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Mothering Sunday - The Lapwing
On Monday, I was walking over Barton Springs. Way above my head were skylarks, making beautiful and soaring, singing displays. I was reminded of having read somewhere that birds will do this to distract predators from their nest. After rifling around in my books for a while, I discovered that it is not, after all, the lark that is famous for this (the soaring bird is usually a male and is singing in the early season to mark his territory and to seek a mate) but the lapwing. It may be that I first read about this on the back of a PG tips tea card, so taking me back to my boyhood. The mother lapwing is clever and at the first sign of an intruder, even if it is several hundred yards away, she will first run some distance, before taking wing to flutter up and down crying out to draw attention away from the real location of the nest. Lapwings seek large open areas for nesting, ones with all round visibility, so that they can detect the approach of any potential danger. I am struck by the implied sacrifice of the mother bird for her young and at the same time the foolhardiness of it. Plover’s eggs were widely eaten before they became protected by law so that often we were the predator – a powerful beast against a little bird and the odds seem heavily stacked against her.
Yet this instinct to protect our children is innate and mothers and fathers count not the risks to themselves. Our Levite woman knew that a male Hebrew child would be killed and so she took the risk of placing Moses in the papyrus basket and the risk of offering herself to be a nurse on behalf of Pharaoh’s daughter. Throughout history, there have been similar stories of children being sent to safety and they continue today. Surely on Syria’s borders there are as I speak living examples.
So it happens that sometimes it is not our birth mothers who bring us up. Two men, brothers who I met last week were such a case, they remembered someone coming into a very poor and low point in their very young lives and transforming them with care, affection and love. The elder one, who would have been about seven years old at the time and is now thirty or so, told me, “It was like wining the lottery, the change was unimaginable.”
This morning then, we are here to celebrate those people who looked after us when we were children, who fed us and clothed us, who taught us and who, like the mother lapwing, took risks for us.
Eternal God, we who are all your children, give you thanks for our mothers, who brought us into the world and for those who nurtured us, loved us and protected us, when we were frail and weak.
We thank you for the love mothers show their children everywhere. When being a mother is hard, we pray for wisdom and strength. Bring comfort to those who feel sadness today because of the loss of a mother or of motherhood.