Easter 2: When Wounds & Doubts Meet

This morning I was leading and preaching for the home crowd at St Peter’s Lutheran Church. I love this church and the congregation!  The Sunday after Easter in the lectionary always features the story of Thomas. I am so glad we get to spend the next few weeks looking at the impact of the resurrection on those who were there.

Easter 2

Acts 5:12-32 & John 20:19-31

Risen Christ,
for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred
open the doors of our hearts today.
Help us when we are slow to believe, bring us to a place where we can say, ‘My Lord and my God’,
to the praise of God the Father. Amen.

The tomb is empty, Christ is risen, death has been defeated, love wins, we are a resurrection people, nothing on earth will ever be the same again. Right?
That was last week! Right?

But this week…the Easter lilies are wilting, the chocolate has been eaten, the eggs have been found, it feels wrong to eat hot cross buns and the rest of the world has moved on. Welcome to the Week After.

Now what? Where do we go from here?

Fortunately, in the church we have a few weeks to contemplate the events of Easter, meet the people who were there that first Easter day and see the effects that Jesus’ resurrection had on them and the rest of the world for the last 2000 years. The readings for the first Sunday after Easter traditionally feature the story of Thomas.

I find Thomas to be a rather interesting character. There is very little mention of him in the gospels; he first appears as a name on the list of the disciples first chosen by Jesus. There is no information about what he did for a job, where he came from or his family only that he was a twin.
Thomas is usually portrayed as the dogged disciple – often accused of being slow on the uptake, the doubter. Poor Thomas. Many a sermon has been preached as a warning to not be like Thomas. Thomas the 50% believer – the one who needed everything proved and crystal clear before he could believe.

Don’t doubt just believe! So easy! Sure – if you don’t want to think too hard about anything! We live in an age where doubt has become the predominant form of belief.

But do we doubt the right things?

How many of us questioned whether the water coming out of the tap this morning was safe to drink? Did any of you question the weight-bearing load of the chair you are currently sitting on before you sat on it? How about the time-keeping capabilities of your alarm clock this morning? Don’t get me started on the brakes of your car!

How is it that when a Nigerian prince sends an email asking for help in return for a few million dollars, some people readily hand over their banking details? What about Dr Google? Weight-loss concoctions on Facebook? The perfect lives staged on Instagram? Daily we put ourselves in a high number of situations that we should doubt more than do. We doubt both we see and what we don’t see.

I think there is another side to Thomas; he needs another look in. Maybe Thomas was the disciple who was asking the questions that everybody had but didn’t want to ask out loud. I am not that person! I often find myself grateful and slightly annoyed by those people who can ask questions publicly in meetings or academic settings.Before his comments that made him the poster-boy of doubt for all eternity, Thomas is quoted on two other occasions.

In John 11 the news of Lazarus’ illness has reached Jesus and the disciples. Jesus was on his way to Bethany to be with Lazarus and his sisters and didn’t seem too concerned with the threats to his life. The disciples weren’t sure that this was a great idea as the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were ready to stone Jesus; if not kill him. In the middle of this Thomas proves himself to be man of the moment, a man of passion who declares, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’. The other disciples were ready to run the other way but not Thomas, he was prepared to go to the wire with Jesus. This doesn’t sound like a man who doubts. Maybe Thomas was the disciple who didn’t say much but when he did everyone else listened? Know anyone like that? I suspect that people with this gift are not doubted as much as those who talk incessantly.

Thomas is next recorded as speaking in John 14. Jesus is explaining to the disciples that he is going to leave them. The chapter starts with the reassuring words ‘do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house…’ Jesus is explaining where is going and what he is going to do there; he also tells the disciples that they know the way. It is Thomas who pipes up and says, ‘we don’t know where you are going so how can we know the way?!’ Jesus was obviously not being clear enough for Thomas. It is also likely the other disciples did not understand what Jesus meant either.

Jesus responds to Thomas with some of the most beautiful words ever to fall from his mouth. Jesus tells Thomas ‘I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’ Thomas has been told; he has seen the Father in the Son.

So where was he on the evening of that first day of that week when Jesus appeared? The news of the resurrection was fresh and raw, the disciples were living in fear of the Jews and had locked themselves away. As we know the end of the story, their confusion and grief can often escape us. Maybe it was all a bit too much for Thomas? Some people stay away and hide when life gets tough. The disciples were together but Thomas was not with them. Alone time?

That following week must have been torture for Thomas. The disciples had received the Holy Spirit (a whole sermon on its own for another day!) and were in much better moods! I am sure we have all had to miss events due to circumstances. Then those who did attend the event talk on incessantly about it, down to every last detail, the play by play of every moment. And no matter the minutia of detail – you still weren’t there!

It would be reasonable to believe that Thomas become more entrenched in his declaration to see the nail marks and the side wound. Jesus returns again. This time just for Thomas. Thomas the one who doesn’t get much mention, says a couple of brilliant things that we know about, was there through it all and then disappeared in grief and confusion. In a moment in the presence of Jesus, Thomas’ excuses and defences are dropped. Jesus invites Thomas to put his fingers in his hands and in his side.

The text doesn’t say if he did or not; notice that John doesn’t record whether Thomas actually touched Jesus or not. All it gives us is Thomas’ verbal reply of ‘My Lord and my God.’ In this moment, Jesus firmly but gently reminds Thomas that he believes because he has seen (at least twice). Thomas is responsible for the blessing that the whole rest of the world gets for not seeing and yet believing.

I want to finish off with a final observation:

Thomas was part of a community where he openly voices his doubt. Like I said, Thomas has been portrayed negatively as the doubter, one of weak faith, the cynic, the holdout. These are often seen as spiritual flaws. I don’t see Thomas as weak, I see him as a man who wanted a living encounter with Jesus. Thomas wasn’t going to settle for someone else’s experience of the resurrection but wanted his own. Thomas was willing to admit his uncertainty in the midst of those who were certain. This is bravery.

Thomas doubted openly, without shame or guilt and his community allowed him to do so. They seemingly could handle his doubt. He wasn’t told to shut up or hide his doubts. Again, maybe he just said what others were feeling or thinking?

How does this community respond to doubt? Is this a place where they can be shared openly without fear of judgment or silencing?

When Jesus’ wounds met Thomas’ doubts, new life erupted. In Acts 5 the apostles are performing miraculous signs and wonders among the people of Jerusalem, people were believing in Jesus and being healed. I wonder how many times Thomas told people ‘blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed?’

What happened to Thomas? Tradition holds that when the apostles were dispersed after Pentecost, Thomas was sent to evangelize the Parthians, Medes and Persians before he ultimately reached the Malabar coast of southwest India. There is a large native population there calling themselves ‘Christians of St Thomas.’ Unlike most of the other disciples/apostles who were killed for their faith in quite gory ways, it is thought that Thomas was killed in a tragic peacock hunting accident when the hunter missed the bird and hit Thomas instead.

Where are we left with Thomas this morning? Maybe Thomas is the 110% believer – the one who wants to give everything. The one who has so much riding on his commitment to Jesus that he just has to know that he is right. If Thomas is going to give it all – he needs to know he is not making a fool of himself. ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails…’ insists Thomas.

This is not a man of weakness but rather one we can learn from, even if uncomfortably. The things that make Thomas seem weak or doubtful are what makes him strong, his willingness to press on and ask the questions that others won’t. Thomas shares his doubts willingly and Jesus responds and meets him where he is at.

The good news for us the week after Easter is that Jesus still meets us where we are at too. He is not afraid of our doubts, our wavering or our slowness. We, like Thomas, can hope for more. So let’s!

Easter Vigil: Don’t Be Afraid, Come and See

Tonight is my favourite service of the year – the Easter Vigil. I love this service because it has all the elements that I love. It starts outside and in the dark with the lighting of the Paschal candle before processing into the church, the Exultant is sung, baptism vows are renewed and the first Eucharist is celebrated. Tonight I have been invited to preach.

St Thomas – Easter Vigil

Romans 6:3-11
Matthew 28:1-10

Risen Christ,
for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred:
open the doors of our hearts,
that we may seek the good of others
and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace,
to the praise of God the Father. Amen

I took the time this week to read and re-read the four gospel accounts of the first Easter Day. There are of course many similarities and many differences given the differing perspectives each of the writers had on this one event. I don’t think these differences diminish one over another but gives a richness, a fullness to the whole story.

I tend to like the mention of the women bringing perfume and spices in Mark and Luke. My younger sister on hearing one of these accounts at Sunday School, asked our Mum if she would please put perfume and spices on my sister’s body when she died. This was quite profound for a five-year-old: when she died, not if she died.

With all their differences there are things common to them accounts. One of these is that each gospel tells of something completely unexpected. Despite his teaching, Jesus’ followers had no expectation that he would rise from the dead. The resurrection came as a wonderful surprise!

My hope is that we have not lost the surprise of the resurrection. Yes we have the benefit of hindsight and we know how the story ends but this came mean that we lose the expectation, the surprise.

When was the last time you were genuinely surprised by something that blew away your expectations? Can we, for a few minutes, place ourselves in the story tonight? Try to forget that we know the ending?

There are three common elements in the four gospel accounts: the empty tomb, the announcement of the resurrection to the women, and the meeting of the disciples with the risen Jesus.

The empty tomb is found as the first day of the week was dawning, very early, while it is still dark; darkness signifies confusion and lack of understanding. Matthew does not make mention of the perfume and spices; the women would not have been able to see very much in the darkness and the guards wouldn’t have let them anyway.

For Matthew, the only reason the Marys were there was to see the tomb. They were there. They had seen the condition of Jesus’ body as they were at the cross until the end. I’m not sure if they wanted to see the body again, that would have been a horrible sight. Yet they were still willing to go, just to be there. How ready are we to go to in darkness and confusion, when things don’t make sense? When the job that is at hand is pretty horrible?

I don’t want to dampen the festive mood too much but neither do I want to gloss over the events of that first Easter morning. The sun rose that day as it has every day since but that isn’t to say that it was all Easter bonnets and bunnies.

I remember watching Cardinal Luis Tagle, he is the Archbishop of Manilla and the president of Caritas (the largest charity in the world) be interviewed; he is a very smiley and jovial man. He was asked about this and he commented, ‘as a people, it is true that for me and many Filipinos that we smile and laugh a lot because we cry a lot. People who have suffered know who to smile.’

In a few verses, the Marys leave the tomb quickly with fear and great joy. They went to the tomb to do one thing that they had expected and planned to do yet came away totally differently. They had to cry a lot before the joy came.

We will get to the joy but not quite yet!

I think that I have always pictured that first Easter morning as a fairly calm affair. The sun rose, the tomb was empty. I want it to be a calm affair – help my nerves Lord. No earthquakes and be-dazzled angels looking like lighting. I do like this angel though as he rolled back to stone and gets to the point. He also has two very important messages for the Marys.

The first one is: ‘Do not be afraid, I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.

What are you afraid of?
What is it the keeps you awake in the middle of the night?

I am afraid of being forgotten, left behind or left out. I was on a ride along shift with Thames Valley Police emergency response Team 5 last night. I had been working on one of the computers when I realised the crew that had been assigned to look after me weren’t in the report room anymore. My first thought was, they forgot me.

Just as I am thinking this thought, another officer came to tell me that the crew had gone down to the wash bay and I was to meet them there in 5 minutes. Still convinced that I was to be left behind, I grabbed my hi-vis and went outside to the cars. The crew were washing the car and had decided to hoover it as well as they had ‘their vicar’ riding with them. Not only had I not been forgotten, special attention was being paid to make sure that I was not forgotten!

We get so convinced sometimes that we know! And so often we don’t. In the Romans reading, Paul talks of having the old self crucified with him so that sin might be destroyed; and we can be free. I think that I still have some of the old self still be crucified.

The angel knew exactly what the Marys were looking for. He knew their fears, their confusion and doubt. They get addressed! By showing up at the tomb, despite their feelings and their fears, the Marys have these very things addressed.

There is a lesson in this for those of us who have real fears. Bring them in the dark to God so he can reveal his light. He knows. You aren’t hiding anything from him. For some of us, we need to face up to our fears, get up close to them and see them for what they are. Sometimes they are nothing but by getting a closer look we can see that for ourselves.

Here’s the other thing, you don’t just have to take his word for it. The angel invites the Marys to ‘Come, see the place where he lay.’ The stone was rolled away, they could see for themselves that Jesus was not there. In my relatively trivial example of the police last night, I was not only told but was shown that I was not forgotten or about to be left behind.

Come and see that the Lord is good.

The Marys come to see and then they had to go with the message for the disciples that Jesus was going ahead of them to Galilee and will meet them there. Obedient to the instructions with fear and great joy they go.
Suddenly Jesus met them.

Suddenly! No expectation from the Marys, Jesus is there in front of them. Taking hold of his feet, without shame or reservation. Jesus wasn’t a ghost or an illusion – the resurrection body was real. Jesus knows the fear that his sudden appearing would have provoked. He welcomes them, the Mary’s knew who it was and worshipped him.

All four gospel accounts start in both literal and metaphorical darkness, in confusion, fear and no expectations of the resurrection. Each account ends with the proclamation that the Risen Jesus is indeed light and life.

We mirror this in the first Easter Eucharist we are about to celebrate tonight. We began in darkness, in fear. The fears that we have are known to God if no one else. We are invited in the Eucharist to exchange our fears, our slavery to that fear with light and life. We are invited to come, see the place where he lay; eat and drink in remembrance of what Jesus has done for us, and then go and tell so we too might walk in the newness of life.

Lent 5: Forget & Go Forward


Lent 5

Isaiah 43:16-21
Philippians 3:4-14
John 12:1-8

Quite to my surprise and delight I discovered that I have never preached a sermon on the anointing of Jesus. And just when I thought there wasn’t many new things left to do!

All three readings this morning present the opportunity for new things, more specifically taking old things, old life and making them new again. In order to do this, there is a call to forget what is behind and lean towards the future.

Isaiah reminds us of God who makes ways where there wasn’t one. The reference to ‘making a way in the sea’ is from Exodus when God parted the Red Sea to free the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. This was a pivotal event in their history; they are never to forget what God did for them.

However, God is now saying it is time for a new way, this time in the wilderness and not the sea. ‘I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.’ God will take what looks dry and dead and make it alive again – don’t you get it?! Pay attention – perceive it! This section of Isaiah (ch 40-55) is dominated by the theme of salvation through suffering, known as the Servant Songs. Christians have long identified the suffering servant of Isaiah with Jesus as there are many NT references connected to this portion of Isaiah. It is the suffering servant, Jesus, who is to come, he is the new thing. Easter reminds us once again of death and new life we find in Jesus.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he tells again of his encounter with Jesus. This has caused him to look back at his life and Paul has come to the conclusion that everything that he was and had done: his confidence in the flesh, his pedigree, his zeal in keeping Jewish law was rubbish in comparison to knowing and having faith in Jesus. This is quite an extraordinary statement.

Beth Moore writes of Paul’s (then known as Saul) life was like before meeting Jesus: ‘We cannot begin to comprehend what Saul’s life was like when he sought to live by the letter of the law. Daily rituals determined the first words out of his mouth, the way he took off his nightclothes and put on his day clothes, how he sprinkled his hands before breakfast. He carefully avoided eating or drinking quickly and never ate while standing. He avoided certain sleeping positions and chose others. Tossing and turning through the night is misery to us, but to Saul it could have been sin. These are but a few examples of the how Saul and his contemporaries attempted to live by the law blamelessly. This is what happens when we take love for God out of obedience to God. The result is law. Without love for God and His Word, we’re just trying to be good.’

It is exhausting! Being a Christian is not primarily about ‘being good’ – anyone can do that whether they believe in God or not. It is about love for God, for Jesus and the Word. Love and obedience go together.

Paul wants nothing more than to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and sharing in his sufferings. This is new for Paul, and to embrace this, he finds that he needs to put to death his former life so that he can reach for the ‘prize of the heavenly call of God in Jesus’.

Both Isaiah and Paul tell readers that they must forget what is behind. Isaiah says ‘do not remember the former things.’ Paul: ‘forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.’ New things are coming! Jesus is coming! Learn from the past but don’t be bound by it. The past can teach and illustrate but it must not bind. God always has greater things in store; he is revealed in the past, but he is always more than the past revealed.

This too is what we see in the story of Mary of Bethany. This is not the first time that Mary has been at the feet of Jesus. All four gospels have similar accounts of this one event. There has been great confusion over which Mary this is. Is it Mary Magdalene? Who is Mary of Bethany? Are they the same person or two different women?

I think it is likely that two events took place – this event in John, Matthew and Mark and a second event with an unnamed woman in Luke. Matthew, Mark & John have similar accounts of where this took place and who was there; Luke’s is quite different.

Anyway – back to Mary of Bethany. This event takes place in Bethany at the home of Simon the Leper and Martha (sister of Mary and Lazarus) is serving. Bethany literally means ‘the house of the poor’, it was a place sort of like a hospice where the sick, the needy and the poor could be cared for. It then makes sense that Lazarus lived there. He lives with his sisters and probably none of them were married. Where were their parents? How did they get money? Where did the alabaster jar come from? I love this story because it presents so many questions!

Like in her last encounter with Jesus and his feet (Luke 10), Mary is not where she is supposed to be according to the cultural norms and expectations of society. Women would have eaten separately away from the men. Maybe sister Martha was yet again lamenting Mary’s lack of help in serving.

If her sitting at Jesus’ feet last time was disturbing, what she does here is scandalous. Both in the extravagance and the method. The nard would have been imported from northern India. How did a family living ‘in the house of the poor’ afford that? Judas quite rightly pointed out the value – 300 denarii was about a year’s salary for a day labourer. In the UK currently an annual salary on minimum wage is just over £17k. Would you spend that on a jar perfume to wipe on someone’s feet?

The other piece of this story that is disturbing is Mary using her hair to wipe Jesus’ feet. Jewish women did not let down their hair in public. This would have been seen as a very improper, if not erotic act. If you think about, we don’t touch each other’s hair when we meet or greet. There is no indication of why Mary did this.

One commentary reflected that: ‘The most obvious possibility was her sheer gratitude for what Jesus had done for her brother and the revelation it brought to her of Jesus’ identity, power, authority and grace. John’s focus on her anointing Jesus’ feet points to Mary’s great humility. As she has come to realize a bit more of the one who has been a friend to her and her brother and sister, her faith deepens and she recognizes her unworthiness. The humility of her act prepares us to be all the more scandalized when Jesus himself washes his disciples’ feet in the next chapter.’

Jesus sees his anointing by Mary as a reference to his coming death. There was more than enough nard to anoint an entire body and then some in that jar. This is part of the extravagance of Mary’s action although Mark and Matthew both reference Mary to having anointed Jesus’ head.

Either way, it can be taken as a display of sheer gratitude for what Jesus had done for her and her family. It is unlikely that Mary would ever forget when her brother Lazarus died and was raised to life again. Though Mary won’t be bound by it. Looking ahead (even if she didn’t know it at the time) to Jesus’ impending death and in the moment her overwhelming desire to be close to Jesus.

How close are we this morning to Jesus in our lives? Can we see his feet? Are we perceiving new things? Are there some things from the past we need to forget so that we can move forward, and stop being bound by them?

Paul reminds us again of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus and all else is rubbish! In Mary of Bethany we see someone who defies the rules and defies taboos out of her commitment to and gratitude for what Jesus has done.

As we continue on this journey of Lent, let’s give some thought to where we are in relation to Jesus. ‘I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and share in his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,’ says Paul. It is time to strain forward for what lies ahead.

Lent 4: Giving Up

I realize that this is a couple of days late in posting as Mothering Sunday in the UK was this past Sunday. I believe that sermons should be the most useful not on Sunday but later in the week as we live and love and get on with the business of life. I talk about the giving up of motherhood that Moses’ mother and Mary experienced. In this season of Lent we too are asked to give up. It feels hard to do today!

Lent 4 – Mothering Sunday

Exodus 2:1-10
Psalm 34:1-11
2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Luke 2: 33-35

While I fully appreciate and celebrate Mothering Sunday for the joy that it brings, I know that this day is difficult for many people. Motherhood can bring great heartache for many different reasons; for those who wanted to be mothers but were not able to for various reasons, the mothers who found it difficult to be a mother and carry that guilt or resentment. Some people’s mothers weren’t exactly as loving and caring as they were supposed to be and the hurt of that lingers on. I think of the mother’s whose children have died before them and the enormity of that grief. Others here may be missing their mothers who are far away or no longer living.

It is important to hold these tensions together this morning as this is what church family does. We rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Yet we try to find a way to celebrate mothers and motherhood for the joy and delight it brings. I know that motherhood has brought joy to many here as I have listened to your stories and remembered you and them in my prayers.

The aspect of motherhood that I want to focus on today is one that most people overlook or portray in a negative light: ‘giving up’ that is required of mothers.

The giving up of motherhood begins in pregnancy with the giving up of one’s body as it is inhabited by another. Not having ever experienced this I can only imagine what this would be like. Everything is shared as a mother must care for her own body so that it can provide the right environment for the baby as it grows and changes.

Mothers may also have to give up or at least put aside their own dreams and goals for the sake of their child/children. This can be harder for some than for others. This is a considerable issue for many young women in the current workplace; women who put off having a family for their careers face consequences of fertility issues as they age. Some women also need to consider the effects that having a family can present to career advancement later. Many women must go to work out of financial necessity so staying home is not an option for many. We can also fall into the trap that ‘giving up’ something must always be framed in a negative light; that giving up is the same as giving in. It is not!

In this season of Lent, we are asked to give up those things (albeit temporarily) which distract us from our relationships with God. Part of our growth and maturity as Christians is to give up those things that ultimately bring harm to ourselves and others. Giving up is not always a bad thing! It can be a challenge, – especially if that something is not what we are prepared to give up. But that doesn’t mean it is a bad thing.

But to give up a child? Or give up on the prospect of having children for the sake of a career or vocation? It’s one thing to lay off the booze and biscuits – but a baby?!

In our readings this morning we see two mothers, Moses’ unnamed mother and Mary, who both must give up their children. Moses’ mother does what she can to keep him hidden until it was no longer possible. She did not want to let him go but ultimately does. Mary is told that she will give birth to the Son of the Most High.

Mary may not have understood what this meant at the time but there was a plan and purpose for her child’s life known to God. Moses’ mother has no assurance of that that, no guarantee that he would be safe and not drown in the Nile, no safety net that putting him in a basket and floating him down the river would work out in the end. Both mothers simply trust that their sons will be taken care.

Moses’ Mother

I think that Moses’ mother was a very brave and cleaver woman. At this time in Israel’s history, the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt and Pharaoh has commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill any baby boys but to let the baby girls live. The midwives feared God and let the boys live. When Moses was born his mother saw that he was ‘fine’ and she kept him and hid him. Risking his life and her own. She had no idea if anyone would rescue him from the water.

In a rather cleaver move, we can assume, that she sent her daughter, the unnamed sister, to stand at a distance and watch. She might have hoped that an Egyptian would rescue him. Moses was rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, the very person who was demanding his little life. Did she mean to give her baby to the slave-driver of her people?

By giving him up, Moses’ mother saved his life and got him back. She was good to her word; nursed him and when he grew up took him back to Pharaoh’s daughter. Sometimes we are asked to give things up, we might do it for the season of Lent or maybe it is a permanent give up. If we do it because God has asked it of us, we get it back, maybe not in the way we think we will or even in this lifetime, but God will replace what we have given with better things. God is faithful and knows what we sacrifice and will care for us and love us through it.


These few verses are part of the bigger story of Mary and Joseph taking Jesus to the Temple to undergo the purification rituals required of new Jewish parents.

The whole of Christian life is one of blessing and sacrifice – we see that in the stories of Moses’ mother, Joseph and Mary. They were given their babies to care for and then had to give them back to God.

In this exchange in the Temple, Mary and Joseph are probably shocked at what Simeon has to say! All parents learn about their children by getting to know them, spending time together, paying attention to them. I would suggest that very few parents learn about their children, let alone their future through elderly strangers at church! Mary and Joseph do not know very much about their baby – up to this point, the shepherds knew more than they did.

Simeon doesn’t bless baby Jesus – instead he blesses Mary. Mary and Joseph needed to be blessed! Tough times were ahead for them! They may not have fully realized in that moment what they were being told or fully understood the sacrifice that was to come. Simeon tells Mary and Joseph that, ‘this child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed.’ Jesus would be the baby who grew up to become to new Passover lamb. The one who would be sacrificed for the sins of the whole world.

Lent is a season of sacrifice; giving up those things that we are either asked to by God or voluntarily give to him. Moses’ mother got her baby back to give him up again later into the household of Israel’s oppressor. Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the Temple where his future was spoken over him, much to their surprise. They received a blessing of mercy. Why? Mary would one day stand at the foot of the cross while her first-born was crucified for the sins of the world.

How much sacrifice of giving up is asked of us? I don’t think we can quite compare with Moses’ mother or Mary. In the crucifixion and resurrection, we see the ultimate act of sacrifice and the greatest act of blessing. We are blessed and restored through the sacrifice and giving up of Jesus and Mary.

Jesus cares for us completely and fully. However much or little we are/were loved by our mothers, Jesus loves us more, cares more deeply, knows us better and longer than they ever will. This is also true for those of you with children – Jesus loves them more than you do!

Wherever you sit today in the range of feelings on yet another Mothering Sunday – bless you. Let the love of God fall on you today.