Photo with thanks to Peter Fitzgerald
Rev. Baden Stanley

Rev. Baden Stanley

Each week we hope to post a blog on a Monday or Tuesday. These blogs will hopefully stimulate thought, discussion and even debate around key topic that are affecting our society at this time of great change and challenge.

The Piercing Sword

Mothers and motherhood are rightly celebrated with a special day, a day set apart to acknowledge all that is noble, good and noteworthy (to paraphrase Philippians 4:8-9). Of course mothers deserve much more than one day a year to take a bow. The origins of Mothering Sunday lie within very different days, when many daughters, restricted from education, were sent to the ‘big houses’ to become serving girls, or maids. Even if they worked quite close to their homes, visiting their families was very limited, so a special day was appointed (Mothering Sunday) when they could go home to see their Mothers. Quite poignant origins, and of course Mother’s Day continues to be poignant and even difficult for many. I love this prayer from Peter Greig that captures many of the nuances of Mother’s Day in the modern world:

We celebrate the all-round amazingness
   of so many mothers today:
May the ones who are stressed
  somehow get rest,
And those who have failed
  be blessed.

‪We remember those missing their mums more than usual today,
May the ones who are hurting
  grieve well and heal soon
And those who feel lonely
  get chocolate and zoom.

We pray for weary mums
  coping alone through lockdown
And heartbroken mums
  mourning the loss of a child,
We remember worried mums
  whose little ones are sick
And wistful ones
  who’d love to hold a baby of their own

We hold before you Lord
the many for whom today
   is sadder than it is happy,
may they find a quiet space we pray,
  a sure embrace, a place of grace
  in which to hear you say:
‪‘As a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you.’ ‪~ Isaiah 66:13

During these days of Lent, Mother’s Day, St Patrick’s Day and Good Friday are reminders that for Mothers themselves, life is not always easy and indeed can be desperately brutal. Only a few short weeks ago we celebrated the ‘Presentation of Christ’ in our Sunday liturgy. It reminds us of the baby Jesus, being brought to the temple so that sacrifices of thanksgiving could be made by his parents. While there, the ancient Simeon and the Prophetess Anna, approached, proclaiming over the newborn child that God has finally answered the people’s prayers with the birth of the One who will deliver His people. There is a warning within this joy-filled proclamation; looking deep into Mary’s eyes, he hoarsely whispers ‘and a sword will pierce your side also!’ Out of context, it is a comment that makes little sense, but it is such a stark declaration, both of the death Jesus will endure, and the pain of motherhood still ahead of young Mary.

There is a sword that pierces the hearts of many mothers. The sword of anxiety and fear, as they worry for their children and the challenges they face. The sword of loneliness, as their children are forced to emigrate, or even are stolen from them. As you are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on Wednesday, spare a thought for what it must have been like for Patrick’s mother, her son kidnapped by the marauding Irish, and lost to her, presumably for ever. How many prayers did she (and countless others like her in Nigeria, Somalia and all over the world) offer for the safe return of her child? The sword of pain, as relationships are fractured, harsh words spoken, distance maintained through hurt pride, often on both sides. The sword of despair, as children make choices that destroy their potential and wreck their lives. The sword of death, as miscarriage, stillbirth and ultimately death, steals the days of motherhood of their joy. Here we reflect again on Jesus’ mother, Mary, probably known as Miriam in her time. We are told in the Gospels, that ‘Mary treasured all these things in her heart’. As she watched her son grow with all his extraordinary potential, there must have been many nights of broken sleep, of concern and worry. It can’t have helped when her son went missing in the Temple courts when just a lad of 12 or 13; nor when he courted controversy with the scribes and pharisees; nor when he seemed to reject her and her family. The pain of that foretold sword plunged deep into her heart and soul, but surely most deeply as she watched his naked body, brutalised and broken on the Cross. She had to have had some inkling of what was coming, and yet she did for him the only thing she had left to offer her son: she stayed with him, right to the very end, and beyond. That presence, that refusal to turn away, even in heartbreak and horror, was surely the bravest gift of motherhood; to prepare his body for burial, to make provision for others to properly shroud him after the Sabbath. Some of us know, all too painfully, the awful privilege of being present at the end of our child’s all too short life. I am constantly awed in those moments of the courage and care of mothers, and fathers, as they prepare to surrender their precious children into the everlasting arms of Jesus.

These are difficult days, but they are also days of hope. With his dying breath Jesus made arrangements for his mother’s future care and comfort in the home of his beloved Disciple and friend, John. Even now God is caring for you, nurturing you, loving you; whether it feels like it or not. The piercing sword of motherhood digs deep, but deeper still goes the healing balm of Gods love and care. Draw comfort from the words of Zephaniah Chapter 3, verse 17, (New Living Translation). ‘For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty saviour. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his Love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with Joyful songs.’



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