The Liturgy: Pentecost and Mother’s Day

This Sunday is Pentecost – the day we mark the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church. It is also Mother’s Day. In America, Mother’s Day began in a church. Within a decade, the woman who helped to start it was bemoaning its over-commercialization.

If you want to go out to eat Sunday, fine, I’m all for it. I’ve gone, and I’ll probably go again (I think I’m grilling this Sunday though.) You won’t be alone. It’s the most popular day of the year to eat out.

Buy Mom a gift. I’ll be buying my mother one, and we traditionally send my grandmother’s to church with corsages. Flowers and plants are our favorite gifts. My wife already bought hers. The average amount to spend is somewhere around $125-$140 — roughly 15.8 billion dollars will be spent to honor Mom.

The commercialization of Mother’s Day bothers me, but it’s not a major concern. What bothers me is that Mother’s Day will be part of the worship service in a large way. The choir at church will be singing a song which is in reference to Mother’s Day. We’ll probably do the “Who’s got the most kids here?” “Who’s the oldest mom?, Who’s the youngest?” sort of thing.

What’s the harm? There’s no harm whatsoever in acknowledging that it’s Mother’s Day. I wouldn’t even mind if we gave a few extra moments during the greeting and said “make sure you greet mothers”. But Mother’s Day is not a church holiday. It shouldn’t be.

Think of the other Holy Days. Pentecost, Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, throw in All Saints’ if you want, Ascension, Trinity, whatever. Who are those days about? They, including All Saints’, are about God’s relationship with us. We honor God when we honor those Holy Days. All Saints’ may be the most tenuous, but it is certainly a remembrance of how God has worked through those members of the church who have gone before us (including mothers). Yes, we can be thankful for our mothers, but Mother’s Day will not be celebrated outside the US this Sunday, other countries have other days for doing this. It’s simply not a Holy Day of the church.

In a recent article, in Christianity Today, Mark Gaill says the following about the liturgy:

It is precisely the point of the liturgy to take people out of their worlds and usher them into a strange, new world—to show them that, despite appearances, the last thing in the world they need is more of the world out of which they’ve come. The world the liturgy reveals does not seem relevant at first glance, but it turns out that the world it reveals is more real than the one we inhabit day by day.

I know I’m overly cranky about this. I know I’m borrowing trouble before I even go to worship, that I will be challenged to be worshipful and reverent instead of grumpy and scowling. But that doesn’t mean that the liturgy isn’t important, that we shouldn’t be aware of the tension between how the world shapes us and how we’re called to be shaped by God in the church. Happy Mother’s Day, Blessed Pentecost.


2 thoughts on “The Liturgy: Pentecost and Mother’s Day”

  1. I agree with you a bit, and I disagree a little too. I think both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day offer an opportunity to reflect on God’s identity as our Divine Parent, which I don’t think is ever a bad thing.

    I’ve also found that the liturgy is a place where we can acknowledge that motherhood/parenting is an unbelievably difficult task that we will be hard pressed to do well outside of a faith community.

    Joshua was baptized on Mother’s Day two years ago and we had a churchful of friends and family that came to celebrate with us. I was pastoring the church at the time and one of the things I prayed for in the pastoral prayer was women who wanted children but wouldn’t be able to have them. One of my friends approached me in tears afterwards and thanked me. She was one of those women and had never had that pain acknowledged in a faith community before.

    I think we get into trouble when we make mothers the central focus of the worship service rather than God. Spending a good chunk of the service having mothering “contests” takes the focus away from the Divine Parent, which is never a good thing.

    I think it’s possible to “do” Mother’s Day well in church.

  2. I agree that it’s possible, but it has become such a commercial celebration, that I think motherhoood and fatherhood should be celebrated as God’s gifts at other times.

    The easiest way of making it might be to not make such a big deal of the Hallmark holiday, and more of a celebration of God’s identity as parent at other parts of the year.

    As I said, I’m cranky about it. It just seems like it’s done largely because it reflects the world, instead of as a way of magnifying God.

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