People in Albion have a historical association with Mother’s Day–a mother famously stood up to preach when her husband, the pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church (that’s us in the past) was too upset about what had happened to their son to do his usual job. Mother’s Day was then a celebration of the toughness of a mother–a pre-feminist ideal for women.
My wife and I send something to our mothers for Mother’s Day. Perhaps you do as well. That’s a fine way to observe this day. I’ve come to believe, however, that Mother’s Day is not something we need to observe in church. As I talk to people I know, I hear more and more agreeing.
Why not preach a sermon on the merits of mothers? Why not hand out carnations or roses to moms? Why not sing “Faith of Our Mothers?” I do personally honor mothers for what they are able to do. I also grieve with those people for whom Mother’s Day is a time for grief or bitterness. Some have lost their mothers to death. Some have been unable to have children, and have never lived into a role they dreamed of. Some have suffered abuse at the hands and tongues of abusive or alcoholic or unaccepting mothers. Others have had children die, and had the role of mother stripped away, or had children taken away through divorce or other situation. How can I blithely talk about mothers, and not make those broken hearts the focus of my message?
A woman stood up in the crowd Jesus was teaching, and proclaimed that his mother was blessed for having had him. It seems in fact that Jesus’ mother was sometimes sure he was crazy. But Jesus said to the woman and to the crowd, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? The ones who hear my word and do it.” Jesus was not sentimental about his own mother, which is awkward on Mother’s Day. If you yourself have awkwardness on this occasion, you are in the best company.
Every Mother’s Day, hurting people sit through sentimentalities about mothers that ring empty and paternalistic–even insulting. So I’m not taking part. For all those whose wounds are painfully raked over on Mother’s Day, please accept instead a blessing, and a hope that you find grace and love on every day this year.