By: Pastor Rebecca Jones
Special days like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be difficult days for many people who fill the pews of our local churches. In fact, I have often heard it said that it is one of the most dreaded days of the year for those who do not have children of their own or for those who have lost parents in the last year. One of my friends was sharing her heart and described Mother’s Day as the day that reminded her that she did not measure up to society’s expectations of her.
Preaching on days like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be difficult. Trying to find that careful balance between giving value and honor to those who play the important role of mother and father, while being inclusive of all members of the congregation can be a difficult gap to bridge, especially from the pulpit. In many churches, there is the expectation that something special be done on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Perhaps a small gift is given out or a special prayer is incorporated or an announcement is made to recognize all mothers or fathers. But, whether we intend to or not, too often we create a divide between those who are mothers and fathers and those who are not and a divide between those who have mothers and fathers and those who do not.
But, in the pulpit, preachers have the unique opportunity to bridge that divide. Preachers have the opportunity to preach the Word of God which tells a counter-narrative to that of our culture. Through preaching, we proclaim the counter-narrative that women and men who are single or who cannot have children or choose not to have children are still valuable and have an important place in the Church and in the Kingdom of God. Through preaching, pastors proclaim that each person is deeply loved, even if they do not have an earthly father or mother, because they have a God who created them and knows them and loves them. Through preaching, we give value to all without taking value from any. Through preaching, we set aside cultural gender divides and tell the counter-narrative that men and women have a vital role in proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God is an inclusive Kingdom for all believers. And in the midst of cultural holidays that can bring great joy and great sorrow, preachers have the opportunity to proclaim that Kingdom. Preachers have the opportunity to speak a word of hope and value and grace into the life of parishioners. Preachers have the opportunity to give God’s value to each person: male or female, married or single, those who are biological mothers, those who are adoptive mothers, and those who are spiritual mothers (and the same for fathers). And preachers have the opportunity to call each person to be a part of building for the Kingdom of God here and now.
Some pastors have used these cultural holidays as days to call the Church to the life of discipleship. A woman in our congregation comes to mind. She was not able to have children of her own, but she plays the important role of being a spiritual mother to all of the children in the church, including my daughter. And, as a pastor, I know that part of my responsibility on days like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is to give value to members of the congregation who play the role of spiritual mothers and spiritual fathers. To note their contribution in raising up a new generation that loves Christ and loves his Church.
Each child needs the contributions of spiritual mothers and fathers to help raise them in the love of Christ. After all, is that not what we, as pastors, ask the congregation to commit to when we dedicate or baptize a child? That the Body of Christ will come alongside the parents and help them raise and disciple this child in the life of Christ? Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is an opportunity to once again call the Church to be disciple-makers. It is an opportunity for preachers to preach the Word of God that proclaims that every person is valuable and has something to contribute for the building of the Kingdom. As preachers, we can give value to these men and women, who may not take on the title ‘mother’ or ‘father,’ but who play a significant role in the Body of Christ by discipling a new generation who loves the Lord and his Church.
So take the time to know your context. Take the time to listen to the joys and sorrows that come with these cultural days that value a certain group or groups. And take the time to know your blind spots. As a female pastor and a mother, I must be careful to know that my experience does not speak for every woman in the congregation, nor should it. To assume so would be to make a grave mistake. Finally, take the time to prayerfully prepare to speak a word of life and hope into the life of the parishioners who fill the pews.
Most importantly, worship and preaching should always point to Christ. We must be diligent to ensure that nothing takes the place of Christ or becomes more of a focus than Christ or is given more value than Christ, even on days that our culture has set aside to honor a certain group or groups. Christ is the object of our worship. Christ is the focus of preaching. Becoming more like Christ is the telos for God’s people. May it be so on Mother’s Day and Father’s day like every other day of worship as the Body of Christ.
Rebecca Jones serves as the Co-Lead Pastor of Cornerstone Community Church of the Nazarene in Wagoner, OK.