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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: High Holy Church Day Edition


The above subtitle is completely tongue-in-cheek. Do any of you belong to traditions which hold Mother's Day high and lofty as a church holiday? How do you handle the challenge of Mother's Day expectations? I have been thinking about the British tradition of Mothering Day, which sounds to me a little more inclusive than our tradition here in the states. "Mother" means something rather specific. Mothering, on the other hand, may be done by just about anyone.

I may touch on mothering in my sermon for this week. How I will do that, I'm not sure, since the lectionary for this week doesn't give us much to work with in that regard.

What about you?


While you're pondering the lectionary, take a break now and again and go to a new RevGalBlogPals feature:Musical Musings, hosted this week by Cathy!


  1. having a difficult time with the readings this week. I'm tired. Not inspired. I've sat here all morning, spending more time wandering through blogs than pondering scripture...oh well. perhaps something will hit me. I am musing on themes of love and healing...the constancy of God's healing love??? I dunno...

  2. I am gearing towards mothering and honoring mothers. The Acts passage is about Lydia who nurtured the church in Philippi.
    The Gospel passage mentions God and Christ making their home with us if we we love and keep his word. It also is about the peace of Christ, something which mothers, and all of us need in our frazzled lives and in these trying times of school shootings, natural disasters, etc.
    I haven't quite nailed things down yet, but this is where I am so far.

  3. O, how I hate the tacky way Mother's Day has been celebrated in mainline churches I've attended.

    I'm just saying ... Mother's Day can be as difficult for many people as Christmas!

    As the pastor I always designed the entire service around the word of God and in my prayers included the "mothering" love of God and gift of nurturing love we receive from all the nurturer's in our lives, irregardless of gender ... prayers for those who missed that nurturing love from their own mother, because she was unable to provide it, for whatever reason, prayers for the mothers who couldn't give it, and thanks for those who were able to give it, etc. ... you get the idea.

  4. I'm not preaching this weekend, but my two cents is that Mother's Day is a big ol' landmine for everyone who does preach. For that matter, my priest's children's sermon last week (referencing the "love one another as I have loved you" bit of John) was about how well our mommies and daddies take care of us and thus show their love.

    Things ain't always what they seem, and that's a dangerous assumption to make. I was a bit uncomfortable-- I've seen too many abusive parents to want to really try to sell the comparison between God and mom and dad.

  5. You think the lectionary is challenging for mother's day - our Year of the Bible is on Song of Solomon and I Timothy (widows anyone?)!

    When I came to this church they were still doing a special flower for "oldest mother" and "newest mother" and then only mothers were given plants.

    Now all women are given a plant during the children's sermon and I always say a bit about how we take part in a child's baptism by agreeing as a congregation to raise them in this faith and how we all take part in that - recognizing all the women in the congregation, never saying the 'm' word.

    But as someone who took a vacation day from Mother's Day only three years ago it still pains me to recognize it at all. I see the empty spots in the pews because of couples who knew they couldn't handle it and I see the sad eyes and hearts because I know about parishioners what others do not.

    Then there is the argument that we cannot be sensitive to everyone's soft spots or else we wouldn't celebrate anything. So for us, every woman being recognized has been a pretty good compromise.

  6. Me too, Mompriest, although I appreciate St. Inuksuk's comments.

    I've just spent an hour utilizing the random link on the Revgalblogpals webring thingy ... it's brought some energy to me, thankfully.

  7. Well, here is how I've handled it so far: I'm almost always gone on Mother's day because it frequently conincides with my study leave.

    Not this year.


    I'm going to try to avoid it altogether.

  8. I generally do what serena suggests--ignoring it completely expect for including something in the prayers for people in all kinds of different situations. And I love the "mothering Sunday" idea--I wish we could get it to catch on in the US.

    I'm still in Acts, thinking about Lydia. Thinking about tying it in with mission--Paul & Silas were missionaries, but they found God already at work in the places they went. They learned from Lydia.

  9. I don't get to preach this Sunday, bummer, bummer, even though my friend Janine will probably be out of town still. Because I'll be giving a medieval paper (presently being completed, so I am grateful for this preacher party substitute and any good energy that can be sent my way) at a conference in Michigan.

    I get the concern about trivializing/sentimentalizing motherhood and excluding women who aren't physically mothers, those with abusive mothers, etc. It sounds like there are some wonderful strategies out there for dealing with that. Pointing out that as head of her household Lydia was most likely not a physical mother (well, wife at least, guess she could have been a widow with kids) could be part of that.

    I think it is extremely important to highlight God's mother love on this day, to help counteract the constant emphasis on God as Father the rest of the year (even in healthy and inclusive congregations which try to minimize/balance this to some extent). I heard a wonderful sermon on the Holy Spirit as Mother, a frequent motif especially in the early Eastern church (Syriac speaking, a Semitic language so as in Hebrew the Spirit is feminine grammatically). And the underlying theme of "being reborn in water and the Spirit" in John, just usually overlooked. This validates women who are mothers and also those who aren't by pointing out that all women are truly in God's image--which is verbally honored but existentially cast into doubt by liturgical, praching, and other language that beats Father into the ground. And it validates those who have had good mothering experiences and also those who haven't--because God's mother love is primal and healing, fills in the lacks of those with harmful mothers and frees us human mothers to do our best but also not need to be perfect.

    I heard a fantastic sermon in college from a Dominican nun where Pentecost coincided with Mother's Day, but today's readings are equally apt with the repetition of Father/hinting at the Trinity and esp. the highlighting of the Spirit as indwelling advocate and energizer of God's love in our lives.

    I am especially sensitive to this because of hearing, growing up in RC churches, a zillion God as Father sermons on Father's Day coupled with a zillion Mary as mother sermons on Mother's Day. I love Mary and all, but the contrast is disempowering.

    I think those of us who are theologically literate forget how little things like Julian of Norwich's and other medieval mystics (male and female) mother images, the ones in scripture, etc. are completely unknown to many in the pews and seen as unbiblical/untraditional. It would be a huge service to every woman in those pews to sensitively speak to the way that their womanhood images the Holy One for the world.

  10. Mother Laura,

    Thank you, thank you for your perspective. Really appreciated it.

    While we're on the subject of seeing the feminine and the holy at the same time, I'm reading At the Root of This Longing, which is a fan-tastic way of starting to feel around reconciling spirituality and feminism.

  11. SOmetimes I have preached on family, sometimes I ignore the day in sermon and talk about family in CHildren's Time (or just read Love you Forever since it gets everyone in tears and then my job is done;) )

    THis year I am not preaching at all. But the baptism I thought we were having has been rescheduled so now I need to find something for Childern's time.

    Of course I could talk about "What is a family?"....if only I had a clear answer to that one.

  12. I was emailed this link:
    which talks about the origins of Mother's Day--that is was a day to hope for peace. This is a cool video that I hope I can figure out how to use in does have a fundraising message to it (for Iraqi children who have lost limbs in the war). Maybe this will offer you all a different lens the way it did me.

  13. p.s. I posted my mother's day prayer here

  14. I'm not preaching this week--one of the Sundays I refuse to preach is Mother's Day--but we're using the Acts passage.

    In the past we've recognized mothers, but it gets sticky, since many of our members will never be mothers (or fathers) and/or don't have good relationships with their parents. So we usually have a prayer or reading about people who have been like mothers...

  15. Our congregation is doing Donor Sabbath on Mother's Day this year, participating in the "Thanks Mom" Marrow Donor Drive. The rationale is that at some point, we all had mothers to give us life, and we can give life to another in return.

    I like the Thanks Mom thing way better than all the mom-honoring stuff. It doesn't bug me that I'm not a mother (well, not to humans, and it's by choice so far); it bugs me because my mom's been dead nearly two decades. In recent years, Mother's Day has been far more painful than the day of her death or her birthday.

  16. Thanks for the prayer, Serena.

    And thanks for the kind words Mrs. M.! And congrats on your new status as a postulant! (I made a quick visit to your place and am very excited about reading more, but must put temptation behind me at present and keep working on this presentation).

    I got to preach at a Lutheran church on Mother's Day a few years ago, which was really cool. I picked the Isaiah 49 passage, but I believe the Colossians 3 (clothed in holiness, etc) was lectionary that week and they tied in very nicely.

    If anyone's interested:

    God our Mother

  17. I am not preaching this Sunday, but just to add a little to the British Tradition- It always falls within Lent, and was originally known as refreshment Sunday, a day when young girls in service would be allowed to go home and visit their families- along with that tradition it was also an occassion for visiting the Mother it is a little mixed and unclear, on top of that we have taken to calling it Mothers Day too, but usually the text would be taken to talk about one of the many mothers in the Bible stepping away from the lectionary!
    I'll be away on a study weekend so I'd appreciate your prayers :-)

  18. Sunday is Mother's Day?

    Oh, no.

    Runs off to buy and mail card to mom...

  19. yippee.... i am on vacation to go see my mother and see soem other folks.
    No sermon for me to preach. The ever wise and wodnerful SP here states that he has never doen a Mother's Day sermon and has often been criticized for it....but still does nto do a Mother's Day sermon.
    I think we have to be senstive to those who are not mothers in the tradtoional since (his wife and me are both examples). I also think it is nto wise to pull in what is really a secular holiday and try to "make" it religious.
    This day is also hard enough for those who ha e recently lost their mothers or for thsoe wh o have recently lsot children. The day itself can be hard to bear and church should nto be a way of increasign the pain.
    My tow cents worth for today.

  20. Still not a pastor, but I will chime in because I have a thing with these "Day" holidays. Because they were created by card companies in order to sell more cards, which in turn uses paper, which in turn causes more trees to be sacrificed so that said card companies can make money, which also in turn uses paper, which also........and so on.

    Call me a killjoy. Or a harda**. Or whatever. I'd say the more important message is how God loves each and every one of us very much, all the same, every day. And if we treated each other accordingly, wouldn't need all these "Day" holidays. And we'd have more trees.

    Just sayin.

  21. I'm in Week 2 of a sermon series on Christian formation and preaching about the importance of having role models and going on to be role models for others. We will baptize a four-year-old girl, too. All connects well to the Acts passage, so I will get to use the lectionary this week. Sermon title: "A Few Unlikely Godmothers." I'm preaching about people who have modeled God's mothering love for me, both male and female, and suggesting that we are all there in part because of others who have done so for us. At the prayer time, people will be invited to write down the names of people who have played that part in their lives, and I will read the names aloud. Thus, one may speak of one's mother, or not. We will celebrate the Communion of Saints, our role models, by singing two of my favorite hymns ever, "For All the Saints" and "Shall We Gather at the River," the latter a fabulous tie-in to Lydia, who will be held up as a role model to people who perhaps didn't know what she was getting them into, but who trusted she had their best interests at heart.
    We're also using this date for Church World Service's Blanket (and Tool) Sunday.
    I sound more prepared than I feel.

  22. Oh.

    That's a really good question. I have no idea what they do for Mother's Day.

    Personally, I have real issues about the day...So, let's pray I get through that to get to where they are.

  23. Reverend Mommy - I'm married to Rev Dave, and yes, he's like this at home. A laugh (or groan) a minute!

    Yes, Mother's Day is extremely difficult. After doing a cpe residency in an antepartum unit where I ministered to many families who lost babies, and not being a mother myself, I have shied away from having Mother's Day be a focus of the Service for the Lord's Day. Also, like many of you have already said, I have a theological problem with bringing a secular holiday into worship. I do mention it in the prayers of the people, trying to address all situations - those who can't have children, those who have lost children, those who struggle with being a mother, those who find the mother/child relationship in alternative ways, mothers and children who are estranged, children who have abusive mothers, etc. Hopefully it comes out more eloquent than this sounds!

    So far, the result has been mixed. The first time I preached on Mother's Day, I made a few people aware ahead of time that I wasn't preaching a Mother's Day sermon. This was at my home church, and while there were some who couldn't believe that I wouldn't preach on Mother's Day, after I explained my position if they didn't agree with me they at least respected my thoughts. At the church I currently serve as a solo pastor, I explained my position to the worship committee as we discussed what we would do on Mother's Day (everyone got a flower), and they also respected it. One woman said her sister, who has had three miscarriages, stays away from church intentionally on Mother's Day because it's too hard. That's enough of an affirmation for me.

  24. I love the tongue in cheek of this High Holy Church Day. I was trying to figure out if I missed something. LOL. I already had several people, in fact a lot of people tell me they would not be there for this High Holy Day, due to the emotionalism involved. However I am preaching as part of the sermon series, the first purpose of the Purpose Driven Life, Worship. I told one of my members I might include a mother who worshiped God out of the Bible as an example.

    St. inuksuk, I love Lydia.

    Cheese head, you can handle the day.

    I just bought my mom's mom day card at Wally World, and will mail it this tomorrow.

  25. Amen Presbyterian Gal! AMEN. AMEN. AMEN. and for good measure I'll throw a Hallelujiah! in here too!

  26. I have given in to the Mother's Day pressure on a few occasions, but not this year. Like many of you I will acknowledge it in some way - most like in prayers of the people. It will NOT be the focus of worship, however, for all the reasons already named here.

    I am intrigued by two things in the Acts passage. First, those few verses preceeding the lectionary passage where Paul and companions were kept by the Spirit from going certain places. Did that mean they were failures? That those places were not ready for the Word? That they weren't the right people to go? What was that about? Are there parallels in the church today, things that we end up calling "failures" because they did not work out. Is the Spirit in our failures as well?

    The second thing is related to call. How did Paul know that his vision was God's call? What does God's call sound like? How do we know if it is God's voice, culture's voice, or our own that we are hearing.

    Mind you, neither of these things would be easy to preach, but I'm still mulling over them - in case. Ideas or input?

  27. Thankfully Mother's Day isn't quite the high holy day in the NW as it was in the South! We give a small gift to all women, but don't have to go through the "oldest mother" etc... thing. You can't ignore it completely, but I try to be sensitive to the women who never had children of their own, never married, or had horrible experiences with their mothers. It can be a good opportunity to talk about the mothering attributes of God.

  28. It used to be called Mothering Sunday :)

    That in itself was important. In England it was always the third Sunday of lent (still is) and I remember daffodils filling the churches (probably not everyyear but that's how I remember it)

    Here in Finland it's probably a lot less commercial than in the US. It's a time for kids to MAKE cards and gifts for their mum / caregiver - and often take her out to lunch.

    It won't happen in this household though. I'm off with DD to a different church this Sunday - where they will honour the women who work so hard behind the scenes in the church - mothers or not - and I think that's the essense of mothering Sunday.

    Then I take some teens out to lunch (kind of role reversal) because sadly they are not always honoured or valued.

    When we come home we'll visit MIL - trust me, she's well worth honouring too and my life is richer because of her.

  29. I tried to do a post yesterday but somehow it didn't show up (heavy sigh). I don't really want to do a "mother's day sermon" for a lot of reasons (shouldn't the focus be on God?) but my parents sometimes come to church and then I have my mom saying, "How come you didn't say anything about mother's day?" This year I thought I would use the Acts passage and talk about Lydia and baptism and God re-orienting our "households." New family relationship. There's a cool children's book called "Come on in, you're home.... God says when you are baptized."

  30. In our church we usually wind up acknowledging pop-culture high holy days like Mother's Day in ways other than the sermon. It's kind of a win-win that way...moms, dads, veterans, etc., get their special acknowledgements, but the themes of the Sunday are also preserved.

  31. Mother's Day can be difficult, but here we also celebrate Father's Day as well. And although, I have never been a Mom, I have had a Mom and others who nurtured me in faith - especially my church when I was growing up. (Being a Greyt Mom doesn't quite count in the context of Mother's Day.)
    But, I have, hopefully, nurtured others in faith, given birth to weekly sermons, and ideas, and loved and served in sacrificial ways.
    My guess is that Lydia did this too.
    So, I do celebrate Mothers, by holding all mothers in prayer - those who mother others, those who fall short in being mothers, those who struggle to provide and care for the children and families, etc.
    All the women of the church receive a Hershey's bar. (So do all the men on Father's Day).
    There are many ways to give birth and nurture life and new life in the church and in the people around us. Perhaps, that's the challenge I'll be bringing this week in my sermon.

  32. Coming in at the end I get to read all the great things that have been posted.

    I am preaching this Sunday on the Northern Ute reservation. There will be a big feast and all but I don't know the congregation and the hot spots. I may divert for a paragraph on the peace origins of mother's day, and some of the feminine images of God, but stick to the lectionary (gospel) pretty well.

    In the past I have acknowledged some of the difficulties of particular days and I do mention that today our culture is celegrating or recognizing this day as...

    I make it a habit of trying not to do anything too risky in some else's pulpit though.

  33. I'm preaching for the first time as an official Inquirer... Pastor Jefe is on leave, so I got to plan the whole day, which means no recognizing individual moms in the service. We'll have a place where fokls can place a flower in an arrangement to honor a special woman in their lives.

    I actually laid into the men on our session last year when they whined about not doing the "oldest" "youngest" mom thing for the first time. I told them we could start back as soon as one of them was willing to ask the "most recent miscarriage" to stand and take a rose.

    But I rant...
    This year, I've asked women to take on the liturgist, special music and ushing duties so that we can recognize the many varied gifts that women bring to our church family.

    My sermon is based one of the most amazing traits of our God... the fact that He is truly indefatigable (not susceptible to fatigue) - He is ALWAYS there for us - Psalm 121. And as we are made in His image, we can call on that strength in our roles as parents here on earth.

    I can do all things - even be a good mom - through Christ who strengthens me.

    I'll bookend with Mom stuff, but the bulk is LIFE stuff. We can't walk through this wearying world on our own power.

  34. I want you all to know that my very first sermon as a seminarian was preached on Mother's Day, while 8 months pregnant. The Senior Pastor thought it would be "sweet."

  35. Oy indeed, Songbird. Hearing some of these stories is a good reality check.

    Here the prayers will include prayers for all mothers and for those who have been like a mother to someone (Rufus' mom, anyone?). And we will sing "I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry" during Communion. Apart from that, nothing else about Mother's Day in the service.

    Fortunately I have another theme going, in which the emphasis for this Sunday is "we are a resurrection people who pray first", so preaching-wise the Acts passage about the group meeting in a place of prayer by the river works really well. Probably leaving out the John passage and focusing on Acts and Revelation.

  36. Not preaching this week but intrigued with Lydia and her household. I have prayed in the past on Mother's Day for all those women and men who have mothered us. Julian has a lot to say about Jesus our Mother - citing her got the conservatives' knickers in a twist. Click here for PB Katharine Jefferts Schori sermon
    One year when we had the "good shepherd" readings I preached this.
    I am glad I am not preaching this Sunday.

  37. Well, I'm not clergy, and both my mother and I are tied up this Sunday, so Mother's Day is not really on my radar so big this year. But I did reflect on this week's lectionary readings here this morning. Hope you appreciate...

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