May 09, 2006

Mother's Day I’ve been reading lately about how our consumer culture tempts the Christian with a competing and compelling way of being in the world. It even has its own calendar, featuring economic “holy days” in which we are encouraged to engage in ritualized pagan practices. This upcoming Sunday, Mother’s Day, notwithstanding its ostensibly Christian origins, is one such day. Not surprisingly, many churches participate in the cultural holiday by having special “Mother’s Day” worship services. This is not in itself a necessarily bad thing. The church excels at baptizing culturally suspect practices and turning them to God’s good ends. And I love my mother, I love my wife, and I happen to be a huge fan of motherhood and know well the spiritual value that being a parent can bring. But we’re on dangerous ground when the Church’s worship on this day turns away from new life in Jesus Christ, and turns rather into a slightly veiled civic celebration of the “traditional” family and the woman’s often subservient role within it. We are on slick footing when we plan services that have less to do with engaging a triune God and more to do with handing out a bit of instruction regarding our own preferred parenting methods. We risk pastoral malpractice when we put a certain type of woman on a pedestal, take a soft-focus picture, and offer bland, if well-meant praise, all the while ignoring the pain and the gifts of other types of women in our congregations: unwed mothers, women who have had abortions, women who have suffered from undesired childlessness, and women, both single and wed, for whom God’s call does not include children at all. So this Mother’s Day, make use of the counter-cultural liturgical calendar, and follow the lectionary readings for your service planning. And then let the struggles of family life and motherhood inform a rich pastoral prayer, like one of these from the Lutheran Church in Australia: God of all life, We thank you for adopting us into your family through the miracle of baptism, and for calling us to be brothers and sisters to each other through Jesus, the only Son of God. Today, loving Father, we pray for our mothers: who cared for us when we were helpless, who comforted us when we were hurt, whose love and care we usually took for granted, as we often take your love for granted. Today we pray for: those who are grieving the loss of their mother, maybe even years after they were separated; those who never knew their biological mother, and now yearn for her; those who have experienced the wonder of an adopted mother’s love; the families separated in the wars in ___. Lord, give them special blessings. Keep us united with Christ, so that we can love in the way he loves us and all people. We ask this for Jesus’ sake. Amen. Gracious God, we pray: for new mothers, coming to terms with both the joys and demands of motherhood;...

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