Sunday, May 8, 2016

Blessed Are the Women

My Mother's Day flowers
The Sermon I Wish I Could Give On Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is not my favorite holiday. While I appreciate the intent behind establishing a day to honor the women who gave us life, for me, as a mother, daughter, sister, and friend, the day itself is an ambiguous one, fraught with empathy for women who want to be mothers but are not, women who have lost mothers, women who are mothers grieving lost children, or women who are raising children in less than ideal circumstances (pretty much every mother at some point in her life). 

On Mother’s Day this year, I went to church with my ten-year old daughter and listened to rambling “talks” from two teenage boys, followed by a returned missionary report and the obligatory gift of a small bag of chocolate-covered cherries. I enjoyed the cherries. But I left wanting a different kind of sermon, one more focused on the day itself. Frankly, in the context of current cultural anti-feminist attacks, Mother’s Day platitudes feel like mere lip service.

Here’s the sermon I, as a woman and a mother, would have given on Mother’s Day:

Mary, the mother of Jesus, gave birth to her firstborn son under less than ideal circumstances. She was an unwed pregnant teenager, but fortunately, her fiancĂ© Joseph decided to marry her anyway, even though they both knew he was not her baby daddy. These days, you don’t find too many stand-up guys like Joseph, unfortunately, as far too many single mothers can tell you. Mary gave birth in a barn, because there was no national healthcare system in those days, Some things haven’t changed.

When Jesus was 12 years old, his parents lost him while they were on a family trip. This was before text messaging. They found him in a synagogue teaching his elders about the scriptures. When his mom scolded him, Jesus gave her the best tween excuse of all time: “Mom, I’m doing God’s work here. Chill out.” If my 12-year-old son tried something like this, I would probably ground him from his iPod for at least a day. Also, I would be secretly impressed.

In Jesus’s brief ministry, here are some things he did not talk about (but which certain Republican legislators are trying to abrogate under the false pretense of “Christian Values”):

Gay marriage
Reproductive rights
Keeping people from using the bathroom they want to use.

And here are some things he did talk about (which seem largely absent from the vocabulary of many contemporary conservative Christians):

Loving one another
Embracing the stranger
Forgiving people and not judging them.

One of the last things Jesus taught by example was how to respect and honor our mothers. While he was dying on the cross, Jesus made arrangements to ensure that his mother was cared for. 

What do we do to care for the women in our lives? This election season, I’ve become increasingly alarmed by the rhetoric of institutionalized sexism that has joined equally ugly racism and xenophobia in our national conversation. Policies that benefit women—maternity leave, childcare, healthcare, reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work, etc.—are under attack. 

This Mother’s Day, I’m thinking about all of the women who deserve so much more than we have right now. 

Blessed Are the Women

Blessed are the mothers, 
for they gave us life.

Blessed are the mothers who stayed at home during our childhood,
For they played pretend games and served us healthy snacks.
They showed us they cared by sacrificing themselves for us.

Blessed are the mothers who worked during our childhood,
For they attended our school conferences and helped us with late night homework.
They showed us they cared by sacrificing themselves for us.

Blessed are the mothers who are married,
And blessed are the mothers who are not married.
Both have their secret sorrows and joys.

Blessed are the mothers who abandoned us:
We cannot always know the price they paid for our life.
And blessed are the mothers who are estranged from us
As we pray for reconciliation.

Blessed are the mothers who hurt us.
We do not know the pain that they endured,
And we forgive them, to assuage our own grief.

Blessed are the mothers of children who are sick:
Theirs is a special calling, to care too dearly, 
to trade one future for another.

Blessed are the mothers who have lost children too young.
Any mother who outlives a child has lost her child too young.
May we pray for grace and peace for these sweet mothers.

Blessed are the mothers of furry or slimy or scaly creatures.
Their calling is to care for all life,
And they nurture living things as acolytes of Mother Earth.

Blessed are the women who choose not to be mothers.
There is nothing selfish in their right 
To self-determination.

Blessed are the women who are not mothers but want to be.
Theirs is an exquisite grief, a primal longing,
Let us assure them that they belong and matter in our world.

Blessed are the sisters, daughters, wives, girlfriends.
Blessed are all the women, for they shall care for the earth.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. That was a much better sermon.