The Mother's Day Dilemma

May 1st, 2011

I have ambivalent feelings about celebrating Mother’s Day in worship services. On the one hand, it offers an opportunity to broach the important subject of the Christian family. On the other hand, it has the potential to create pain for people with fractured family relationships. It’s especially difficult for women who wanted to become mothers but, for whatever reasons, could not. Mother’s Day also frequently falls on Pentecost Sunday, forcing the preacher to make a hard decision concerning the focus of the service. 

That said, I usually observe Mother’s Day in some fashion. During the opening or pastoral prayer, I acknowledge that the day evokes different feelings in people, from joy to despair, and pray for those different needs in the congregation. An example follows:

A Mother’s Day Prayer

Eternal God, we thank you today for the relationships in our lives. We especially thank you for our family relationships. We are grateful for the love and nurture and joy that family life brings us. Yet we also acknowledge that our families sometimes bring us pain. So we pray today for those who struggle with broken and strained family relationships. On this Mother’s Day we give you thanks for our mothers, for all they have done and continue to do in our lives. We pray for all mothers here today. Help them, Lord, to be a blessing to their families. We pray for those in our congregation today whose mothers have died since this time last year, and who feel grief on this day. We also remember those here today who wanted to be mothers but could not be. This is a hard day for them, so give them an extra measure of your grace. Most of all, God, we thank you for being like a good mother to us, showering us with love and compassion and forgiveness and encouragement. Thank you for this day of worship. We ask your blessings on this gathering, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Mother’s Day Sermon

During the sermon I preach on some aspect of family life, from parenting, to honoring aging parents, to marriage. Three examples follow.

Several years ago, when Mother’s Day fell on Pentecost Sunday, I attempted to tie the two themes together with a sermon called, “The Church in Your House” (see Rom. 16:5). Last year on Mother’s Day I preached a sermon on marriage called “Leaving Eden.” The sermon was on surviving and thriving in a marriage relationship after leaving “Eden.” It would work equally well on Father’s Day. (You can order a manuscript of the sermon at This year I’m planning to preach a sermon called, “Our Other Mothers.” The sermon, based on the Moses story in Exodus 2:1-10 and Paul’s comment in Romans 16:13, will affirm the women in our lives who, although they are not our biological mothers, play (or played) an important role in our life. I hope this approach will affirm women who are not mothers but who still positively impact the lives of children, both young and old.

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