Material for Worship on Mothering Sunday 27th March 2022

“What’s in a name?” writes Peter. Have you ever seen eagles in Gleneagles? No?, that’s because the name has nothing to do with eagles but is probably from the Gaelic Gleann eaglais (a glen with a church). Linguists call this “folk etymology”, where a name in one language is given a name that sounds like it by speakers of a different language.

So too the Egyptian name given to Moses by Pharaoh’s daughter gets changed into a Hebrew word –  Moshe, which means “to draw (or pull) out”. The woman who drew him out of the water was of course his real mother, and she had put him there in the first place. So this Hebrew name tells us that she was not only his mother but also his midwife (Exodus 2 vs 1-10). Being drawn up out of the water is like a new birth and the basket in which he floated was his second womb.

From a Christian perspective there are parallels with baptism. Our baptism liturgy talks about new life and new birth and the Church is referred to as our mother, one of the themes of Mothering Sunday. Two of the earliest women Christian writers explore this link between birth and the Christian life. The English 14th century mystic, Lady Julian of Norwich, writes: “By the skill and wisdom of [Christ] we are sustained, restored and saved … for he is our Mother, Brother and Saviour. … We owe to him all the delightful, loving protection which ever follows.” In her poem “Baptism” a German nun Hildegard of Bingen (approx 1098-1179) writes:

Love’s hidden thread has drawn us to the font,

A wide womb floating on the breath of God.

In a moving passage in Hosea 11, God himself is portrayed as a mother: “Yet it was I who taught Ephraim [ie. my people] to walk … I held them with cords of compassion, with the bands of love”. Jesus compares the coming of God’s kingdom as “the beginning of the birth-pangs” (Matthew 24), an image picked up by Paul in Galatians 4. The fulfilment of Jesus’ promises is therefore to be preceded by pain and trials; and indeed Simeon says to Mary, the new mother, “a sword will pierce your own soul too”. A colleague of mine sometimes baptised people in Lake Geneva (rather him than me!), and we can imagine the shock of being plunged into the cold water and then the joy of rising to new birth in Christ.

In our Lent book, The Book of Joy, Desmond Tutu takes up the same theme. “Think of a mother who is going to give birth. All of us want to escape pain. And mothers know they are going to have the great pain of giving birth. [But] once the baby is out, you can’t measure the mother’s joy. It is one of those incredible things that joy can come so quickly from suffering.”

Today, some people criticise Christianity for being male-centred. But yet, when we look beyond the Mother’s Day flowers and greetings cards, we discover that so much of our faith is bound up with the essence of motherhood – baptism and birth, Church and cherishing, joy through pain, the way of pain that leads to Easter – from tomb to womb.


Some thoughts for reflection that lead to prayer, produced for today by the Mothers Union

Take a moment after every section to bring our own response to God and to remember those we know for whom it is particularly relevant.


In every family there are seasons of joys and challenges:

Seasons of laughter, and seasons of sadness.

Times of unexpected joy, and times of unwanted trauma.

Circumstances to cherish, and circumstances to overcome.

Seasons of harmony, and seasons of discord.

Times of resilience, and times of weakness.

Moments to look forward with hope, and moments to look back with thanksgiving.

God in every circumstance and season, we bring you our worship and praise.


And to end, we ask God’s blessing


May the Lord who provides for all our needs, sustain us day by day.

May the Lord whose steadfast love, is constant as a mother’s care, send us out to live and work for others.

And may the blessing of God Almighty.

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be with us and remain with us always.