Sunday, March 26, 2006

Mothers Day Un-masked

...and the foster mum...and the teenage mum...and the alcoholic mum...and...and...and...

Jesus asked, "Which of all these different mothers does the church love more than the others?"


  1. Anonymous7:46 am

    Having been both sides of the fence as it were both the harrased mother who tried to keep her little angels (5) looking and behaving in a seemingly normal way ...and being the minister responsible for leading a Mothering Sunday service I wonder why the church continues to look for a chocolate box image of family...I am grateful that I have experienced the normal problems of parenthood along with a few others, and hope that somehow I can convey the message that God wants us to know his care and his support message this week concentrated on leaning on God in the hard times and being real, I hope it was relevant in a day where perfectionism and expectations are raised...

  2. Sally - thanks for this. I really appreciated reading what you did on your blog - which I've added to my blogroll. I love this kind of creativity, and also the willingness of congregations to embrace death in order to experience God's new life - and the emotional and practical difficulties that throws up, that need to be worked-through...Thanks for sharing your journey.

  3. I liked your provocative post. I too was leading a mother's day service, a somewhat surreal experience for me, as I am a full-time Dad! It's either time to take father's day on board or to make mother's day 'carer's day' when thanks is given to God for whoever He has provided to perform all the glorious tasks of parenthood, from washing, cleaning, homework, discipline and fun.

    However - that's not why I was inspired to comment here!

    I wonder if it is not a little harsh to suggest that the church loves some mothers more than others. Certainly my experience is that the church knows how to love some more than others; and is less judgemental and critical than the impression it gives by its sheer incomprehension of how to be Christlike (in as much as being "full of grace AND truth" rather than having to choose one or the other).

    Also I wonder if there is a relationship here with the book of Psalms. If we, following Walter Brueggeman (sp?) agree that the Psalter has an overall structure of 'orientation' (the world as is should be under God, and David etc); 'disorientation' exile and injustice; and 'reorientation' a new orientation to God post-exile.

    Many Christian people (like myself), have been quite absurdly blessed by God and had a very 'orientated' existence. What then do we have to offer to those whose life resonates with the disoreintation of the Psalms 70+ of "why O Lord?" when we live in a world of Psalm 1? Those who have been there and yet have also known reorientation to God are able to demonstrate Christs love so much more profoundly than me.

    I do not love the alcoholic mother less. But I often feel 'blessed into irrelevance' for her. Our desire for 'cholocate box family' - and sense of threat when it is not achieved; assumes too direct an appropriation of the promised blessings of Psalms like #1 - without respect to their function in the book.

    Then perhaps Brueggemans stages also relate to stages of parenthood and cycles of family life. Perhaps the parent teaching a willing toddler who adores its parent is a scene of orientation; the teenage-parent mutual misunderstanding one of disorientation; followed by the re-orientation of a new relationship as equal adults. Mark Twain's famous quote, "when I was 16 my father was a complete fool, by the time I was 25, I was amazed how much he had learned" spings to mind!

    Personally (and perhaps contraversially) I am also convinced that the old-fashioned notion of 'conviction of sin' in the Puritan sense of the experience, is absolutely essential for the oreintated Christian, from an orientated Christian home. For me, this experience was the only time of complete and utter disorientation to God that I have had, (Why have you forsaken me?) and is critical to making me not just theoretically dependent on grace; but consciously, enotionally and devotionally dependent too.

    If the church is going to stop treating the single mother, the alcoholic mother (etc) in a manner imitating the 'unmerciful servant' then perhaps a fresh conviction of the weight of our own sin forgiven, might be the remedy; the disorientation we need to relate to the disorientated.

  4. THM - thanks for your thoughts; you've obviously taken time to think about them, and I'm not sure I can respond with the same depth. But I do want to say that my intention is not to be harsh towards the church - harshness is hardly fruitful - but simply to raise questions, to provoke reflection...

    I would agree with you that many of us feel so blessed that we feel unable to relate to others, or engage with them with any relevance. Not that we are ungrateful for God's blessing, but that sometimes the blessing itself makes it feel hard to know how to bless others, even when we want to...Perhaps you are right that a greater appreciation of our own sins forgiven would help; then again, it might throw up the same angst as other blessings received...I don't know. But, I'm less interested in saying "this is the answer" as discovering answers together. So, thank you again for your contribution to the conversation!