Archive for May 5th, 2009

Mother’s Day Sermons….Ugh.

Caryn: After church this past Sunday, “Pastor Gregg” (which is his actual name, but I thought for some reason it would be funny to make it seem sketchy) asked me if I had any wisdom to impart as he prepared his Mother’s Day sermon for this coming Sunday. The text apparently is Genesis 29ish where Jacob marries Leah and Rachel (we’re working through a series on this crazy family. Seriously, it’s been a blessing because these OT guys make me feel so much better about my own fam!). But because of this text he was understandably feeling a tad unsure of how this could tie into Mother’s Day in any sort of nice fashion.

So I did my quick little Mother’s Day thing about how the truth is that most of us just actually want the day OFF, a day AWAY from the children and husbands we love so so much. How the perfect Mother’s Day really requires no mothering. Then I went into my little joke about how I think we really could use another wife in my house. “A good one, though, this time,” I said for the millionth time in my life because I don’t think “Pastor Gregg” had heard my spiel (he’s new). “One who can clean the house and watch the kids.”

He didn’t think it was quiet as funny as I do, I don’t think, but he didn’t look at me like I was TOO insane, which was good.

So anyway, all this to say I totally blanked in any wisdom I could impart on this topic, so I said I’d get back to him. This is my getting back to him.

Here’s what I really think about Mother’s Day at church. I like when we hand out those yummy free-trade chocolate bars at the end of the service to ALL women (but I will be okay if we had to ixnay those due to budget concerns!). I love that my pastors always mention the women who long to be mothers but have not yet had that dream fulfilled (the Leah and Rachel thing works well for this!). But I always get worried that a Mother’s Day sermon will feel forced, or worse, “light.”

I mean, I just got a catalog from a local Christian book store, featuring all sorts of crap for Mother’s Day. Tea cups. Stupid plaques. Gift books. (Of course, I’m bitter because MY book wasn’t featured, but this bitter bias doesn’t mean it’s not true). Essentially a bunch of Jesus junk that no mom actually needs. Nothing to encourage moms to go deep into their gifts, to focus on their Maker to see how we’re made and who they’re made to be. Nothing to challenge them in to live out faith in daring, dangerous ways. Nothing to get to know God better. Nothing deep, powerful, impactful, moving, meaningful, eternal….

Now. If you like this sort of stuff, great. Fine. Good. But I’m so tired of Mother’s Day being light and fluffy. I think moms should be celebrated—but not coddled. Mother’s Day just perpetuates the lowering-the-standard thing that happens to women when they become moms. Like having children should zap out every other meaningful, challenging thing (including getting deep with God, if we’re honest) in our lives.

Back to my advice to “Pastor Gregg.” Say Happy Mother’s Day. And then preach the sermon that God spilled into your heart and head. Don’t make it about Mother’s Day. Where the Holy Spirit guides you is where it needs to go and what mothers and fathers and non-moms and non-dads and kids and old people and singles and gay people and whoever else is sitting in that building needs to hear.

But Carla, you’re the one-time-seminarian (she claims she simply didn’t finish so she could study MacDonald in Scotland, but I smell a story. A scandalous getting-kicked-out-of-Fuller-Sem bit….). You might even be preaching! What do you think?

Carla: Okay, first, let’s give “Pastor Gregg” kudos for asking an actual mom for her thoughts on his Mother’s Day sermon. While I’m sure it’s mostly because you are the resident expert on all things maternal at your church and he’s probably afraid of ticking you off–and I can’t say I blame him what with you and your persnickity-ness–it still speaks well of him that he doesn’t see himself as the sole arbiter of truth and wisdom.

Moving on. I am totally with you on this. Yes, mothers should be honored and I am all about getting a little special lovin’ from the fam one day a year. And like you, all I really want is the day off. What I don’t need or want or believe ought to happen is for Mother’s Day to be a church event.

When we went to an episcopal church, there was no acknowledgment of Mother’s Day at all. It’s not a church holiday so typically it doesn’t get a mention in high liturgical churches.

At our current church, we note that it’s happening–we note lots of other stuff too, like the May Day parade last Sunday, recent marriages or babies or retirements, and particularly nice weather. We hand out flowers to all the women–young and old, mothers and non-mothers. There is a verbal acknowledgment that Mother’s Day is not easy for a lot of people for various reasons–they want to be mothers and aren’t, they are the mothers of children who have died, they have difficult relationships with their own mothers, their mothers have died, and on and on. So we honor what is good about motherhood, name what is difficult about motherhood, and then move on.

But so much of the Mother’s Day hoopla undermines motherhood in a weird way. It suggests that every mom is the same, that we have universal tastes and needs and that all we need is a good brunch once a year to make us happy. They all work together to create this dreamy, perfect view of motherhood, something that is rarely dreamy or perfect. The same thing happens with Father’s Day, I know, but they can have their own revolution. So if you don’t fit in to the ideal model of motherhood, all the lovely books and teacups and sermons end up being a reminder of how not like “all the other moms” you really are. I would rather see motherhood celebrated as the complex, mysterious, unique-to-everyone experience that it is. It is too incredible to be codified or sentimentalized. It is too profound to fit on a card or a plaque. It’s a relationship, not a Hallmark moment.

So I hope “Pastor Gregg” skips that sermon and lets the Holy Spirit speak to him about what his community needs to hear about Jacob and Leah and Rachel. The moms–and old people and kids and singles and gay people–will thank him.

Caryn: Mostly the gay people, I think. But, total kudos to “Pastor Gregg” for asking. He’s a great guy. Married to a great woman too (though I’m a touch jealous of her still because she spent part of this past week at a monastery forming her spirit…). I’m sure “Pastor Gregg””ll be thrilled about the way I’ve repaid his thoughfulness.

So what about you Revolutionary Mommies? How do your church’s “handle” the big MD?