This morning we have some letters scattered around the church. Let's see what we can spell with them.
To begin with - who has got a letter 'M'?
We only need one 'M' for the moment, so the other one can wait until later. It's not hard to guess what this 'M' might stand for today, because we all know that it's Mother's Day, or Mothering Sunday. So we'll begin with an M for mother.
We'll add onto that M a letter 'U'.
Put a U next to the M and you get the initials of an organisation that's very important in our church here and in churches all over the world. The Mothers' Union. Today is a special day for the Mothers' Union because one of the main things they do is to support Christian family life. And that's exactly what we're celebrating today.
So we have M and U, so let's add on to that a letter 'S'.
Which makes SUM. Sums are about adding things up. And one of the things we do today is to add up all the things about our mothers - and other people who care about us too - that we want to celebrate and say 'thank you' for.
And now we'll add on the letter 'T'.
And that turns our word into the word MUST. Mothering is so important! And so is saying thank-you for the care and love that mothers can give. It's something we really MUST do, and it's good that we have this day to do it.
Well, that's our first word.
Perhaps we can start our second word with the same letter - 'M'.
M for mothers, M for Mothering Sunday - which isn't just about our own mums, but is also about Mothering of every kind. Some people talk about our 'Mother Church' where we learn how to live together as God's family; and the Bible even talks about God loving us and caring for us like a mother hen caring for her chicks, and hiding them under her wing.
This time our second letter is 'E'.
Which of course turns our word into ME. Whoever I am, the theme of today affects me. I may not be a mother, or I may not have a mother - but mothering is something we all do, really, and we all have done to us. Caring for each other, being cared for too. That's what should be happening in God's family, all the time.
Now for a third letter, 'G'.
That turns our word into GEM. A gem is a jewel, something precious and special and rather beautiful. Which is what mothers are. There is a Jewish proverb that says: "God couldn't be everywhere, all the time. That's why he made mothers."
Finally, we'll add two letters at once, and they are 'A' and 'R'.
And there we have our word. The world's number one supermother, Marge Simpson. I'm serious, although she is a cartoon character. If you watch the Simpsons, Marge is the one who is the focus for love and care, the one who provides and guides, the one who worries too - and, along with Lisa, most of the time the only one with any sense. A real model of motherhood, though with a rather strange hairdo.
Two words, MARGE MUST. Marge must what? Actually, they're not yet the right words. What we need to do is to swap a few letters around, and add in another 'R' which really should be ARE . . .
. . . and THEN we have the central message of today. MUMS R GREAT - that's why we send the cards, and that's why we give the flowers, and that's why we have this service here in church.
For we MUST give thanks for mothers and mothering: for this is one practical way in which God's love is revealed among us and lived out in our lives - in the caring and giving, the loving and the sacrificing (even) that is what real mothers and real mothering is all about. God is served not just by what we do in church, or in our prayers and our singing of hymns, though all these things are important - but in the caring, loving and giving way in which we live our lives, and in mothers, and mothering, and families.