We begin a new series this week. And while this week we continue with the epistle, we won’t stick with that. We’re jumping around in this series: an epistle, a psalm, and a Gospel reading, just to keep things interesting. The common theme is a phrase that comes from I Peter: “Chosen and Precious.” As you’ll see from the Preaching Notes, this phrase is about Jesus. Jesus is the one rejected by human beings, but chosen and precious in God’s sight. It is not a misuse of the text or the phrase to claim that in Christ we are all chosen and precious. So, this series is about Jesus and about us. It’s a celebration of the gift of Resurrection and the new life that it brings to us and to the world.
We begin the series on that slippery slope of a Sunday called Mother’s Day. It sometimes feels like a no-win situation for worship planning teams. Some might argue, “Who would begrudge giving thanks for mothers?” Well, perhaps no one would begrudge it, but the minefield is treacherous. There are people in most congregations whose experience with their mothers wasn’t positive. There is always the risk of evoking painful memories with such an emphasis. Those who have been abandoned by mothers, abused by mothers, or neglected by mothers would struggle during a Mother’s Day worship experience.
Then there are those who have had trouble becoming mothers despite the aching in their hearts. Problems of infertility are delicate issues and are often hidden in the congregation. Mothers who have lost a child could also struggle on Mother’s Day. You see the problem?
Then there are theological considerations as well. Too often a Mother’s Day service becomes worship of mothers or motherhood rather than a thanksgiving for mothers in the worship of Jesus Christ. At times, our special observations blur the lines.
Some might dismiss these considerations as “political correctness” in overdrive. But perhaps it is, instead, pastoral respect and radical hospitality toward all.
This doesn’t mean, however, that the day has to pass without recognition, nor should it. But the litany or prayer should be inclusive enough to speak to a variety of experiences of mothering – prayers for our mothers as well as prayers for those who struggle with motherhood. It is a simple way of acknowledging that the greeting card image of the perfect mother isn’t the whole story. Some may have been blessed to have a perfect mother, but many others weren’t so blessed.
Some congregations like to give gifts to mothers, a flower or ribbon or something simple. Perhaps the gift could be given to everyone, with the instruction to pass it on to someone who has been like a mother to them; someone who cared for them, nurtured them, healed them in some way. Celebrate someone who reminds congregants that, in Christ, they too were chosen and precious.
Let this act of worship be a true celebration of life. We are in Eastertide, standing in the glow of the Resurrection, so we embrace that gift and share it. That’s what parenting or mentoring does; it shares life. It shares it and shapes and enhances it by walking alongside one another, building up the body with an ongoing witness and testimony, with radical hospitality and pastoral care.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.