Every year at this time I start seeing the same questions come up in all the social media groups for church musicians and pastors:
What are you doing for Mother’s Day?
How are you celebrating mothers?
Are you preaching on Proverbs 31?
Which hymns and anthems are appropriate for Mother’s Day?
One pastor in a Facebook group discussing United Methodist worship actually just posted a “liturgy” she created for Mother’s Day, asking the group if we thought it appropriate for this Sunday’s Call to Worship.
Jesus had a reply for all of this:
Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
I don’t think Jesus is saying that familial relationships don’t matter, and that’s not what I’m getting at, either. As usual, there’s something deeper in Jesus’ words. They point us to a kingdom reality.
See, a funny thing happens in the kingdom of heaven, with which we participate in liturgy. The ground becomes level. We participate as co-heirs with the Savior of the world. The long line of generations before and those that will come seem to collapse and fade away, and we worship together with them. If we are still and in tune enough, we might get just a glimpse of how it will be in the resurrection to come.
Now, all of that doesn’t negate the fact that parents are important in this realm. We should absolutely be grateful for the gift of loving moms, and grieve with those who did not have such a benefit.
But we don’t worship mothers. We don’t create ad hoc liturgies for them. We don’t put them in Jesus’ place, not even on their so-called “special day.”
That brings up another point. Let us not forget that Mother’s Day isn’t even on the liturgical calendar. Its presence in our culture is propagated through advertising by companies that don’t really care how you treat your mother as long as you give them your money. It seems like that’s the sort of thing we should stay clear of.
In the church, this is not Mother’s Day. It is the 4th week of Easter, often called Good Shepherd Sunday. This is still Easter, remember? The tomb is empty. Let our words and actions reflect this. Why on earth should we truncate the Easter season for a “Precious Moments” cultural observance?
Jesus said it best: “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” We’re supposed to be doing the will of God.Whatever you do, please don’t give into cultural pressure to sentimentalize the liturgy. If you were blessed to have a mom who raised you in the Christian faith, she should be most honored by that. If she isn’t, well, that’s not really your problem, nor should it be the church’s. I know that as a father, I despise deviation from the liturgy that is supposed to honor me. Being honored when God’s church is meeting at Word and Table should make us uneasy, maybe even afraid.
I talk about the problems of the contemporary worship movement a lot of this blog. And I mean a lot. For me, it’s inescapable.
But there are so many potential pitfalls for what’s called “traditional worship,” too. Many idols can get in our way; of those, I think the biggest one is sentimentality. We are far too easily pleased on days like this singing sappy hymns that evoke fond memories of our youth, praying silly prayers, listening to silly sermons that butcher a proverb but make us feel all happy inside. That’s usually when people start to use words like, “meaningful” or “worshipful.” And that’s a sure sign that the idol of sentimentality is close to taking over.
Well, friends, for many of us, there’s nothing that can make us feel sentimental quite like thoughts about good ol’ Mom.
So we take a time set aside for the worship of our Almighty Triune God, and we give it over to her. And the sentimental hold grows ever stronger.