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.