Sermon for the 4th Sunday in Lent (Mothering Sunday)
Sermon for 4th Sunday in Lent March 26th, 2017
Two weeks ago I preached a sermon in which I talked about place.
I talked about how in this world we are always trying to define who we are by where we are from. Whether we were born in such-and-such place, or whether our Father is so-and-so, from Upper (not Lower) Whereverville. If you’re from the Maritimes, or have spent any amount of time here—you know exactly what I mean.
The Gospel for that day had us thinking about being born from above and how, though we are born once on earth from our mothers, we need to be born again in our lives by being changed, renewed, and made alive by inviting God into our lives to shape us into the people that He calls us to be.
But place is important for us in our faith as well. Throughout Lent each year we follow Jesus as he journeys towards the city of Jerusalem. In a few weeks time, on Palm Sunday, he will enter into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, and within a week in that same city he will be betrayed, arrested, put on trial, tortured, crucified, killed, and resurrected.
So much of Jesus’ life took place within the city of Jerusalem. He was presented there in the temple by his parents (we celebrated this on the Feast of the Presentation), he taught in the temple when he was just a boy, he performed miraculous healings in Jerusalem, and soon in our narrative, he will face the events of his Passion there.
Throughout history Jerusalem was known as The Holy City for all these reasons—it was the place where so much of our Lord’s life took place. Yet today, when we think of Jerusalem, we are probably thinking about the religious division and violence that takes place there, the fighting, conflict and violence. It doesn’t seem to us to be a very holy city.
Today, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, has traditionally been known by a few names. One is Refreshment Sunday, because we take this Sunday to pause in our Lenten disciplines, to be refreshed by thinking about our true home, our spiritual home—which is not this world, but God’s Kingdom.
St. Paul and the Apostles often called God’s Kingdom the Heavenly Jerusalem. Just as Jesus’ whole life on earth was a journey towards the city of Jerusalem, our lives are a journey toward The Heavenly Jerusalem—our true home. The place we most truly belong.
This heavenly city of Jerusalem—heaven--, Paul says, is like our true mother, and because in his Epistle today he uses so many images of motherhood, this Sunday is also called Mothering Sunday, and in the UK this day is still observed as Mothers Day.
The Church is like our mother because like a mother it gives us life, it nourishes us (feeds us), and it instructs us on how to be followers of Jesus in the way that our Mothers instructed us on how to be civilized humans (Close your mouth when you chew; say thank you; put on a clean shirt…to name a few). Giving birth, feeding, and teaching are all forms of mothering, and just as we have our earthly mothers who have done that for us, we have the church which guides us in a motherly way, but spiritually. We come to this community on through our the week to find to pray the liturgy, to be nourished spiritually, and to be instructed in our faith.
Two weeks ago Nicodemus asked Jesus, “but how can someone be born again?” Of course we can’t be born again on earth, but we are born again in our lives as Christians. By God’s grace our life of faith gives us a new starting point, it gives us a new way to view our lives on earth: not as creatures and live and die and disappear into nothingness, but as children of God whom He loves dearly, and calls to himself; children that he loves so much that, “he gave his only begotten son to die for us, so that all that believe in him may have eternal life.”
We are made to be at home with God in his Kingdom, in the heavenly city of Jerusalem, and our whole lives are the journey of getting there. But today, the church recognizes our need for a reminder. Today is a pause like this one described in the famous book
“Jerusalem that is above is free and is the mother of us all.” Amen+