In some Christian calendars today, Ascension Day has been transferred or is being observed (it was actually Thursday). On my secular calendar, I see it is Mothers' Day. Outside, it turned from a rainy, foggy day into a sunny day. What very different places call us on any given Sunday evening. With lots of directions to go in, I thought tonight we'd look at sermons about mothers on Mothers' Day and have a little church humor while we're at it. But first, a reminder of why we're all here:
Welcome to Brothers and Sisters, the weekly meetup for prayer* and community at Daily Kos. We put an asterisk on pray* to acknowledge that not everyone uses conventional religious language, but may want to share joys and concerns, or simply take solace in a meditative atmosphere. Anyone who comes in the spirit of mutual respect, warmth and healing is welcome.More after the orange cloud of incense...
Today at Mass, the focus was squarely on the Ascension and if you look at the Psalm (Ps. 97) and some of the hymns, very squarely on the Kingship of Christ--a troublesome association with the Ascension, maybe, but one which the Church has long made: the virtuous concept of a Commonwealth of Christ is an appealing one, until you try to sing it. I'm sure in some churches, mothers and motherhood were much discussed and from many approaches and angles. I am sure some people heard the usual Marian allegories which sometimes (alright, often) end in exhortations to virtue and obedience dolled up with pretty piety in a nice pink bow made out of shackles. These kinds of sermons about motherhood at mother's day are unfortunate for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that St. Mary the Virgin has other days which are proper to her not to mention her Canticle is part of the Daily Offices of the Book of Common Prayer which--next to being the Mother of God--should be considered honor enough without having to hog the limelight by nosing in on your Son's Ascension when you have one of those of your own according to just about everyone except the Dormition conspiracy theorists, evangelical Anglicans, Lutherans, and Democrats. But I digress...
Still others may have heard sermons about how Jesus himself interacted with women in the Gospels. These kinds of sermons are better, because they tend to begin with the premise that everyone in the room is a human being, including the women. St. Mary may well make an appearance in these kinds of sermons, but her supporting cast includes some people from the other side of the tracks. These sorts of more inquisitive, more seeking sermons often end with the acknowledgement of a kind of motherhood more diverse and evolving than the platitudes to the sponsors of 1950's television one finds in more relaxed atmospheres, like MegaChurches™ .
There's another kind of sermon some people might have heard today. This is my favorite one. It's one you can find in certain kinds of Episcopal Churches and I'm sure in other denominations as well. This is the one that uses church hierarchy as an allegory for motherhood. I am sorry to say that most of the congregations where you could find this kind of sermon preached have mostly closed or are dangerously close to closing and all of the others are Seminary chapels. It's sad because there are just so many ways you can say that mother is like the House of Bishops and I'm quite convinced I haven't heard all of them and may never get the chance.
Then there's the kind of sermon I heard today. One which dutifully addressed the business of the day according to the Lectionary without ever once mentioning Our Lady or mothers unless they were mentioned during the slight but mercifully brief commotion caused by my copy of The Anglican Chant Psalter falling off of the organ bench. The priest, one of a team of fine clerics filling in during our Rector's sabbatical, studiously avoided inviting a controversy over mothers and motherhood by steadfastly refusing to patronize mothers with analogies and quaint stories or even worse, by sharing his own opinions on the matter--something which has ruined many an otherwise ideal incumbency. He left the honoring of mothers to their offspring, many of the older of which had organized an annual Mothers' Day plant sale in honor of mothers, mothering, motherhood, and deep in the breast of one lanky youth I suspect of harboring Anglo-Catholic sympathies, in honor of the Blessed Mother.
Now, I can hear you saying "aren't you picking on clergy here?" Of course I am. It is part of the oath you sign in blood when you join the American Guild of Organists (when you join the Association of Anglican Musicians you sign in your mother's blood). But we organists aren't exempt from the temptation to offer commentary on Mother. If you don't believe me, see this article. We have been known to weave all sorts of things into improvisations, so the next time your organist is doodling while you're kneeling at the altar rail, listen for Take Me Out to The Ballgame. I myself stuck to doodling on a tune by Orlando Gibbons while the priest took what was, in my estimation, too much time at the credence table.
Personally, I'm very fond of my own mother. In fact, I just got off the phone with her. For the second time today. I'm also very fond of looking for mothering images of God and in evolving constructs of motherhood--something you can't really do more than whet the appetite for in a sermon.
What do you think about the Mothers' Day sermons you've heard, if you've heard any? Do mainstream ideas of motherhood creep you out? That, and our prayers, joys, and meditations in the comments.
I love you, Ma.