Sermons from St
Sunday 31st March, 2019
Today's scripture readings remind us that there are the little people, the weak, the oppressed, the powerless – women, children and men who are not part of the ruling elite. Then there are the powerful – those with status and privilege, where men are in the executive positions, making the decisions, and the women who are protected by the ruler. The biblical times are very different to those we know today, but in some ways not so different. No, in many ways, not so very different. There are still imbalances of power, still people who are exploited – the weak and powerless being oppressed and exploited by the strong and the powerful.
In the story of Moses from Exodus – he is saved by his mother and sister from death. Pharaoh, fearful of the Israeli people, has ordered the death of all their new born male children. Pharaoh is the oppressor of the Jews, the subjugated people. But, knowing that the Jewish people are oppressed, they will surely be resentful and a potential threat. It is not enough for Pharaoh that he has power over the Jews, he wants to destroy, obliterate the men. Kill them before they can defend themselves and join in wars siding with Pharaoh's enemies. He tries to enlist the midwives to do the killings – a perversion of their role. But the midwives fear god and so they disobey this order and let the children live. The instinct to love and protect – at one with the mother and child relationship, inspired by god overcomes the power of Pharaoh. The soft and weak overcome the hard and strong. When this plan fails, Pharaoh resorts to ordering his own people, the Egyptians to kill the new born Jewish male children. It is the love that Moses' mother and sister have for him, which saves Moses from this fate. Hidden in a basket in the reeds on the river bank of the Nile, the maternal instinct of Pharaoh's daughter not only saves him, but gives him a life of privilege at the royal court. His formative years are spent with his mother, as she is made his wet-nurse. This is a story of hope and love, where hatred and fear are overcome.
In a world of injustice and oppression, so often we pray for deliverance from suffering – of the innocent, the exploited, the forgotten, wherever they may be. Yet, here, in this passage from Exodus, we have hope, hope that love and goodness will prevail. It takes courage, faith and a selfless love, to overcome evil.
In Luke's Gospel, we hear the prophetic words of Simeon – the certainty of his knowledge, not the fake predictions of charlatan fortune tellers, preying on the gullible and the credulous. Simeon's words are illuminated by God, intelligence which is informed by his daily devotions to God. He has been waiting on God for many years, his faith patient and enduring. Simeon recognises the seeds of suffering for the child Jesus and his mother. We don't know how he knows that Jesus is to be the consolation of Israel, Simeon just knows. We can suppose that his eyes are seeing beyond the obvious, the ordinary. He sees with the eyes of the prophet – the child who is destined for the falling and rising of Israel, but with truth and redemption there is a high price to be paid. For a sword will pierce the heart of his mother, Mary.
This emotional passage from scripture, a meditation on God, the messiah and the pain of motherhood is where we are asked to focus our hearts and minds, this Mothering Sunday. There is joy for families who come together where all is well, where there is love and togetherness. For others, there may be loss or loneliness and the day may be one of pain or only the comfort of memories. For everyone, Mothering Sunday will be a day which is personal and unique to them.
Mothering Sunday, comes in Lent. And we are mindful still of being in Lent, on that journey with Christ in the wilderness, as he prepares for his work of granting salvation to all people. On this, the fourth Sunday in Lent, we reach the second half of Bishop Paul's rule of life – the first of those tasks - being sent to tell, sent to tell the good news of Christ, the Gospel.
How we choose to tell the good news, that will depend on the circumstances and the listener. Often, the people most in need of hearing it are the hardest to talk to about it. They may be suffering, cynical or fearful in the world. We have to be mindful of where each person is, before we approach that task. Not to be patronising or to hector. If we have truly listened to God, prayed, studied scripture and learnt from it – then we are in a stronger position to tell the good news.
The love of God, and motherly love – these govern, strengthen and inspire the teller of the good news. The words, like those of Simeon, are prophetic words, words which come through us, from God.