Mothering Sunday Sermon 2016
The American Civil War, fought from 1861 to 1865, resulted in more military deaths than all of America’s subsequent engagements combined. Some 620 000 soldiers died – approximately one of every four. A well-known Civil War song describes the anguish of the soldiers as, on the eve of battle, they recollect their homes:
Just before the battle, mother, / I am thinking most of you, / While upon the field we're watching / With the enemy in view. / Comrades brave are 'round me lying, / Filled with thoughts of home and God / For well they know that on the morrow, / Some will sleep beneath the sod.... oh, you’ll not forget me mother / if I’m numbered with the slain.
The song’s themes are echoed in countless Civil War letters – recollections of home sent by wayfaring soldiers.
In some ways the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Mothering Sunday, serves as a recollection of home in the midst of our Lenten wayfaring not unlike those recollections of the soldiers in the midst of battle. We too have been in battle this Lent, for three weeks now face to face in the Sunday lections with the devils and the demons, the lies and illusions, that tempt us. In the midst of this battle today the Church calls to mind our home: Jerusalem which is above is free, proclaims St Paul, which is the mother of us all. An earlier generation of poets and theologians would have argued that the soldiers’ songs and letters home in the Civil War were about something more than their earthly homes. Rather, for those early theologians every recollection of home or yearning to be at home is a kind of intuition of the heavenly city (however imperfectly). Like soldiers, the ideal homes we remember from our childhoods, or the homes we wish had been ours, the parents who cast a protecting veil around us or the parents whom we wish had been able to cast such a veil – the imperfections and the perfections alike of our earthly homes are intimations of that Jerusalem that is above and the mother of us all. The song puts it this way: “oh, you’ll not forget me mother, if I’m numbered with the slain.” Home in this sense is not only the place that we remember. It is, rather, the place that remembers us. ...