This weekend, many preachers will preach a sermon tailored towards mothers. That is wonderful and beautiful. And this weekend, many preachers will follow the lectionary—the Church-appointed scriptural texts that follow the trajectory of the life of Christ. That, too, is wonderful and beautiful. But any preacher in the First World West would be unwise to overlook the fact that Mother’s Day weekend is, in fact, a sort of “liturgical” holiday for the society in which we live. We’ve got it stamped in our collective calendars to take some extra time to celebrate, honor, and remember our mothers.
But today I just can’t get it out of my head. I’ve been thinking about the pain that so many will carry into the sanctuary with them this weekend. So how do we lead our services and preach to those for whom this weekend elicits the kinds of emotional-and-relational groans that words just can’t express?
Here are a five things I’d encourage every preacher to consider this weekend:
- There will be people in your congregation whose mothers have died. On a day where so many are dressed up and smiling and taking pictures and celebrating by giving flowers, let the grieving know you’re so very sorry for their loss. Let them know that you’re sad there will be an empty seat at the table at lunch. Let them know that you’re praying for the comfort of the Lord to wash over them this weekend, and that you’re praying that the memories and moments of joy, laughter, and delight that they shared with their mother—the bedtime routines of reading, back-scratching, and lullaby-singing, the family vacations, the holiday cooking, and the many happy Christmases together—would come rushing back to mind. Let them know that you sincerely stand with them this weekend as they grieve, remember, and work to hold on to those delightful moments.
- There will be moms in the congregation who have had children die–from miscarriage and stillbirth, a prolonged sickness, a heart-breaking and accidental death, suicide. Their will be women who have aborted. Their children are all they can think about on days like this. And though there is nothing we can say or do to remove the sting of loss, can we give them a place to remember and grieve, a place where they can feel the strength and support of the congregation of believers?
- There will be women in your congregation who desperately want to be moms and it just hasn’t happened yet. There are those who have visited fertility specialists, spent incredible amounts of money (that many of them have taken out loans to acquire), and, still, they lay in bed at night without a child developing in their wombs. Many of them are pursuing adoption, only to hit the same wall of financial difficulty. Will you say something to them that acknowledges that pain? And then there will be others who come to worship with you who grieve. Yes, while many women have joyfully taken “holy orders,” have embraced the holy vocation of a life of singleness—and I call it holy because I believe it to be precisely that!—there are just as many (if not many more) that presently mourn their singleness. They want to be married and they want to have children, but it just hasn’t happened yet. What if we took the time to let them know we see them, we hear their cries, and we genuinely stand with them for the desires of their hearts to be fulfilled?
- There will be people in your congregation who have sorrow because life was difficult with mom. Maybe it was a drug addiction that stole their mother away from them; maybe their single mother was scrambling so much to keep the bills paid—nobly working 2 and 3 jobs—that they never had the gift of much face-to-face interaction; maybe the attention they got was the attention they never wanted—physical abuse and loud screaming. Preachers, will you take the time—even if it’s just 15-seconds that helps them feel seen—to give voice to the guttural cry that’s resident in so many hurting children? And will you also help them lift their heads to the God Who nurtures, cares, feeds, addresses, and loves us? The prophet Isaiah (49:15) presents us with a God whose love far outstrips even the gentlest, most nurturing breast-feeding mother. I pray that people leave our churches this weekend having encountered such a God.
- There will be people in your congregation that have caused deep grief for their mother. Many of them have ignored the sins of the past and failed to apologize and repent to their mother. If Proverbs 10:1 is true—that “a wise child maketh a glad father, but a foolish child brings grief to a mother”—then the next right thing to do is to repent. Will you challenge people in your congregation to make things right with mothers (with parents!) that are still alive? To pick up the phone, to buy the plane ticket to go out and make things right? And will you comfort the people in your congregations that carry shame from their grief-inducing offenses committed against their deceased parents? For, indeed, as the prophet Micah said, we serve the God who has “compassion on us; [He] will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19).
Pastors, please hear me. I’m certainly not suggesting that these five things are mandatory to address this weekend. Not in the least. But if our services this weekend are only happy and upbeat and tailored to moms for whom life seems to be working at the moment, then we risk alienating and overlooking so many tender hearts that will be in the room. If we are called to preach the good news to human beings living in God’s good world that has been severely marred by sin and pain, and if it’s true that Mother’s Day elicits a wide range of emotions within people, then we ought to work to anticipate what those emotions are and do our best to proclaim a word of Good News that brings hope to people right where they are.
8 Replies to “Preaching For the Hurting on Mother’s Day”
Only a true Pastor would even consider these things! You have a beautiful heart Daniel Grothe! It is an honor to know you!
Will be praying for you! Xo
You are as sweet as they come, Miss Patti…and I love you.
Thank you for this. I’m one of those who purposely drops off the grid on this weekend, don’t go to church and basically stay away from people. I am happy for others who have the joy in their life, however it’s just too painful for me…. their joy is like lemon to my wound as is my sorrow to their happiness. Anyway, thank you so much for posting this.
Thank you for sharing your heart. Means so much. Grace to you this weekend…and may you find yourself caught up in the comfort and joy of the Lord.
Thank you for this. I am one who celebrates being the mother of two beautiful kiddos here on earth, but there is always a certain sting on Mothers Day that I am not with my first born…. I appreciate the heart of the Father, who is gentle and loving in the midst of all of our complexities and our unique situations, that you shared in this post ☺
As usual, I appreciate your reflections, DG. This sort of care is so greatly needed. Prayers and love… always. This is the prayer that will be prayed in my parish today:
On this Mothers’ Day we give thanks to God for the divine gift of motherhood in all its diverse forms. Let us pray for all the mothers among us today; for our own mothers, those living and those who have passed away; for the mothers who loved us well and for those who fell short of loving us fully; for all who hope to be mothers someday and for those whose hopes to have children have been frustrated; for all mothers who have lost children; for all women who have mothered others in any way – those who have been our substitute mothers and all who have done so for those in need. Bless all women who demonstrate loving care for children this day. We pray this all in the name of God, whose children we all are. Amen.
As a pastor in training, I seriously appreciate your perspective here. You are very inclusive and make sure that no one is pushed to the outskirts of the Jesus’ love and understanding. Thanks for the insight!
I remember after I miscarried for the first time, someone made the comment, “you’ll be a great mom…one day” and it ripped at my heart. My motherhood had been established. It just wasn’t visible to most. Thank you for acknowledging the moms with invisible motherhood. It brings so much healing.