My daughter is reading Harry Potter. It’s hard to believe that the books are as old as they are, but I remember the first book coming out when I was a teenager. I didn’t read them until many years later, when I was helping run a youth group and I was desperately reading them before we went as a group to see the films. Of course, the risk when you wait too long with such popular stories is that aspects of the story get spoiled before you’ve reached them in the book. I remember one such event, when we were leaving one of the films and one of the moms of one of the youth commented about what one of the character does in the next book – the book I had just started reading at the time. I apologise now if I spoil any key points about Harry Potter for any of you today, but I will try not to.
Reflecting on Harry Potter and reflecting on Mothering Sunday I was struck by how believable the tragic story of Harry Potter’s mother is. A loving mother who would do anything to protect her baby, even to the point of sacrificing herself. And how Christian a message it is: that this sacrifice is what both protects and empowers Harry and marks him so that he will always remember that love
Of course, the sacrifice most mothers make for us isn’t nearly so dramatic, but it is no less magical. Mothers and those who mother us sacrifice many things to nurture, support and, eventually, in small steps, let us go. This act of mothering is by no means confined to mothers, or to blood relations, but it is in those examples that we most often see it demonstrated. I can remember well, as a youth in my church being mothered by our youth leaders. They were there to listen to us, to support us, to encourage us and to send us off as we left for University. They gave of their free time to nurture us as individuals and as a group. They also enjoyed the moments of fun which we had together, and having been in touch with my youth leaders in recent years to say thank you, I think it’s fair to say they had a certain pride in watching us grow up. It’s not the same as being our mothers, but they were mothering us, which is part of what we recognise today.
In today’s Gospel Jesus is received as a baby in the temple by Simeon who warns Mary that he will:
‘be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed’
and also that
‘a sword will pierce [Mary’s] soul too.’
Simeon understands that the coming of Jesus will inevitably have a brutal end, but that it will bring about that certain hope which comes with his resurrection at Easter. It will, nonetheless, be incredibly painful for his mother, who held him so dearly as a baby. The story speaks into the reality of motherhood, and into the reality of our relationship with God as well.
In Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians we are told that God consoles us, in a recent Gospel Jesus described God as like a mother hen trying to gather her chicks under her wings. But like the mother who knows that as a child grows older they must be released to make their own mistakes, God gives us the freewill to make our mistakes. And watches on with that sadness and frustration, that desire to intervene, to help us find the right way, but the full knowledge that we need to find it for ourselves. God also watches with great joy as we come to love one another as he loves us and when we live life and live it abundantly as we were created to.
Mothering Sundays is a fitting day for a baptism, because it is a celebration of a person being born again, but also because it is recognises that nurturing someone, young or old, is the task of a whole community. In baptism we are born, not just into our own family, but into our family the church, where we are all brothers and sisters, where we all have a role to play in nurturing one another, in caring for one another. Godparents are one way in which this share in the care for those being baptised is represented. In a city like London, where family often lives far away, if not abroad, friends and community – church included – can be like an adopted family.
It strikes me that in Harry Potter the person who plays the roll of mother most profoundly is Hagrid. He is the one who gather’s Harry up under his arm, and would do anything to protect him from danger. He and the whole community which surrounds Harry nurture and care for him in his mother’s absence.
So as we welcome these three into God’s family, let us do so we joyful hearts, praising God and asking that we would know how best to love and support all those around us. Pray that God may help us to see one another as God sees us – like a mother full of hope and joy for the potential of each of her children.
The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams
8.00am Said Eucharist in the lady chapel
10.00am Parish Eucharist with choir and Sunday School
Said Eucharist on Wednesdays at 11.00am
Monday through Thursday at 5.30pm
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