As I watched tears flow down cheek after cheek during the pastoral prayer on Sunday, I thought anew about the concept of celebrations days not being so celebratory for many.
This was the prayer we were praying:
Mothers come in many different forms, and today we celebrate them all!
Thank God for mothers!
For those women who have joined God in heaven and whom we miss dearly here on earth.
Thank God for the mothers of the past.
For every woman who is raising her children now making sacrifices for her children’s becoming.
Thank God for the mothers of today.
For those women who have taken in others’ children through adoption and foster care, showing us that the love of God far extends beyond biological ties.
Thank God for the mothers with hearts so big.
For those women who have lost a child to death or want to have a child know they can’t, carrying on with the pain of lost dreams.
Thank God for the mothers who are so strong.
For all the women who are “mother hens” in our community; who nurture us, support us and guide us in our becoming.
Thank God for the mothers in spirit.
We thank you, Lord, for the women who have influenced our lives in so many ways.
We pray that we will honor them in everything we do. Amen.
Even with the sensitivity to all types of mothers and honoring motherly contributions in our lives of all kinds, there was still much sadness across the congregation. An entire day on the cultural calendar set to honor mothers just seemed like a slap in the face to the pains deep within many of loss!
Yet, such experiences, I know, are not limited to Mother’s Day alone. Father’s Day can be quite difficult as well as Christmas, Easter, and even Valentine’s Day (which this year fell on Sunday).
For example, I’ve had single friends tell me that even if they are happy with the state of their social lives, the romantic love fest of Valentine’s Day seems to be like one huge slap in the face as if something wrong with them. You can’t walk out of your house or turn on the tv the week prior without seeing things that want to remind you that life is not complete without a partner. And, it’s painful.
Yet, I’m encouraged by a new tradition set by a sister church of ours, Calvary Baptist, DC. Twice a year around Easter and Christmas, the congregation hosts a service of “light and darkness” especially designed for those whom these times of the year aren’t as jolly as most. It’s a service of naming grief and allowing God’s spirit to comfort through the words of scripture and the love of the community. (And, I hope that Washington Plaza can set a new tradition like this of our own sometime in the months ahead because I’ve heard such wonderful things about it).
Yet at the same time as these cultural and even church calendar year celebration days are meant to be obviously celebratory, so you want to honor those persons who feel this way. You want to use Mother’s Day as an opportunity in the Christian community to talk about God’s gift to us of nurture, care and support. You want to fully embrace the joy of Christmas Eve. You want to sing alleluias at Easter. And, we must do all of these things. It would be wrong not to, out of fear of tapping into waters of pain.
But, the question remains, how can we as a community of faith both sing with those who are rejoicing and cry with those who grieving?
I believe it is on these celebratory days of the year that we hold such a truth together in tension. As pastoral leaders, we seek but often struggle to find the right balance.
However, if we are mature enough to be sensitive both to our own experiences of these days along with those sitting next to us, we come to understand more fully what it means to stick close to the heart of God. We share in one another burdens in a way that makes scripture’s call to us come to life.
For as much as any day of our life is joyous, it is sad for another. As much one day is painful for us, there is hope being birthed anew in our neighbor. And, this is the human story. And, in the body of Christ, we are able to become more human by having community to understand this story.
Let us not be sad or simply happy, but let us be a community that holds one another life experiences and emotions in our hearts so that we may truly come to understand what it means to be woven together as one. I’m looking forward to continuing to figure out wha this means with you, my friends, on Sunday.