The daffodils are out, there is blossom appearing on fruit trees, and spring is beginning to spring! Sadly we have not yet been able to watch the garden start to come back to life from under the glorious canopy of a bright blue sky, but hopefully there will be a chance to throw wide the windows soon, and breathe in the fresh air on a clear spring morning, after this longest and hardest of winters.
This time of year of course also bring Mothering Sunday - or Mother's Day, depending on whether you approve of the the way the new tradition (honouring and thanking mums) has replaced the old (a visit to your local 'mother' Church).
I love the new tradition, to be honest, (not that it is very new!) as it gives us a chance to acknowledge the role and the power of nurturing, caring, supporting love - the sort of love that a good mother gives and gives and doesn't stop giving. We get to rightly celebrate the fact that mums so often display deeply Godly qualities, such as unconditional love, and to thank them for all that they do for us.
Gratitude is powerful; not many of us would have got very far in life without the love and care of a mum when we were small, and thus we should all remember that the foundation of all we may build and achieve in life is actually the gift of another - often the selfless love of a mother. Worth remembering next time you hear someone successful or powerful described themselves as 'self-made'.
But as much as I love it, Mother's Day is not straightforward simply because there are as many different experiences of motherhood and mothering as there are people on the planet. Some may have had a wonderful mum who has always been encouraging, supportive and loving. Others may have had a mum who was unable to be any of these things. Some people may have had the joy of easily having the family they always dreamt of and a really positive experience of being a mother. Others may never have been able to conceive, and perhaps carry great burdens of loss and grief. Some mothers, of course, have lost children, and many children have lost mothers. Some have never known their mother.
So how should we think of Mothering Sunday, from a Christian point of view? Well, this Sunday's first Bible reading is Colossians 3.12-17. In this letter, written to a church in Colossae, Paul writes that God's people should 'clothe themselves' with qualities such as compassion, kindness, humility and patience. He goes on to suggest that God's people should 'above all' clothe themselves in Love. When I read this passage, and I think of the sort of love that represents compassion, kindness, humility and patience, I think of the love of a good mother.
You see, I really do think that kind and loving mums can be, at their best, a real picture and example of God's perfect and endless love. When we see a mother hugging and comforting a child, drying her tears, or kissing-better a hurt, we are seeing a little picture of the love that God has for each of us.
And that brings me to two things that I really want to say today. The first is simply that God loves you. God loves you perfectly, endlessly, completely. God loves you with a love that is perfectly compassionate, perfectly, kind, and perfectly patient. God is the one (as the Psalmist says) who calls us into being, who creates us, and who - in that sense - is the Mother to us all. I hope and pray that you can believe you are loved in this way by God!
The second thing I wanted to say was that, just as a good mother patiently, gently and carefully dries the eyes and heals the hurts of her children; so God wants to do the same for us. Wounds that our experience (or lack thereof) of motherhood and mothers leave can be so deep. It would be quite wrong of me to suggest that being healed from such wounds is necessarily quick or easy. But I do believe that God wants, like a perfect mother, to speak healing into our deep places of hurt. So if you find Mothering Sunday difficult, for any reason at all, I want to say to you that God hears - that God knows, and that God longs to speak comfort, healing and hope to you. Why not ask for God's healing power and words of love to come to you, right now?