The Mother and Motherhood of God

I’ll be honest, Mothering Sunday has never been an easy one for me. I don’t think that I am alone in saying that my relationship with my mother is complicated. Thankfully, there have been others in my life who have nurtured me and provided the kind of selfless love that we think a good mother provides.

But this day is also complex for the Church in a number of ways. For Protestants, it is one of the very few days when we focus on the place of women in the faith. For many people who no longer attend, the Church in Britain has become the ‘Institute of Victorian family values’. Whatever we actually say about family or relationships, our image still projects a version of family than does as much to exclude as include.

And it hard to rewrite that image. So when I tell people that I am a gay parent as well as an ordained minister, the first question from those outside the Church is usually: is that allowed?

So, whilst it would be easy to ignore Mothering Sunday and use the other lectionary readings, it is important to use this day reflect on something that goes to the heart of who we are as human beings, let alone Christians: relationships and family.

And we begin with the Mother of God, St Mary. Sadly, there is an Irish Protestant tendency to throw the mother out with the bathwater when it come to the Mother of our Lord. I grew up with a fierce suspicion of Our Lady and it became a tradition in my home town to set a statue of Mary on fire in the grounds of the local Catholic Church during every Orange marching season. But what does she show us except that love doesn’t always get it right! That she was passionately concerned to protect her son. That motherhood was a bed of sorrows for her as she watched her young son hanging from a cross at the age of 33.

Yet she is also the first disciple. Whatever else you think of the theology of the carol, ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’, there is that glorious image: ‘But his mother only, in her maiden bliss, Worshipped the Beloved with a kiss.’ She is also the first minister of Christ - her embracing a difficult vocation give the world its Saviour.