“Mothers’ Union is an international Christian charity that seeks to support families worldwide.”
Deuteronomy 4:32-40; 2 Timothy 1:15 – 2:13.
In 1876, Mary Sumner gathered together the women of her parish to discuss the possibility of having regular meetings in order to help one another realise their potential and responsibilities as wives and mothers. From these small beginnings, as I’m sure you already know, has grown a society with over half a million members in more than 244 diocese in 45 countries all over the world. Listed amongst the aims and objectives in the philosophy of the Mothers’ Union are two statements which say this: The objectives of the Mothers’ Union are to promote conditions in society favourable to stable family life and the protection of children, and, to help those whose family life has met with adversity.
I was born in February 1963. Six months later, Dr Martin Luther King Jr stood at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C and delivered what is probably his most memorable and oft quoted speech, usually referred to as the “I have a dream” speech.
Eight years before, back in 1955, a 42 year old lady by the name of Rosa Parks, boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama on her way home from work, and sat down in a vacant seat. She was exhausted. Her neck, shoulders and back ached from sewing alterations all day. A few white people boarded the bus after Rosa, and they all found seats, except for one white man. The bus driver asked someone to give up a seat, meaning that a black person was to give up a seat for the white person. Since Rosa was sitting on a seat closest to the front and closest to the aisle, everyone looked at her. But Rosa would not budge. Finally, two police officers arrested her. Rosa’s arrest stirred up an uproar in the black community. People were furious at the unfairness of forcing a black woman to give up her seat on a bus to a white man just because of her skin colour. People gathered at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church to organise a bus boycott that made history and brought Martin Luther King Jr to national attention. The 381-day boycott required intense patience and endurance as the organisers set up car pools to transport workers who relied on the buses. The boycott succeeded when Montgomery buses were made desgregated in 1956. No longer would blacks be forced to give up their seats for whites. It was because of Rosa Parks’s patience and the patience of the boycott leaders, that the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s was born.
The patience that Rosa showed is the same patience that Paul showed in our New Testament reading this morning. And it seems to me that desegregation and civil rights are just the sort of thing that the Mothers’ Union would support, indeed may very well have done so during the 50’s and 60’s.
In that famous speech that I mentioned earlier, Martin Luther King says this: “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places shall be made straight and the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. This will be the day when all God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning – My country ‘tis of thee; sweet land of liberty; of thee I sing; land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride; from every mountain side, let freedom ring.”
Today civil rights issues may not be so prevalent or they may have taken on a different form, but the society in which we are bringing our children into and trying to raise our families in, is still as much in need of our prayers as it has ever been if we are to see the fulfillment of those objectives I mentioned earlier. You as the Mothers’ Union and all of us as the body of the Church need to have that same patience and endurance that was shown by St. Paul and by Rosa if we are to see a better society and a better world for our families and our children’s children.
We may feel imprisoned or persecuted not so much because of our race or colour any more – all though this is still an issue in some areas of society – but more by unemployment or lack of benefits, perhaps by bullying or violence, perhaps even by sexual harrassment or persecution. We may feel trapped in our marriage or at the end of our tether in a relationship. Whatever it is, we are still seeking that freedom from the chains that bind us and the prisons that hold us.
Dr King concludes his famous oratory with these words.
“And when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children – black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Catholics and Protestants – will be able to join hands and to sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”