Three sons, who were very successful, discussed the gifts they gave their elderly mother on Mother's day.
The first said, "I built a big house for our mother." The second said," I sent her a Mercedes." The third said, "I've got you, both beat. You know how Mom enjoys the Bible, and you know she can't see very well. I sent her a parrot that can recite the entire Bible. It took 20 monks, in a monastery, 12 years to teach him. I had to pledge to contribute £100,000.00 a year for ten years, but it was worth it. Mum just has to name the chapter and verse, and the parrot will recite it."
Soon after that, Mom mailed her letters of thanks: She wrote the first son, "Michael, the house you built is too large. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house." She wrote the second son, "Marvin, I'm nearly blind, so I can't drive. I stay home all the time, so I never use the Mercedes."
"Dearest Melvin," she wrote to her third son, "You were the only son to have the good sense to know what your mother likes. That chicken was delicious!"
It is great that we give a day to recognise what mother's give us and to give them a token of our love. But this wasn't what Mother’s Day, Mothering Sunday was originally about.
In England, Mothering Sunday originally had a different meaning. It was the day when churchgoers in outlying villages and hamlets would make the journey to the mother church of the parish, taking their offerings.
By the sixteenth century, when many young girls worked as servants in the homes of the rich, Mothering Sunday, had become a holiday when they were allowed home to visit their families. To prove their newly-acquired skills in the kitchen, they would bake a cake to present proudly to their mothers. It was called a Simnel cake, probably from the Latin word simila, a fine wheaten flour. The cake was usually made with a rich mixture, filled with plums, lemon peel and other tasty ingredients. It had to last until Easter, as it couldn't be eaten until after Lent had passed. If a girl had a sweetheart, Mothering Sunday was the day to bring him home for mother's approval. In this case, it was the man's responsibility to provide the mothering cake.
In modern times, Mother's Day was introduced. The idea is attributed to Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia who, in 1907, suggested an annual day for mothers should be kept.
On Mothering Sunday, we try to make more effort in looking after our Mothers. Seeing them if we can, maybe phoning if we can't. We give cards and presents because we love and care for our mums.
In John Chapter 9, we have a little insight into the relationship between parents and their children, in this case a man born blind. And the question is asked whether, as he was born blind, was it due to the sin of the child or the parents? Who is responsible?
Each person is a distinct individual, made in God’s image and confronted with the call to believe in Christ. Each is responsible to God for his or her life and will give account to him personally beyond death (Heb. 10:29f.). Jesus’ expression of urgency in verse 4 indicates how incompatible with his teaching such ideas are. The time is urgent precisely because we have only this one life in which to work for God. There are no further ‘lives’.
Today’s message is about making the most of the lives we have, and at a time when our human fragility is highlighted through the Corona virus we should be all the more attentive to the brevity of life and our need to make the most of it and appreciate those we love. Today that focus being on our mothers.
I am, however, very aware when we celebrate a day like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day that the complicated reality of our broken world can jump up and trip us. There are those who have been abused or abandoned, who have had horrible experiences with their own mums and dads, or spouses and partners who feel the same, and the last thing they want to do is give thanks or hear nice things about something and someone they don't have.
It is the same for those who have recently lost a parent or have never been able to have a child. We should think of them too on this day and be sensitive but also not be overly apologetic.
It is important as a Christian family, not to steal the joy of the day or tone down the celebrations and give honour to those to whom honour is due. God wants us to honour those to whom honour is due. (Romans 13:7)
Whatever our relationship with our mother we can be sure that we have learnt something from her. An unknown author wrote down some of the things their Mother Taught them:
My Mother taught me INTUITION...
"Put your sweater on; don't you think that I know when you're cold?"
My Mother taught me TO MEET A CHALLENGE...
"Answer me when I talk to you...Don't talk back to me!"
My Mother taught me HUMOUR...
"If you fall and break your leg, don't come running to me."
My Mother taught me how to BECOME AN ADULT...
"If you don't eat your cabbage, you'll never grow up.
My Mother taught me LOGIC...
"If you fall off that wall and break your neck, you won’t be able to go swimming on Saturday."
My Mother taught me MEDICINE...
"If you don't stop making that horrible face, it will stay like that."
My mother taught me about GENETICS...
"You are just like your father!"
My mother taught me about my ROOTS...
"Do you think you were born in a barn?"
My mother taught me about the WISDOM of AGE...
"When you get to be my age, you will understand."
My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION...
"Just wait until your father gets home."
My mother taught me about JUSTICE...
"One day when you have children, they will be just like you… and then you’ll know all about it."
And she thought no one was listening!
Some of those words of wisdom obviously resonated with you, and it's amazing how old you get your mother still is able to remind us of these pearls of wisdom.
You'll need a coat on it's cold outside; I know mother I'm 50 years old.
If we were to pass on one piece of useful advice to our children, to our young people, to nieces and nephews, grandchildren what would that be?
Jesus’ advice was – love one another, even if we have to do that from a distance at the moment.