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Mothering Sunday

In the early morning across from my kitchen window it has been possible to watch two rather chubby wood pigeons burrowing into a curiously stubby bush carrying twigs and so on with them. To my mind their chosen location is unsuitable, the bush insubstantial barely able to support their own weight but I suppose that they know what they are doing. They are in any case taking the first steps and hopefully eggs and chicks will follow and then will begin the mothering of the baby birds.

How anxiously we wait for the signs of our children developing; you may have had one of those record books that have space for you to record baby’s first smile, first tooth, first word, first birthday, steps, pair of shoes and much more. Both of our readings this morning show a father and a mother taking their first steps in helping their children: Hannah takes Samuel to the temple to be dedicated to the Lord for all time and to begin his education and Mary takes Jesus to be presented.
Today we are celebrating “Mothering Sunday.” I want to be a bit picky about that description, the cards in the shops seem mostly to say happy Mother’s day and the television adverts focus on “gifts for mum,” but it is mothering that we celebrate. The acts of mothering that are perhaps more deep and mysterious than a mother figure alone. This week I watched a nurse with a sick child cuddle him, kiss him, talk gently to him, she was more than nursing, I remember my brother bringing up his two children aged two and four on his own – he was more than fathering. Mothering is more than those pictures of a young woman with a baby, as many of you know from personal experience it goes on for much longer than that: It overcomes obstacles and difficulties, for even if we have prepared our nest in a good bush, even if we have taken the first steps, brought our children to baptism, found them a good school and given them encouragement there may still be setbacks. They may fall seriously ill, they may get into trouble, they may run away to Syria, they may challenge everything we have ever believed, yet in the face of these unexpected and maybe unwanted events we know that someone has to be there for them, that they still need our care.

In the family service that follows we will offer the children a chance to give their parents a posy of daffodils, to make a card together that also features a daffodil. The flower of course is a symbol, a tiny symbol, of spring, colour and joy but I hope it can go deeper.

We take a bulb and place it in the soil allowing it to be nurtured by the sun and the rain, or maybe indoors by our watering. We cannot be perfectly sure how it will turn out, each flower is different, each group of blooms their own special shape but like the wood pigeons we will do our best. The mystery of mothering is somehow in the growing of that daffodil, the flower comes from the bulb but it needs much more to flourish.

So today as we think about our lives we are giving thanks for those who gave us their care, experience, wisdom and love and we are giving thanks for those who still give us these things, we are giving thanks for the mothering we receive from wherever and whoever it comes.


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