Monday, April 15, 2013

The ministry of motherhood

May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

In the Gospel reading chosen for today by Frances' children, Jesus tells his disciples that in his Father's house are many mansions and that he goes to prepare a place there for them. It is passage of scripture commonly heard at funerals and with good reason: at times like these we need the comfort and assurance that there is a life beyond this one; and that part of that life is the hope we have of eternal life with our Creator in heaven.

It is not for us to know, of course, who does or does not attain to that reward. But we can look for signs from a person's life, indicators which may tell us whether a person has been a good and faithful servant, worthy to enter into the happiness of their master. And it is quite clear that Frances was certainly a good and faithful servant. If you were to talk with her family about her faith, you would hear them speak of a woman to whom her faith and her church were central parts of her life. Not just by way of being part of the vestry, or cleaning, or spending hours in the kitchen preparing for bake sales, important as they are; but by her quiet Sunday by Sunday faith, attending services and never missing a Sunday when she was in her health and strength. 'Sunday is Sunday,' she told her children. And on Sunday you went to church and that was it – no excuses! Later, when she couldn't get out as much herself, she remained interested in the life of the parish, of course, and she remained faithful in her worship by way of home communions. She preferred the forms of the services from the old Prayer Book, particularly when her eyesight wasn't as good and she began to find it harder to read the services, because she all but knew the older versions off by heart, and could say the responses from memory.

But her faith was not something that was simply turned in on itself, concerned solely with herself. Just as there are many mansions in God's house, there are many ministries within his Church; and that of the faithful, Christian mother is far from being the least of them. Frances saw it as her duty as a Christian mother to raise her children in the faith, and to encourage them to persevere in it. She did this as a young mother by not only sending them to the parish school and to Sunday school, but by insisting that they attend Sunday services. Sunday is Sunday, and that's all there is to it was not only something she lived as part of her own life, but that she shared with those in her care. And later, when it was their decision, not hers, that didn't stop her from asking them if they had been to Church that Sunday. And of course, she extended her ministry down to the next generation, constantly inquiring if her beloved grandson had been to church on Sunday. Indeed, as her son was telling me she didn't limit her ministry of encouragement to her close family: she would regularly inquire of those who came in to assist him care for him at home if it was Sunday, and if it was had they been to Church!

It might seem like a very slight ministry, that of simply asking and encouraging others to go to Church of a Sunday … but I suspect that if there were more people like Frances in the world who were not afraid or embarrassed quietly to remind their sons or daughters, their grandchildren, friends, neighbours, or acquaintances of their Christian duty to faithfully worship, Sunday by Sunday, who remembered that the love we have for the people in our lives is not limited to caring about them in this life, but extends to being concerned about their hope of life in the next; and were willing to lead by example when it comes to that duty, then the world would be a very different place.

After Jesus told his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them with the Father, Thomas, brave Thomas, asked him how they could know the way to the place that he was going. And Jesus replied that he was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Through the quiet faith that Frances lived and shared with others all her life she showed that she did indeed know that Christ was the Way, the Truth, and the Life; and we can therefore have full confidence in our hope that she is with him this day in his Father's house of many mansions. Amen.

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