When it was my turn to take up the tradition last year, I enjoyed designing both services to include readings and recordings that honored the broad spectrum of what it means to be a parent or to have a parent.
Over the years, I’ve been so grateful for how aware Mosaic is that each person’s family experiences are deeply connected to the ways he or she experiences joy and sorrow. Our families’ strengths and weaknesses influence every aspect of our health–spiritual, emotional, physical. Our families influence our hopes and dreams, and they influence our abilities to reach them. Our families train us — for better AND for worse — how to react to everything life throws at us.
Knowing all that, it’s complicated to talk about family in church. Family is one of the Bible’s primary metaphors to describe God’s relationship with his people, and our relationships with each other. That is especially true in the New Testament, where over and over we are called “brothers and sisters in Christ.” It’s a wonderful sentiment, and it’s a spiritual truth. But in practice, it’s a messy reality to live out.
The problem is, we bring all our good and bad family “stuff” to church with us: our assumptions about how decisions get made; who is “allowed to feel” and who isn’t; what conflict is and what to do with it. And when our church experience doesn’t line up with those innate expectations, things can get messy.
But they can also get redemptive. I think God knew the risk he was taking when he told us to relate to each other like family members. He knew that we would bring the best and worst of ourselves into that experience. But he also knew that he would be in it with us. And he knew that this would mean our brokenness could be healed and our strengths could be magnified by his.
If we’re going to celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in our church, it’s really important that we make it redemptive. That we do it in a way that recognizes all that’s wonderful about our parents and is sensitive to all that’s awful. We must recognize the joys of those who love being parents and the sorrows of those who can’t be. Our celebrations of family should affirm what is sacred about parenting and offer hope to each of us, wherever we fall in the family spectrum, that where we or our parents have failed, God offers us a future that is whole and good.
But we’re not doing any of that this year. The simple reason is time. Coming off Easter and gearing up for summer, I simply couldn’t find time to plan Mother’s and Father’s Day services that would do all the things I just described.
So this weekend, we’ll pray for fathers like we prayed for mothers on on Mother’s Day. And then we’ll move ahead with a pretty typical service. I sincerely apologize if that’s a disappointment. But family is too central to our experience to gloss over. If we’re going to celebrate it, we need to do it right. And I simply couldn’t do it right this year.