Mother’s Day and the Lord’s Day

mothersdayCelebrated writer and Presbyterian Anne Lamott certainly got some attention last week when she came out against Mother’s Day. In part, she wrote:

. . . Mother’s Day celebrates a huge lie about the value of women: that mothers are superior beings, that they have done more with their lives and chosen a more difficult path. Ha! Every woman’s path is difficult, and many mothers were as equipped to raise children as wire monkey mothers. I say that without judgment: It is, sadly, true. An unhealthy mother’s love is withering.

The illusion is that mothers are automatically happier, more fulfilled and complete. But the craziest, grimmest people this Sunday will be the mothers themselves, stuck herding their own mothers and weeping children and husbands’ mothers into seats at restaurants. These mothers do not want a box of chocolate. These mothers are on a diet.

I hate the way the holiday makes all non-mothers, and the daughters of dead mothers, and the mothers of dead or severely damaged children, feel the deepest kind of grief and failure. The non-mothers must sit in their churches, temples, mosques, recovery rooms and pretend to feel good about the day while they are excluded from a holiday that benefits no one but Hallmark and See’s. There is no refuge — not at the horse races, movies, malls, museums. Even the turn-off-your-cellphone announcer is going to open by saying, “Happy Mother’s Day!” You could always hide in a nice seedy bar, I suppose. Or an ER . . .

You can read the rest of Anne’s screed for yourself. I think she makes some good points. On the other hand, simply to ignore Mother’s Day on Sunday in church can also be hurtful. As we plan worship, Michael Corzine and I always struggle with how to acknowledge Mother’s Day without making non-mothers “feel the deepest kind of grief and failure.”

Our approach was to include scriptural images of mothers in the liturgy – especially in the prayers and hymns. And you might have noticed that the prayers of the people focused on families of many varieties, shapes, and sizes – not just on the stereotypical families often invoked on Mother’s Day. Here are two of the verses we sang from Daniel Bechtel’s hymn in Glory to God:

Like a mother who has borne us,
held us chose in her delight,
fed us freely from her body,
God has called us in to life.

Like a father who has taught us,
grasped our hand and been our guide,
left us and healed our sorrow
God has walked with us in life. . .

Michael and I have made a note to sing that hymn again on Father’s Day!

A Prayer Unvoiced

4308821636_4ebef09613_zMost years I receive an invitation to give the invocation down the street  at the Florida State Capitol.  Sometimes the invitation comes from the House of Representatives, sometimes the Senate.  This year it was the Senate who called.

I am ambivalent about public invocations.  I don’t like “generic” prayers that offend no one and address no deity in particular.  On the other hand, I don’t think I should take advantage of a captive audience to foist the Triune God upon a sea of bowed heads.

I usually accept the invitation, however, because scripture mandates that we pray for those in authority and because, quite clearly, they need it.

Perhaps you know about the deadlock between the Florida House and Senate.  The Republican-dominated Senate has proposed a budget which includes expanded health insurance for about 800,000 working Floridians who can’t otherwise afford coverage.  (These officials can’t bear to admit they want to buy into the Affordable Care Act, so they talk simply of “expanded coverage.”)

The House, however, also dominated by Republicans, seems to have lost not only its heart but also its mind, and continues to cling to the fantasy that it can remain pure of the taint of Obama Care without, quite literally, killing some of its most vulnerable constituents.

On April 29 the House adjourned three days early, giving a huge raspberry to the Senate and, for that matter, to the folks who elected them.

On my way to offer my prayer for the Senate the next day, the church office got a call.  Turns out the Senate decided not to bother coming back into session at all.  No Senate. No prayer.

So, here’s the prayer I meant to pray.  I hope God hears it anyway.

Gracious God:
We thank you for the freedoms we enjoy,
for the high calling of public service,
and for the sacred duty you have laid
upon those in authority
to show compassion, justice, and mercy to all

Grant to these, your servants in the Florida Senate,
refreshment from their labors,
vision to see beyond the current crisis,
and courage to stand with the least of your children.

In all their dealings today and in the future,
give them wisdom, patience, fortitude, and good humor,
that your will might be done
and your love for all might be made manifest.

This we ask in your holy name. Amen.