Mother’s Day, 2010
Last year, Drew was born in March and I was on maternity leave for the following two months. (By the way, my husband once referred to maternity leave as my “little vacation.” Once. I think I corrected him with a heavy dose of postpartum screaming. Those were an intense couple of months and I’m amazed that Jim and I both survived!) My first Sunday back at church was Mother’s Day, and I was asked to preach. This was a little intimidating, considering most of the topics I had been meditating on for the last many weeks had to do with a) poop b) breastfeeding or c) poop. Our church was in a year-long series through the Bible called Bible 360, and my sermon landed right in the middle of the Wisdom Literature, in the book of Proverbs. My sermon was addressed to Drew, so I called it: “Proverbs for My Son.” Somehow I came out of the sleep-deprived, poop-saturated-brain-haze, because lots of people said kind things about the sermon. Many people even cried a little, and that’s the gold standard of preaching. If you can make ’em cry, you’ve won. They teach us that in seminary.
I will say that being back in the pulpit after so many months was a huge high for me. We didn’t even attend church in those two months after Drew was born. This was the longest I’d been away from Sunday morning church since, um, my first year of college. OK. My first three years of college. I was starved for community and adult conversation, and standing up to speak in front of our congregation after my long hiatus from church was incredibly meaningful for me. Being able to put motherhood and pastorhood together in one message felt like the culmination of a long dream. I get a little trippy anytime I can be both a pastor and a mom at the same time. These are my two lifetime dreams, and to have both of them come true at once is pretty breathtaking. It was an incredible Sunday for me. I can’t say the same for my iHusband, Jim, who had to leave after the first sentence of the message with a screaming newborn who didn’t understand that he was supposed to sit through the message and listen. Darn Preachers’ Kids.
Mother’s Day 2011
You know what they say about being asked to do the dishes? If you don’t want to be asked to do them again, just drop a dish. Evidently I didn’t drop anything in 2010 because I was asked to preach Mother’s Day yet again this year. I had a couple of discussions with my fellow-pastors (They’re all fellows, by the way. All 8 of them) about why they would prefer not to preach on Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is treacherous waters where preachers are concerned. You have to strike just the right balance of proclaiming the Gospel, worshipping God, and worshipping the moms among you. Say too little about mothers in your message and you’ll get some pretty dirty looks. Fail to mention them altogether and you’re going to hear about it before you get out the door! It may not be a religious holiday by most calendars, but in the church it is a high and holy day. Mess with Pentecost. Ignore Lent. But don’t touch Mother’s Day.
A couple of preachers I know even call Mother’s Day and the Sunday closest to the Fourth of July: “Throwaway Worship.” As in: “Well, we’re not really worshipping God this Sunday, but we’ll get back to that next week.” I was told again and again by different people that my sermon needed to be “all about mothers” or an angry mob of moms would follow me home with pitchforks.
I completely disagree. Anything we worship in place of God becomes an idol for us, and the Old Testament is clear on what God thinks of idols and what He does with them. I had no desire to preach a sentimental sermon about the sweetness of motherhood, or how “God couldn’t be everywhere, so He created mothers.” (In my top 5 most hated church signs of all time. And that’s sayin something. I really hate cheesy church signs.) So I chose a text about idolatry. From a book of the Bible that never mentions a woman. I told my own mom what I had chosen and she looked a little scared of what I might say. But as riled up as I get while preparing for a sermon, thinking I might go all “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” on people, I always soften things up a little before stepping into the pulpit.
And once again the response was good. No broken dishes on the floor, more than a few tears in the congregation, so I guess I’ll be struggling with the same questions again this time next year.
What do you think is the place of cultural holidays and national holidays in Christian worship? Who was being worshipped on Mother’s Day at your church?