..”
Nurture, comfort, protection – God given gifts that we can show to one another as we reflect God's light and life...
Gifts that we may have received from our mothers...but gifts that we are called to share whether male or female, parents or childless...
I thank God for all those who have mothered me, for those who continue to do so and pray that I too may share in this work of love for God's sake.