Mother’s Day is NOT a Liturgical Holiday

It was months ago when I agreed to preach on the second Sunday in May. I said yes ever so willingly. I was just so thrilled to be preaching again after this new reality seeking (im)possible things.

I didn’t realize then what is all too real now.

The second Sunday in May is Mother’s Day. It is the Sunday where churches offer corsages and carnations to mothers. It is this Sunday where prayers to “Mother God” are lifted in congregations that would otherwise struggle with inclusive language. It is the Sunday where the grieving and the childless stay home along with those that struggle with infertility and those that don’t ever want anyone to know that she had an abortion. There are those that we abandoned by their mothers and those that never knew gentle touch of their mother. They don’t come to church because they know that they will not be celebrated. They will not be honored.

IMG_4444They will not hear so much about the resurrection as they will about mothers. And they know this, so they stay home. Each congregation has their own traditions and there isn’t one of these bodies of Christ that seems to realize that Mother’s Day is NOT a liturgical holiday.

The liturgical year moves from Advent to Easter. From birth to death, we are led into the Season of Easter which continues for much more than one day. Because we are still in it. It is the season that we find ourselves us in now. This second Sunday of May is the Sixth Sunday of Easter. It’s nothing flashy really. Just another chance to talk about this amazing thing that happened. It’s a chance to talk about the awesome possibility of resurrection and what it means right now. You know, no big deal. Or perhaps it really is no big deal because it seems that most congregations replace this talk of resurrection with something called the Festival of the Christian Home. (This is also what it is called in my denomination but I can find nothing on the United Church of Christ website about it.) And it seems that churches expect it. Something must happen on Mother’s Day in our worship. Something must be said. Something must be done because that’s what we always do. But, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Mother’s Day is NOT a liturgical holiday.

Christmas is a liturgical holiday. Easter is a liturgical holiday. Even St. Patrick and St. Valentine have feast days. But, this isn’t one of them. There is no feast day for mothers. It’s simply not part of the liturgical calendar. You’ll find it on other calendars — those printed for dry cleaners and banks. On the second Sunday of May, it is Mother’s Day. So let there be brunch and flowers and perhaps even some chocolates. Make mom breakfast in bed. Or, at least, give her to break. But, when it’s time to live into the resurrection in the pulpit or pews, let’s remember that that’s not everyone’s story. Not everyone has a mother who was as kind and gentle. Handing every woman a carnation will only remind some of those women how they don’t fit in. Because those women came to church this morning needing to hear some good news. She needs what we all need: to hear the good news of resurrection.

Preach that good news.

Because every man, woman and child needs to hear that good news.

Make that good news the focus of your celebration on this second Sunday of May. Make it known in stories that reveal that what Jesus commands is that we love one another. Make that love known in the caring ministries you offer each other. Make it known in the works of justice and peace. Try not to make every single story about mothers. Please.

And if you need a call to action, read the Mother’s Day Proclamation. Because this is how it really began. There were brokenhearted women who saw a hurting world ripped apart by war. They would not allow one more child to lay down their life. Arise, all women who have hearts, they called out. They called out for new life from death. They called for new stories and new words. They called for hope where it couldn’t be found. Do we have that same heart? Might we rise with those women?

Mother’s Day is NOT a liturgical holiday but it is a good time to ask who we are as people of the resurrection.

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12 thoughts on “Mother’s Day is NOT a Liturgical Holiday

  1. Thank you for this, Elsa. Always a good reminder of the hurt some bring to worship and their need to hear a word of hope. I much prefer the Mothering Sunday tradition during Lent on this side of the pond.

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  2. Bravo! A couple of years ago, I was between churches and we were attending my husband’s parents’ church. He helped cook at a Mother’s Day brunch prior to worship, and had planned to do the children’s sermon. At the last minute he realized he was too slammed in the kitchen to be available for the kids. He called me and asked me to fill in on the spur of the moment. It happened to be Ascension Sunday, and it never even OCCURRED to me to do a Mother’s Day theme–I rushed out and bought a helium balloon with a sun-like picture on it that might be construed as the bright and shiny Son of God rising upward into heaven, and pulled a couple of ideas out of some materials my husband had gathered, and thus armed, proceeded to worship.

    I was rather distressed when the pastor told me he had not even REALIZED it was Ascension Sunday–since after all, it was Mother’s Day… Oh, my… (I was also encouraged by the members of the congregation who said they gained insight about the Ascension from the children’s message…)

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  3. I love Mother’s Day and I know you do too and I get the premise of your article and I personally think it was good however I’m not sure if it matters that Mothers Day is not on the liturgical calendar I’m also not sure if I know of a Pastor or minister who sticks to the calendar in the first place I love Mothers Day because it gives us an opportunity to a break from the male dominated view of God we get to preach ithe gospel and talk about the other side of God we get to preach about how God often reminds us of a caring mother. And I know some people may over emphasize the day but I have no issues with that because guess what if all the Mothers left the church you would have no one to preach too lol. And I know Jesus loved his momma if we do it right Mothers Day is a great opportunity to preach and reach

    HAPPY MOTHERS DAY 🙂

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    1. Pastor Victor, you make some good points. As ever, good pastors must use wisdom and sensitivity in what they preach, and must be aware of the context. That said, you are right on the mark that good pastors don’t always stick to the calendar–in fact, I think the best ones don’t, other than some of the high points, because they preach to the context of their own congregation, bringing the Word of God to bear on the daily lives of their parishioners…

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    2. It’s interesting to me that those that are quick to condemn my words — and in many of these comments it seems to be more of a condemnation of my character than my words — come from those like yourself that have no issues with this day. I never mention why this is a difficult day for me personally in these words though a few clicks around my blog would easily answer that question. But, I didn’t really write this about me. Hence the omission. I wrote it as a pastoral plea because I hear from these women every year when this day rolls around. It is a hard day for some. And my faith teaches me to lift up the oppressed, which in this case happens to be these few. As challenging as it may be, Christ requires us to listen to these broken hearts. I wish I didn’t know this from my own story. But so it is.

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  4. I couldn’t disagree more. Mother’s Day was started as a day if peace. This fits in well with our doctrines. Mother’s day isn’t about assuming all biological mothers are good or present. It celebrates those who mother, recognizing the love and sacrifice of women, who mother and have been mothered. It’s a positive affirmation of women, in a world where womens work and women are devalued.

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    1. I certainly agree with you that women are undervalued and the church could play a vital role in that change. I question why it has to be the traditional role of motherhood that causes such a shift. I would hope we might find a broader perspective on the gifts of women.

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    1. Happy to explain this, Debby. With the movements of theology that engaged and actually listened to the voices of the oppressed (including women), there has been a shift toward inclusive language or expansive language. In translations of the Bible, in prayers and especially references to God, there has been an attempt to include the metaphors of faith that might expand our experience of the divine. Many times when we talk about this, we refer to the church goer who has a broken relationship with his father making Father God a poor term. Parent or Mother God might expand that soul’s faithful imagination. It is the hope of such language that it encourages faithfulness in terms that might otherwise be alienating.

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