Rev. Andrew Cunnington
22nd March 2020
How Big Does Your Family Feel This Morning?

How big does your family feel this morning?

For me it started out the size of just the three of us. My mum, my dad and me.

But when I married Alison, it all began to explode.

There was suddenly a whole mass of people who were sisters in law and brothers in law. Aunties and Uncles. Nieces and nephews and cousins.

A huge great family who liked nothing better than to get together and party!

And then there was church and parish and the idea of who you might actually belong to, mushroomed out once again.

We are quite a family here at St Matthew’s and I guess today we miss each other.

In recent days the media shouts about “Me! Me! Britain” and there are stories of people pushing and shoving in the shops.

But I want to testify to the goodness and kindness in others that has become more magnified than ever for me – in these first few days of having to live differently.

People coming to the Foodbank to donate both food and money. Others offering their help in making home deliveries to people in need, and this together with the gentleness and grace I have encountered in those coming to the Foodbank because of their great need.

People who may be full of fear and anxiety – but who want to talk and want to be made to smile.

How big does your family feel this morning?

And at the heart of all this – on this day – our Mothers. Who brought us into being and first gave our tiny souls some measure of belonging.

Today may be especially hard as our self isolation prevents us from being in as close a contact with our families as we might be wish to be.

I love the imagery of our last little reading:

“How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not”

Jesus is reported as having said these words as he gazed out over the city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Many of us have stood in that place and shared that view in the little garden just outside the Dominus Flevit church.

As if on that day, and in that moment, if you were to have asked Jesus how big his family felt to him, he would have pointed at that city and said – all of these – all of these and more.

Here is Jesus also in this little image – characterising all that’s best about motherhood. A yearning for us too to be gathered up, from all our towns and families.

It’s very strange to be giving this message to the rows of empty pews where you would usually sit – but I know you are out there somewhere – I learnt yesterday that well over 300 follow us on Facebook and nearly 200 on Twitter, the family is bigger than we know.

But as I look out here in church, I am drawn again to the beautiful west window which tells of the Christmas story and at its centre Mary and Jesus – but around them many, many other faces. Unknown and unnamed – but today as I look it’s as if this holy Mother and child are like the root of all of our family trees and the branches reach out until we are all gathered like fruit upon them.

How big does your family feel this morning?

If you are at home and especially if you are self isolating, the idea of being part of such a family as this may seem fanciful.

And in this sense of absence – it is surely Christ and His Spirit that makes us see that we can still be with each other – in even deeper ways.

As I look out over the empty pews I imagine them all filled and its standing room only at St Matthew’s. We’ve run out of service books again – there are even people queuing at the door.

The family that we are fill the place – we are those of whom Paul wrote in our second reading:

Those before whom every family on earth and heaven is named.

Hebrews 8: 10-12
Ephesians 3: 14-21
Matthew 23: 37