Light for The Gentiles

Sunday 2nd March 2008
Year A, The Forth Sunday of Lent (Mothering Sunday)
Holy Trinity, Hurstpierpoint
Holy Eucharist
Luke 2:34-35

A hundred years ago none of the big houses in Hurstpierpoint were divided into flats. They were all occupied by a single, rich family; and before the days of central heating, hot water taps, vacuum cleaners, microwave ovens and motor cars, all such rich families needed servants to do the housework and the cooking, not to mention looking after horses. This meant that boys and girls, barely in their teens, would move from neighbouring villages or towns to work as servants. Their lives were hard and they worked almost every day of the year; but on this Fourth Sunday in Lent it became the custom for servants to go home to worship at the church where they were baptised; and, as this usually meant the church in their parents' village, the visit to the "Mother church" for "Mothering Sunday" soon became Mother's Day, when the servants, coming home, would bring flowers or presents.

As Hugo is about to be baptised, it is a good time to think about the "Mother church" because it is the church where we are baptised. For the rest of his life, this will be Hugo's Mother Church. This will always be the place where he became a member of the Christian family and a true brother of Jesus; whatever changes take place in his life, this is the one which will matter most.

Our Gospel today deals with the Jewish equivalent of Baptism, when Jesus was taken by his parents to the Temple to be offered to God. They were spotted by a very holy man called Simeon who had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah, the saviour of Israel. Simeon identifies Jesus as the Messiah and then says some extraordinary words to his mother, that a sword will pierce her heart because of her son; words that, on the surface, a mother does not want to hear as she proudly holds her first-born; it isn't the sort of thing Hugo's mother wants to hear either.

But in another part of what Simeon says, he promises that Jesus will bring a new light into the world. He knew that bringing that light would mean suffering and death for Jesus which is why his mother Mary would suffer. It was because of that light that we are here now; and Hugo will receive a candle after his baptism to remind him of Jesus, the light of the world.

So, just as Hugo will always return to his mother when times are hard and will always respect and love her and will, perhaps less often than he should, bring her a gift; he should also be encouraged by his parents, and God Parents who are about to make their promises, to remember his mother Church where he was received into the family of Jesus, bringing his own uncertainties, love, respect and, yes, although perhaps not often enough, his gifts.