Put away your clothes and tidy your head…

Or at least that’s what my mother used to say back when I had hair that needed tidying…

Last weekend we celebrated Mothering Sunday (well, like most people we called it both Mothers’ Day and Mothering Sunday- for those who want to know, Mothers’ Day is the one in the summer that was originally celebrated in the US, Mothering Sunday is the one in March that was originally celebrated in the UK… both are pretty much about the same thing, but Mothering Sunday also originated within the church as a day to celebrate and remember Mary the mother of Jesus and the character of motherhood that she represents to many- whether you think of her as a teenage refugee or an obedient servant of God, or both)

Anyway, we welcomed visitors and families, we also recognised that many of our church family were away visiting their own mums or being visited by children who’d come to visit for the day- and that’s the other thing that Mothering Sunday used to celebrate- in the 17th century etc, when many young people worked ‘in service’ (think Downton Abbey) they used to have this day off to go home and visit their mothers…

But what’s all this about clothes and tidying up? Well, we were thinking about the characteristics of our mums- the things that make them special to us, and also about the characteristics that we’d like to take on ourselves.  Our thinking on this was partly shaped by remembering our own mums, but also by two other things…

In Colossians, Paul writes to the new Christians that they should ‘clothe themselves’ in certain things- compassion, kindness, humility and generosity among them. Its similar to the way he encourages the Turkish Christians to ‘grow the fruits of the Spirit of God’ in their lives… things that are outwardly visible and demonstrate what’s going on inside our hearts- not being kind so that you can be seen, but because you want to become a kinder person. Its an intentional thing- you get up and choose what to wear, you put on one thing and not another… so what are we putting on? Christians are no more perfect than anyone else, we’re not magically made fantastic the moment we accept that Jesus died on the cross and that he’s God’s son, its a gradual process, that starts with intentional decisions and action…

The other way we were encouraged to think about what we do, how we want to live, was by hearing about the refugee crisis in Europe from a nurse who’d just been in Calais and on Lesvos with Medecins sans Frontieres… she’d been clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, nursing the sick and welcoming the oppressed. And while she and others were doing this, our governments, representing us, were figuring out how best to send back most of the people being helped… somehow we’ve got it into our heads that folks willing to spend 2000Euros to be set adrift in an old leaky boat on the Aegean or Mediterranean, who’re putting their children into these hazardous conditions, are just doing it for fun… or to get our benefits system. The truth is that, yes, they do want our benefits- the things like no one bombing your children’s school or firing mortars at your supermarket… they want to be able to go to the church/mosque/synagogue without fear… they want to be able to make a phone call without worrying that the electricity will be cut off or they’re going to be arrested for speaking to the wrong person. They aren’t that excited about our working family tax credits or the free school meals for under 7’s… they mostly just want to be able to live. And us? We have to decide how to respond, how to encourage our governments to respond… in fear mistrust and selfishness, or with the compassion, generosity and kindness that we’d want to receive ourselves…

so, what are you putting on? what mess needs tidying in your head?

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