To call it a significant holiday would be a bit of an understatement, and for Baptist ministers who serve churches that expect a significant focus on mothers that Sunday morning, it can be a daunting week of preparation.
How do you honor mothers while remembering that we are gathered to worship God? Should creativity and innovation be attempted or should time-tested, perhaps time-worn, patterns be repeated?
Should the sermon center around a mothering or family theme? Or should the lectionary texts be used and the recognition of mothers take place at another time in the service?
If the former, what texts should be used and how? If the latter, what should this moment contain and when should it take place in the regular liturgy?
How do you shape a Mother’s Day emphasis so that it embraces the diverse relationships to mothers in the congregation? Is it even possible to encompass the wide range of relationships represented (good and bad, close and estranged, living and deceased, biological, adopted, foster and surrogate, and so on)?
These are pressing questions facing worship leaders as Sunday, May 12, approaches, and resources can be invaluable in the planning process.
Over the years, EthicsDaily.com has posted several columns related to Mother’s Day, which should prove helpful in planning for this important day of celebrating mothers. The diversity of these pieces allows ministers many possible angles to honor mothers on this national holiday.
This lens offers a social approach to the holiday by recalling Jesus’ blessing upon the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) and reminding parents of their role in teaching children the path of nonviolence.
Jim Evans urged worship leaders to acknowledge the widely divergent relationships persons have with their mothers, and to help people remember that there are “many different ways that mothering happens.”
Evans reminds worship leaders to offer time and space for both joy and grief during the Mother’s Day emphasis and encourages them not to focus only on biological mothers, but to give thanks for all positive expressions of mothering.
In sermons preached on Mother’s Day, Wendell Griffin reflected on Luke 2:14-51 and suggested that to nurture children in the way of God, mothers should be thoughtful and prayerful persons.
Joel Snider focused on 1 Samuel 1:21-28, emphasizing that children are a gift from God and parents have been entrusted with the responsibility to treat and raise them well.
Using Luke 13:31-35, Carra Hughes Greer noted Jesus’ words about feeling like a mother hen wishing to gather her brood under her wings.
While not a Mother’s Day sermon, Greer’s focus on God as Parent – with qualities often described as “motherly” – offers a helpful lens through which to celebrate and encourage mothers (and all caregivers) to embody the nurturing, unending love of God.
Guy Sayles emphasized that we can learn much from Jesus’ mother about what it means to be a disciple. This approach would provide preachers an opportunity to emphasize the importance of mothers in the faith development of their children.
In a moving story, Joshua Hearne shared about helping a mother visit her children for a weekend. This could serve as a sermon illustration reminding the congregation that, for some, Mother’s Day is a painful, tearful experience, and, perhaps, inspiring congregational efforts to help estranged or separated families to reunite and reconcile.
Recently, Christina Gibson’s reflection on Proverbs 31 noted that this is a descriptive, not a prescriptive text. While not focused exclusively on mothers, this column offers pastors a helpful lens for preaching on a text often used as the basis for Mother’s Day sermons.
Finally, Cliff Vaughn cited several Baptist pastors who noted the important role their mothers played in their choice to become vocational ministers and shared a few ways they have celebrated mothers in worship on this holiday.
I hope these resources prove helpful to pastors and worship leaders as they seek to prepare and implement thoughtful, meaningful and nuanced Mother’s Day emphases in worship on Sunday, May 12.
Zach Dawes is the managing editor for EthicsDaily.com.