So glad I don’t preach Mother’s Day

So, tomorrow is Mother’s Day. And I’m glad I’m not preaching. It’s an impossible gig. I’m really glad I’m not preaching.

  • You need to talk about Mother’s Day, as if it were traditional for churches and not a civil and cultural observance, so lacking many of the liturgical hooks that makes worship manageable.
  • You need to show how important motherhood is, particularly for those who have dedicated large parts of their lives to it, without minimizing those who did not or could not have children, or suggesting that this is the main end of womanhood.
  • You need to extol maternal love, but also recognize that some mothers are or were hurtful, abusive, or otherwise harmful.
  • You need to acknowledge the deathlessness of the love that often did exist without hurting those still mourning their mothers.
  • You may need to talk about the fact that we are all someone’s child, without harming those who lost their children.
  • You may recognize that some people grow up with no mother, but perhaps not without one or more fathers, at the risk of making motherhood a vague concept.
  • You can point out that Mother’s Day began as a peace action, but not without addressing the other points.
  • And you need to balance all these conflicts, and pray that this careful act isn’t undercut by some well meaning custom, like rose corsages. A custom that may be very well-loved by some.

So good luck, preachers.

And remember: Father’s Day is only a month away.

“Maundy”?

I’ve casually mentioned my plans this week to several people and almost every time I’ve been asked what I mean by Maundy Thursday.

  1. It’s today.
  2. It is the anniversary of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples.
  3. And so it is the anniversary of the giving of the Lord’s Supper as a sacrament or ordinance. It’s also known as the Eucharist, or Communion, or the Mass, or the Liturgy. The alternate term Great Thanksgiving deserves use, too.
  4. Some churches — I’m thinking of the Unitarians and Universalists here — who might not have the Lord’s Supper at any other time might have it on Maundy Thursday.
  5. It was especially beloved by Universalists, who would welcome members at the service.
  6. Some churches wash feet at the service.
  7. The term maundy comes from the Latin mandamus, “commandment” from Jesus’ new commandment, “love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)

How to make a palm cross

I watched a bunch of palm cross how-to videos, so you don’t have to.

My bias is to make a palm cross out of a single strip, and to have both arms, the head and of the foot of the cross folded back into the central knot. I think they look better, because they’re less flimsy and more evenly shaped crosses.

This video not only show this, but also how to strip and trim the palm.

Ash Wednesday resources

I was talking to a friend about Ash Wednesday services. They’re not my favorite — the ashes can be ostentatious, and it reflects a particular Western Christian piety that I don’t care for — but the service has become more widely observed in the last couple of generations, so I’d like to revisit three blog posts that might help those who conduct it.

Preaching next on February 15

So, I’ve got about a month to prepare for my next sermon, and I’d love you to to hear it– and visit Universalist National Memorial Church — on February 15, 2015, at 11 a.m. (Directions.)

That’s the Feast of the Transfiguration, and I’ll be preaching from the appointed Revised Common Lectionary texts.

The Soul of the Bible: Christmas edition

Bonus blog post, following up from earlier. So, it seems the 1908 and 1946 editions are close — there’s a preface missing the later edition — indeed, so close that the arranged version of the customary Luke 2 passage, read at Christmas shares a page number. But what’s the reading based on?

It’s Luke 2:8-20, essentially the King James version, with bits of the American Standard Version to (gently) modernize the reading. Reminds me of Linus’s discourse in the Charlie Brown special. Good stuff.

St. Mary, Mother of God, pray with us

Less a proper blog post than a thought, perhaps to amplify later.

Copy of Theotokos icon of Máriapócs
Copy of Theotokos icon of Máriapócs, (CC-BY-SA, Joejojo)

I’ve read — but forget where — that Christmas is the time when Protestants become (more) Catholic. A higher regard for the saints and the generous use of medieval images come to mind. Not just the “you and me Jesus” focus that, in its own simplified way, places the Protestant ethos.

Which, is a bit weird for Unitarian Universalists, except perhaps for a small minority of the Christians who are already looking at this religion askew. Sometimes we seem like Protestants — certainly in our forms and structures — without Jesus. Something akin to “my experience with an uncertain universe” but with Sunday meetings and urn coffee.

Christmas is one of the times that flips that. Less the art than the songs and — if you’re using scripture at all — the biblical narrative. It’s hard to talk about a birth without considering the mother, and especially so when she’s one of the world’s well-loved religious figures and objects of projection. Particularly in an era where we’re more consciously trying to hear the testimony of women.

So far, Mary’s been a safe bet as the role of Jesus’ mother. But what ought we, might we say about her — even to her — once the boy is up and walking? Something to ponder.

Blue Christmas/Longest Night rollcall

“Blue Christmas” and “Longest Night” services are related phenomena that respect the worship needs of mourners, depressed or distressed people. Or more generally, those for whom the cheer of the season brings more pain than joy.

But it’s not easy to find these services if you’re not looking for them, and some are well before Christmas.

If you know of a service (or are hosting one), feel free to note it here. Not that this will create a catalog, but perhaps will attract people to the idea and prompt them to plan for next year.

An Advent daily reader for mixed generations?

Well, after writing yesterday that I had no comment about Advent… well, a conversation at church changed that.

Do you know of a family — that is, appropriate for use by adult and school-aged children — daily manual for Advent, appropriate for Universalist Christians? Ideally, something with a Bible passage for the day, a meditation and a prayer.

For daily prayers at the Advent wreath?

Anyone have a suggestion? (Intergenerational resources aren’t my strong suit.)