The observance of Mother's Day is a relatively new thing, yet we pair it with ancient scriptures to celebrate mom in our worship time. I have no problem with celebrating mother's day in church, as long as the focus of worship is God and the scriptures are used authentically, not stretched into whatever shape serves our 'Hallmark Card" idea of mother's day. May 14 is the 5th Sunday after Easter and the scriptures assigned to the day have nothing to do with the authors thinking about their moms. John 14:1-14 (In my father's house are many dwelling places...I go to prepare a place for you...) 1 Peter 2:2-10 (...like living stones, let yourself be built into a spiritual house...)
Having said all that, I do like the way these verses talk about building family and that is quite a good theme on mother's day. We all have different experiences with our mothers, with being a mom, with not being a mom... We may cling to our cultural ideas of what a family is. The church is meant to be family-not the biological kind or household kind of family, but a kind of family that is not about the boundaries of genes or circumstance. It is a family lead by God as parent (Mother/Father-for this Sunday I will focus on the mother part of this identity). It is a place where all who commit to it are brothers and sisters, and it is about building each other up into community. The passage from 1 Peter is about building that community, being family to each other and building something strong together with Christ as our cornerstone. The John passage speaks of what God is building for us-emphasizing the care of a parent. I love this passage for mothers day at First Mennonite when we traditionally have a dedication service where parents dedicate their children to God and the church dedicates itself to being faith family for them. In the passage, Thomas worries; "Lord, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?"
When we dedicate children to God, we commit to letting them go follow God 'even to the ends of the earth." That's a commitment full of worry for every parent! Jesus assures Thomas that he will not be lost because he knows the way, the truth, and the life. We also can feel that assurance that our children (and ourselves) will not be lost for the same reasons. When we build the church as family and treat each other as such, no matter where we go, we will have brothers and sisters to walk alongside under the watchful eye of our mothering God.
A Prayer on Mother's Day
Here's a mother's day prayer that acknowledges the complexity of feelings for this day. It is for everyone, whether they are looking forward to mother's day, or dreading it. We have all of these people in our church family-let's surround them all with the love of the family we build together.
"I want you to know I'm praying for you if you are like Tamar, struggling with infertility, or a miscarriage.
I want you to know that I'm praying for you if you are like Rachel, counting the women among your family and friends who year by year and month by month get pregnant, while you wait.
I want you to know I'm praying for you if you are like Naomi, and have known the bitter sting of a child's death.
I want you to know I am praying for you if you are like Joseph and Benjamin, and your Mom has died.
I want you to know that I am praying for you if your relationship with your Mom was marked by trauma, abuse, or abandonment, or she just couldn't parent you the way you needed.
I want you to know I am praying for you if you've been like Moses' mother and put a child up for adoption, trusting another family to love your child into adulthood.
I want you to know I am praying for you if you've been like Pharaoh's daughter, called to love children who are not yours by birth (and thus the mother who brought that child into your life, even if it is complicated).
I want you to know I am praying for you if you, like many, are watching (or have watched) your mother age, and disappear into the long goodbye of dementia.
I want you to know that I am praying for you if you, like Mary, are pregnant for the very first time and waiting breathlessly for the miracle of your first child.
I want you to know that I am praying for you if your children have turned away from you, painfully closing the door on relationship, leaving you holding your broken heart in your hands. And like Hagar, now you are mothering alone.
I want you to know that I am praying for you if motherhood is your greatest joy and toughest struggle all rolled into one.
I want you to know that I am praying for you if you are watching your child battle substance abuse, a public legal situation, mental illness, or another situation which you can merely watch unfold.
I want you to know that I am praying for you if you like so many women before you do not wish to be a mother, are not married, or in so many other ways do not fit into societal norms.
I want you to know that I am praying for you if you see yourself reflected in all, or none of these stories.
This mother's day, wherever and whoever you are, we walk with you. You are loved. You are seen. You are worthy.
And may you know the deep love without end of our big, wild, beautiful God who is the very best example of a parent that we know.