Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sermon: Easter 7 2013 (Mother's Day)

These days my sermons are short and then followed by a period of reflection by the congregation. In this one I explored some of the issues around Mother's Day. I found the double image of freedom and release in the reading from Acts designated for the day (Acts 16.16-34) compelling. Partly inspired by the article "Why I Hated Mother's Day" (via Relevant Magazine) by Maria Gocke, along with this excellent, excellent sermon by Alyce M. McKenzie entitled "'M' is for the Many Things: A Sermon for Mother's Day", I tackled the ambiguous nature of Mother's Day head-on. Yes, mother's are great and deserve honour, but the way this festival is often promoted completely ignores and marginalizes people whose story doesn't look like something Normal Rockwell would have painted. It's tempting on a day like this to just go with the positive stuff, to talk about the "motherhood" of God, perhaps. Or maybe the Blessed Virgin Mary. Or the most important lessons I learned from my mother, etc. But a more honest (and rigorous) approach is to deal with the two sides of the issue and then shoot the gap between them.

Other influences on my preaching this morning included the Working Preacher website. I particularly liked this week's commentary on the Acts passage by Brian Peterson. I would like to tell you that I also read Feasting on the Word, but I didn't get around to it. I suppose I would have picked up FOTW if I hadn't already decided to go in the Mother's-Day-meets-Sunday direction. FOTW might have sharpened some of my tie-ins with the biblical material, but I had so much to work with already I didn't feel the need.

The other thing I would mention about my process this week would be the role of prayer. I was feeling very prayerful this morning as I thought about this sermon and then as I composed it. There was, as usual, the moment when all I had was thought about the passages and not even a glimmer of a sermon, yet. It's always terrifying to look at a blank screen or an empty piece of paper. So then I took a breath and prayed to the Holy Spirit, and she delivered as usual. The Holy Spirit has my homiletical back.

My practice is not to include the feedback time when I record these sermons. I want to respect people's privacy and maintain the very intimate, open, and trusting atmosphere of the forum time. Too bad, because much of the feedback today was excellent and highly engaging. Betsy, for example, pointed out that the founder of Mother's Day, Anna Jarvis, was distressed by how commercialized Mother's Day became even in her lifetime. Others pulled our time in other directions, including a heart felt reflection on the need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Great stuff. I loved the comment that one person made about how they studied the passages at home before Sunday! It's very hard to get that kind of engagement without having opportunities for feedback.

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