Sunday 19th March (Lent 4 / Mothering Sunday)
1 Samuel 1: 20–28; Ephesians 5 : 8–14; John 9 : 1 – 41
By Local Preacher, Ruth Marshall (Hanham).
Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 1 vs 20-28
Today we celebrate “Mothering Sunday”. Sadly, Mothering Sunday is often seen as synonymous with Mother’s Day. My Local Preachers Diary clearly states today as “Mothering Sunday” whereas the calendar hanging in my kitchen states it as “Mother’s Day.’’ Way back in the 16th Century, people returned to their Mother Church on Laetare Sunday (4th Sunday in Lent). One’s Mother Church was seen as either the church that they were baptized at or the local Parish Church. It was an occasion where folk working “in service” (as household servants) would return home not only to their Mother Church but also to their family homes to see their parents, siblings and particularly their mothers. As children and young adults walked back to their Mother Church and familes they often picked flowers along the way to present at church or to their mothers. This particular event later evolved into “Mothering Sunday.” However, by 1920 this custom had lapsed in many areas. In light of this Constance Penswick-Smith, daughter of a Vicar in Coddington, Nottinghamshire, fought hard to restore this custom and founded the Society for the Observance of Mothering Sunday. Her determination paid off and the fading festival was restored, albeit with more emphasis on Motherhood. Mother’s Day however evolved out of the inspiration of Anna Jarvis an American who sought to honour her own Mother who had been a militant peace activist in the US Civil War. Although at first laughed at by US officials, it was officially recognized and signed into existence by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. Today the two events have morphed into a celebration of Motherhood, and are celebrated here in the UK on the same Sunday.
In our Old Testament reading for today, we see a woman, Hannah, desperately wanting to become a mother. Years had gone by whilst she failed to get pregnant and she had been maliciously taunted by Elkanah’s other wife for her barrenness. During a visit to the church, or Tabernacle, Hannah pours out her soul in desperation and anguish to God asking for a son who she says that she will give back to God. When her prayer is answered, she keeps her promise and when the boy, Samuel, is of an age to be left at the Tabernacle, she returns and places her son in the hands of Eli the priest.
As we journey through Lent we remember the painful suffering and ultimate sacrifice that Jesus went through for us. Jesus fought for us and ultimately, by His death, made a way for each one of us to become part of a heavenly family. We only have to come before Him in prayer, say sorry for the things in our lives that separate us from God to become part of that family. Hannah, returned to the Tabernacle and to God following her prayer, answer to prayer, and in order to follow through with her commitment that she had made to God. Later we read that she was blessed with three more sons and two daughters (1 Samuel 2 vs 21). Is it time that we too return; return to the foot of the cross, acknowledge that we have strayed away, and renew our commitment to God, because of what Jesus has done for us. Is it time for us to return?