Exodus 2: 1-10, Colossians 3: 12–17, John 19: 25b–27
It’s lovely to be with you on this Mothering Sunday; for many I know it is a poignant Sunday, even a difficult Sunday. We give thanks to God for mothers, and for motherhood in all its different aspects. We remember the love that we receive and the love that we ourselves offer others.
The fourth Sunday of Lent, a day when domestic servants were allowed to go home, or when congregations made a pilgrimage to their mother church. It is a day when we remember and celebrate our belonging, our rootedness, in family and friendship, in community, church and world.
Our reading from Exodus reminds us that our celebrations today are set in a context that is not always simple or easy. A young mother, in fear of a violent and ethnically divided regime, leaves her baby to be found and brought up by another woman. It offers us a complex picture of motherhood and belonging; much like the realities of the world today. But in that messy and frightening context, scripture shows us God is at work - Moses grows up to lead the liberation of his mother’s people.
In this last week we have been celebrating the achievements of women throughout the world in International Women's Day and in the same week we have mourned the horrific death of a young woman, taken as she walked home in south west London. And last night disturbing scenes from Clapham Common. We have celebrated, we have mourned and we have been made to think and look at ourselves. We know change is needed.
In this world, in this week, what does it mean to belong to one another, truly and lovingly? In this world, in this week, where do we see the liberating and redeeming work of God and what does it mean for us, like the young women in the story of Moses, to be part of it?
And here in Kew. Where do we see God at work? How can we play our part in that? Building a reality of belonging for all, a community for all, a home for all, here and beyond this community in the world.
God’s liberation, the exodus of the people of Israel from slavery, this great drama of salvation that resonates with all freedom movements today, was born in the tears of tender courageous love of a young mother and nurtured by the generous, yearning love of another young woman who drew a baby out of the water and gave him a home.
Our Gospel reading takes us to the cross of Christ. Where we find our liberation, our salvation, our freedom, where the world finds its recreation. There too we see the tenderness and vulnerability of love, and its intimacy.
Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’
Here in the horror of betrayal and cruelty, the callousness of political cowardice, the anger of religious intolerance, is a moment of tenderness, of love. In the pain and agony, Jesus draws together a new family, a renewed community.
The new community to which all are welcome, which transcends all divisions and differences. A new community that is us, you and me, the Barn and St Luke’s. A community of love, belonging and radical welcome.
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
A community which lives that same tender, compassion and love; which is born in forgiveness and is open to all. Which clothes itself not with rules and regulations, or prejudice or fear, but, as our epistle puts it
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
It begins for us, as for Mary and John, as we come to Christ, as we come to the cross. In Christ we find that profoundest belonging and the deepest love. In Christ we are brought together. In Christ we are drawn into community, in Christ we become part of God’s loving work in the world.
My prayers for you this Mothering Sunday and for the new chapter in the life of this benefice. May God bless you as you journey together, with one another and with Melanie. May you be together a community shaped by Christ, a community in which all can belong, a community marked by tender love and radical faith and joyful hope.
And may we all find, through our acts of love – even in the pain and mess of life, that, unexpectedly and wonderfully we are playing our part in the utterly amazing, liberating, redeeming, loving purposes of God in this place and in the world.
The Venerable John Kiddle, Archdeacon of Wandsworth