A good lesson, I guess.
Except we’re reminded of it every day…it just intensifies on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, when the 4th of July lands on a Sunday, Veteran’s Day, and when 9/11 marks the first day of the week.
Out of all of those, though, Mother’s Day really does take the cake because it is really intimately tied to culture in a deeply personal way. Mother’s Day is really about sex, sexuality, procreation, choice, marriage, divorce, and choosing to raise/not raise children.
And the pastor’s hands are tied, in this case. Especially if the pastor is accustomed to preaching with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. You cannot mention current events and not mention the reason why so many women are wearing flowers that morning, I think.
Or maybe you can…I don’t know. I haven’t figured out a way to do it.
It’s just, well, whatever you choose, be prepared for the emails, anonymous notes, and comments following the service.
A very popular blog post has been making it’s way around this past week. It’s good. Really good. It’s been around for a few years. Like that picture your mom took of you in the bathtub when you were four, it makes it’s rounds about the same time every year just in time to make you feel really awkward.
Yes, the blog post makes me feel awkward.
As a father, it doesn’t make me feel awkward at all.
As a feminist, it makes me shout “yes!”
As someone who wasn’t always sure they wanted children, it makes me feel affirmed.
As a pastor it makes me feel awkward.
Because it’s indicative of a Catch-22 for me. Mother’s Day isn’t a liturgical holiday, so it really doesn’t need mentioning by the church. And yet, we lift up Mary as the theotokos, the “God-bearer,” and note her motherly care of the Christ. We talk a lot about the “womb of creation” as being God’s womb, and make the case hard for feminine pronouns to describe God, especially pointing to God’s work in creation.
And then comes Mother’s Day.
I’m not for honoring Mother’s Day during a Sunday service. I’m not for pretending it isn’t happening, either. I’m sure there are ways to straddle the desire to lift up mothering in this world while also not glorifying it as the end-all and be-all of existence. I truly get that mothers are proud of that role in their life. I truly get that not all women want to be mothers, and don’t need the church making them feel like they should. Society does that well enough. And I truly get that Mother’s Day is painful for some who are grieving their mother, or who have crappy mothers, or who can’t conceive.
Hopefully your pastor isn’t glib. Hopefully they see all of these realities and try to acknowledge them all. I try to do that…to varying degrees of success.
But it’s just yet another example of why I suck in the department of making people happy. Pastors truly die from a thousand paper-cuts…not just on this topic. Which might be why your pastor responded to your email of “concern” or “complaint” in that way that made you feel like they really didn’t hear you.
It’s probably the fifth email of concern they’ve gotten that day…and they’ve stopped being concerned in order to just finish out the day without feeling absolutely dejected.
But I digress. Back to Mother’s Day.
These fights between cultural holidays and Sunday morning worship sometimes make me want to skip out on church altogether. I don’t blame the women who do on Mother’s Day. And I don’t blame the women who feel slighted when Mother’s Day isn’t talked about at all at worship, either. The church of the past was the place to celebrate such things; for many it still is.
But for me? I’d really just like to say a quiet prayer on Mother’s Day in thanks for God who is mother to us all, call my mom, kiss the mother of my son, greet the young woman who doesn’t want kids where she is, thank the couple who can’t conceive for worshiping God today in our congregation, hug the grandmother who has outlived her children and buried each one with a hug that she won’t get from them, high-five little girls without assuming that they’ll be or want to be mothers, shake the hands of the two fathers who bring their children to church, and not feel like by doing any one of those actions I’m hurting someone else.
Is that too much to ask?