Amma Sue - December 2014

posted 31 Dec 2014, 02:51 by Richard Jones   [ updated 31 Dec 2014, 02:51 ]

Dear Friends

 A few years ago I was invited to preach at a Mothering Sunday service. Similarly to our own traditions, the parish had arranged for small posies of flowers to be given to the children in Sunday School so that they could then give them to their mothers, grandmothers, aunts etc. Dutifully the children marched into church after Sunday School and handed over their flowers. Except for one little girl who determinedly stamped up the aisle to the vicar and presented him with the flowers; “Who are these for?” he asked, and with all the withering contempt of a six year old, she replied, “Jesus’ mummy of course!” Suitably chastened he placed them on the altar in the Lady Chapel.

Of course at this time of year our thoughts once again turn to Mary, the Mother of our Lord. And as you all know I have a particular devotion to Our Lady. It’s an aspect of my spirituality that folk often find surprising when they also find out that I used to teach Feminist Theology to trainee priests! However, I don’t believe that the two things cancel each other out. The problem is of course that for most of the church’s history Mary has been imagined as meek, submissive, gentle – and not a little soppy! Of course, not having any detailed biography to go on, Mary, like all saints before the advent of mass communication has most often been made in a particular cultural or ecclesial image. It’s a process to which I and other Feminist theologians, are no less immune as we re-assess our own and the church’s image of and relationship to this amazing first century Jewish woman.

 That said it seems to me that we can infer quite a lot about her life and character even from the small amount of information we have in the Gospels and Acts.

First of all there is her amazing faith and courage. It was her heroic trust and faith in God that led to her Fiat – her wonderful response to God’s request that she enter into partnership with God in bringing about the Kingdom. “Behold the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to you word!” For a first century Jewish woman found to be pregnant outside of marriage this could have been a death sentence. Mary was prepared to put her life on the line for God and God didn’t let her down! From a worried mother of a lost child, through the agony of watching her son die, to the faithful disciple awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit, Mary is the supreme example of faith and faithfulness.

But Mary also stands for us, for she is “everyone”. Mary the human mother gazing in love at her new born baby in the manger didn’t have an easy life. She like her son knew the fear of the refugee; she knew the ups and downs of everyday life; she shared the puzzlement of Jesus’ friends and disciples as he engaged with his earthly ministry. And through it all she ‘pondered these things in her heart.’

Far from being the soppy girl on a Christmas card she was a faithful and heroic disciple of her Son, the Word made Flesh. And she remains an example to us all of perfect discipleship as we celebrate once again her willingness to enter into partnership with Almighty God to bring about God’s plan for the salvation of the world –the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.

Wishing you all a blessed and happy Christmas

Amma Sue