St Augustine's Grove Park
29th March 1992 Mothering Sunday
II Corinthians 5: 17-21
Luke 15: 11- 32
"it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ name is: be reconciled to God".
"Reconciliation". Perhaps that's a word you don't use very often unless you happen to work in an accountants department in which case you'll be using it all the time.
But it's a very useful word. It means "bringing together two or more things which have become separated or estranged from each other and making them fit together again".
So we might say of a furniture repairer when he mends a chair or a table with a leg that has broken off that he is "reconciling the leg to the table". Or on the human level a Marriage Guidance Counsellor works with a husband and wife who have become estranged to bring about reconciliation between them.
And in the Gospel of course the prodigal son was reconciled with his father.
Hold on a moment to those two ideas of separation and joining together, estrangement and reconciliation, and think of the process of giving birth or being born. In order to live, the child in the womb must inevitably be separated sooner or later from mother. So an estrangement has got to take place. Some people never really can bring themselves to accept this. They may remain "tied to mother's apron strings".
But hopefully the separation will take place to be followed by a reconciliation. Mother and child are reconciled into a bond which develops and changes and grows throughout their lifetime. Some people never manage to achieve this reconciliation with their mothers of course, and this permanent estrangement is likely to scar them for life. But if any of you here is unaware of the reconciliation that has taken place between your mother and yourself, then it only goes to show what a good job she's been making of it. For the reconciliation has been going on all these years without your noticing it.
Now it seems to me that the presenting of flowers to mother's by their children on Mothering Sunday is as good a way as any of expressing this reconciliation in a symbolic form. "Flowers say it all" as the old florists' advertisement use to say. And if a young couple, Dave and Tracey have had a tiff with each other, what better way is there to "make it up" – to be reconciled – than a bunch of flowers?
So flowers to mother on this Mothering Sunday should be saying "Dear Mother! Thank you for the separation which has given me my life; thank you for the reconciliation which has united us all these years as mother and child"; or (if the reconciliation is incomplete or flawed) the flowers say, "let's have another go at it and see if we can't make it work this time."
But there's something else which we're going to do this morning, besides given flowers: something which seems to me equally appropriate to Mothering Sunday. I mean of course the baptism of these children.
It is part and parcel of being a human being in a fallen world that we should be in a real sense "separated" from God. Not separated from his love, mind you. God continues to love us whether we respond to His Love or not in just the same way as the father in the parable continued to love the son even though the latter did practically everything to be estranged from his father.
To achieve this reconciliation there had to be a movement, even the tiniest one on the part of the separated son. Remember it was matched immediately by a far greater movement on the part of the father. "While he was still a long way off... he ran to the boy, clasped in his arms and kissed him tenderly."
By bringing these children to baptism we are making just the tiniest move to show that we want them to be reconciled with God. And what does God do in response? He comes the whole of the rest of the way to meet them and in the waters of baptism he makes them his children, members of his body (remember the child in the womb) and inheritors of his heavenly kingdom.
Simple, isn't it? "And where," you may ask, "is the catch?"
Well I don't know that it's quite right to describe anything that God's so graciously does for us as "having a catch". But I know what the question means. And the answer surely is that reconciliation is a two-way ongoing process. Not even the most skilled Marriage Guidance Counsellor in the world can reconcile Dave and Tracey if either one of them doesn't want to be reconciled. And even if they both sincerely want to be reconciled there's never a moment at which anyone can say "there now! We're reconciled! Let's just go on behaving like we did before and each of us do their own thing." – they'll be estranged again before you can say 'knife'!
True reconciliation demands a continuous process of relationship-building, so that something permanent and secure grows out of it all. Like the relationship between mother and child, or husband and wife, our relationship with God must consist in an infinite series of little growths or developments as we try to get to know him better and to obey his will for us.
And that of course is why we come together in the Holy Communion, that great sacrament of unity. There are two sacraments necessary to salvation says the Prayer Book, Baptism and Holy Communion.
In Baptism our estrangement from God is brought to an end, we are reconciled with him through the shedding of the blood of his Son Jesus Christ upon the Cross.
But coming to his Table week by week, and hearing his word proclaimed in Scripture and Sermon; in offering to God the needs of the world in intercession; in bringing to God the Bread and Wine of our lives (rather like bringing flowers to mother) we find that in his hands these very ordinary things, bread, wine, prayers, readings are transformed by him into the very substance of which our relationship with him is made: the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ making us, as the Prayer Book says, "very members incorporate in the mystical body of [God's] Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people".
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