The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead
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Parish Eucharist with Admission to Communion      31st March 2019
Motherhood, Nourishment, and Sacrificial Love
Ayla Lepine

Colossians 3. 12-17
Luke 2:33-35

Whether you are 65 and your mother is 94, or you are 4 and your mother is 42, or you had a tough relationship with your mother, or you haven’t called your mother in a while, or you adore your mother, or you’re a single mother, or you receive loads of texts filled with silly emojis from your mother, or you longed to be a mother, or never knew your mother, or you’re a new mother, or you choose not to be a mother, or you have lots of mothers, or are grieving for your mother, or some combination of all kinds of mother experiences….motherhood goes way beyond cards, flowers, and breakfast in bed. Those things are really lovely to give and receive – we know they are not the whole story.
Today, when we remember that the Church is our Mother, and the tender and fierce ways God mothers us, we’re invited to see just how powerful the mix of joys and sorrows can be in the experiences of mothering and of being mothered. There is no such thing as a perfect mother. There is no such thing as a perfect family. Trust in God, keep going, one day at a time.
When the Blessed Virgin Mary hears Simeon’s tough words, what might she have felt? ‘a sword will pierce your own soul,’ he says. With the deepest love will come the deepest sorrow. The Virgin Mary was just learning how to live with a new baby – sleep deprivation, feeding at all hours, wondering what his life would be like as he grew, singing to him, praying for strength and wisdom, and lots of patience – this is the message she receives. ‘A sword will pierce your own heart’. Jesus – uniquely divine and human – offered such powerful eternal love through his own sacrifice and death, that his mother’s heart would be broken too. Every time we love someone, we risk pain. It’s worth it. Every time.
Because of the cross and resurrection, each one of us can say at our Eucharist ‘I am in the hands of God; God is in my empty hands’. (That beautiful phrase is Jeremy’s way of describing the Eucharist, by the way.) Every time we gather for Communion, we rediscover what it’s like to be unconditionally loved. All are equal at this table. This feast is infinitely expandable. We can choose to embrace each other, ‘clothe ourselves with love’, and make the table bigger.
Mary, Max, Joshua, Aaron, and Romy: today God’s table, the feast of life, the Body and Blood of Jesus, are yours. You have a place at God’s table. You are invited to this sacred feast. I recently asked some members of our congregation to share their experiences of Communion, inspired by the learning you and Maureen have been doing together. Here’s a selection of what our congregation said:
‘Communion that moment when God offers out his hand and says ‘come’ – it’s totally intimate and yet at the same time I am alongside my sisters and brothers at the Communion rail, one with them.’
‘It’s an essential pause to reflect and commit to closer discipleship (even if I continue to fail); and being nourished and strengthened for the tasks ahead’
‘to me it ACTIVELY confirms and professes my faith to myself and others…I love the moving action involving going to receive and consuming the bread and wine as a reminder of Christ literally [actually] inside of us. Really connects the body…and the soul.’
Let’s add another voice to our own in this parish: Rowan Williams recently said at St Paul's Cathedral, ‘to bow down before the consecrated bread of the Eucharist is to have one’s eyes opened to what you should bow down to throughout the whole world, a world alive with the activity and presence of God.’
Anyone who has ever mothered you, offered to listen, to welcome, to really care, given you the courage to truly be yourself, been there when no one else was there for you, has shown you something of God’s own mothering love. Through the Church, Christ’s body, God feeds us, teaches us, and holds us close. And our God, our Mother, our Father, our Saviour, our life’s purpose, speaks to us in Communion, saying: Let me be your Mother. Come and eat. Taste heaven. Amen.

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