Who is my Mother?

A sermon from Mother Katie

It’s not been a good week for people saying exactly what they think for me.

First, I was walking in Richmond Park – when a child of about 8 shouted at me – for all to hear – “HELLO fatty one!” His parents and sibling laughed as I, opened mouthed, thought – did he really just say that?!? Am I so fat I’ve reached public humiliation stage?

Then later in the week I visited family in Nottingham – and my wonderful niece aged 3 was asked how old she thought Auntie Katie looked. 81 came the sage reply.

So when I turned to the readings for today I have to say I have a lot of sympathy with Mary – people don’t always say what you want them to say – sometimes they say it in public too – and that can hurt, especially if you care, even if you understand.

I imagine Mary like many mothers was worried about her son. I expect she really worried whenever he was working too hard and especially worried when he didn’t have opportunity to eat. So when she receives second hand reports that he is also going out of his mind of course, lacking phones and internet, she has to see for herself what is going on.

Imagine her face when she out of concern turns up to see her son and hears “who is my mother?”

That must have stung. A bit like “Hello Fatty one!”

For on one level she must have known what he was saying was true – and so how could she object? But on another it must have pierced her heart.

For she always knew this was a son for the world and not for her – but how hard to bear that. Not an easy thing to carry much less to hear in public.

But she knew there was more to it too – so the sting becomes less.

Up in Nottingham I was reminded again of how much richer we are when we extend family rather than narrow it down.

My brother married a gorgeous woman from Malawi and through her I now have the large family I had always dreamed of. Our African family has a much more generous boundary of belonging than I think English families often have – so I am not just sister in law to Liz my brother’s wife but to all her sisters too – and not just sister in law but often described and treated as just sister – absolutely one of the family. So not just Auntie Katie to my niece and nephew but Auntie Katie to all the children of the family. We are one – and it doesn’t make the immediate relationships less it makes the other relationships more. And I think this is nearer to what Jesus is saying – not that Mary isn’t his mother – but that he is extending the boundaries of belonging to be as wide as they can. We are all family.

And so that doesn’t mean Mary has less – it means Mary has more – for instead of the one son in Jesus all those present could be her son – and this is shown most movingly at the foot of the cross when Jesus gives his mother to John, and John is given Mary. We are all family now says Jesus, if we do the will of God. Mary our mother – Jesus our brother.

So many times in life when we think we are being given less we are actually being given more if we can change our perspective.

And we should live as if this is our deepest truth – that God’s will is always to bless – so where is the blessing? And if we really do – the world will tend to see it as a kind of madness – for It asks us to see the good even in the worst situations and it asks us to extend the table as far as it will go – often beyond what is comfortable – to what is extraordinary and generous.

One of the things I love about St James is that I see examples of this sort of living and loving everywhere in the Parish. We are a community that does look after each other in the exactly the ways family would – we do extend the table to include others whenever we can – and I hope we continue to do this and go further still.

I’m currently reviewing our services – and my main aim with any changes from September will be that we extend the table – that we include even more people in our church family – that we are generous in our terms of belonging – and robust enough to hear the truth and brave enough to respond with grace.

If you have feelings or ideas about how you think the church should move forward in these times – I’d love to hear from you. Why not write me an email – and share your thoughts? If email does not work for you feel free to call too.

I’d particularly like to hear from you if you have any ideas about how we extend the table – how we include others. Not just what we want in our home church – and how we like things – much less about how they have always been – but how can we make this home for others? How by having less ourselves might we give others more – and thereby unexpectedly receive more ourselves? What might we do that could make your neighbour want to come? Or your friend? Or the children who play in the road near you? Or the recently bereaved? Or those with health problems – mental or physical. What can we do to include rather than exclude? In short how might we make our family bigger and grow the love in our part of the world?

Answers on a postcard, email or by phone. All ideas considered! But let’s follow Jesus and think big – and let’s follow Mary and be willing to pay the cost of following too – because that is what leads to the blessing.