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.


The children are not our future.

I haven’t read this book, but I read an online interview with the author on Globe and Mail, and it reminded me of some points I’ve heard made by other people.

My blog title was provided by a pastor friend who tries to help people understand that our children are here now, have a role in the church and should not be put away for later use.

He provides an example of a church that wanted to start a “youth group” and asked a professional to come and evaluate the needs of the local youth and determine what a youth group might look like for this congregation.

The professional found that in this small church, the three current youth had roles in the choir, church council and missions work. The professional urged the congregation to not worry about a youth group, but to keep doing more of what they were already providing.

I heard a “car talk” type show the other day in which the host mentioned that he had rebuilt an engine, with some help, at the age of 15. We often don’t expect much of our youth, and it’s time we realize that we should not wait for them to grow up before we ask them to participate.

In the Globe and Mail article I referred to, one person does raise a good point:

Why does everybody need to squeeze every last ounce of productivity out of their lives? We are moving so close to a society where you are judged purely by how much money you make and how many hours you can put in at work during a week that it seems no one is smelling the clichéd roses along the road to death.

Who cares if a teenager can work in an office just as well as an adult? They have plenty of time to do that when they are an adult; no need to go back to the ways of the industrial revolution.

Epstein answers :

Many young people would like the opportunity to start a business, own property, compete against adults, make their own medical decisions, live on their own, drink alcohol (responsibly) – or even to retire to a desert island!

But over the last century, society has come to restrict all young people – based simply on age, and no matter how motivated or competent they may be – so that they have virtually no meaningful options whatsoever. . .

The key is to allow young people to enter the adult world as soon as they are ready.

I’m not sure that most adults or youth know when they’re ready to enter adulthood. As a 40 year old male, I am still stunned when I realize that my peers are doctors, teachers and pastors, but I think the church can learn from what Epstein and others are saying about youth in the culture at large.

Our youth can take part in the liturgy; not just as acolytes or ushers or whatever small task we think they won’t mess up, but as readers, worship leaders, choir members and, should they be called, preachers. Having a once a year “youth Sunday” may be a fun way for the congregation to see the youth dress up one Sunday out of the year, but we should help our youth find their way to Christ every Sunday.

That doesn’t mean that I’m calling for a strong “works” checklist that will help youth earn their way into heaven, but I do think the apprenticeship of our youth should be a focus of the church. In a fine blog post about fishing, Kevin Baker mentions how he “grew up learning to throw a net at the feet of my Uncle Roy.” How many of our youth get to see that kind of work in action? Let’s start with worship and see where the Spirit can take us together.