Our God is a God of relationship, who seeks us out and longs for us to live in relationship with others and all of creation. (You may be saying to yourself right about now, well duh!) I believe that on Christian Family Sunday we are called to celebrate these relationships. Relationships that enrich and challenge us to live our faith.
On this particular Sunday we may be challenged for not focusing primarily on Mothers. Often we find ourselves engaging in either/ or conversations but what I’d like to suggest is that Christian Family Sunday can be a both/and kind of celebration. That is this Sunday we can celebrate Christian Family Sunday and celebrate the ways of mothering which have nurtured, empowered and challenged us.
I have worshipped in a congregation that celebrated what it means to be siblings to one another in faith and also made intentional the recognition of gifts we have often aligned with mothers. Gifts of support, nurture, comfort, care, compassion, empathy, passion, challenge, etc… And I know that however Christian family Sunday is celebrated in worship I will be joining with my sisters in celebrating our mom.
So why focus on Christian Family Sunday, why not avoid the conflict that sometimes occurs in our congregations if we don’t give the mothers in the congregation some special recognition.
The choosing to celebrate Christian Family Sunday is in no way intended to belittle or deny the richness of mothering many of us have received from biological mothers, adoptive mothers, and countless others in our lives who have loved us, nurtured us, cared for us and challenged us to be the best we can be. However most of us would say that these gifts have been offered to us not only from those who are female, and those we would name as mom. Most of us can name others who have “mothered” us, and we want to celebrate them as well. And some of us have never known this love, nurture, care, support or challenge from those who they would name as mother. At it’s best we want to celebrate those we would name as “mothering” whether biological, adoptive, chosen, or other.
The reason I choose to focus on Christian Family Sunday this day is about more than celebrating those who have “mothered” us. For me, it is about what it means to care for the “kin” of God, our siblings in the faith community, and “kin” of God in other faith traditions, and about our relationship to all of God’s created world not just the human members.
For me, it’s not about idealizing family in a specific form. It’s about naming what makes this faith community family. At it’s best, no matter the particular gender or age make up, family is about a place where we are known by name, accepted with all of our warts and wrinkles, (though these can often be pretty annoying), encouraged to grow into the fullest version of ourselves. A place where we are safe but not a place to hide out from engaging in life. A place that grounds us in values and morality and faith, I hope! A place that empowers us to risk, to celebrate, to rejoice and to grieve. A place we can always come back to, to be fed, body, mind and spirit.
You might wish to ask how do we measure up as a faith community to some of these descriptors of family? Is this a place where we are known by name, where we are accepted with all our warts and wrinkles, if so that’s wonderful and something to celebrate this Christian Family Sunday, if not is this something we long for in our faith communities and how might we make it so?
What makes this particular family Christian? How do we share the faith story, share the good news? Encourage and help one another to discern God’s calling in this day and place? Celebrate and grieve with one another the precious moments of life and death? How do we help one another live our faith, witness to justice and compassion, and fullness of life for all God’s “kin”?
Are there other descriptors you would want for your faith community as you seek to be Christian Family to one another?
If you choose to celebrate this second Sunday of May, may it be a time to remember, to grieve and to rejoice!
—Jackie Harper is a recently retired minister. She is enjoying quilting, swimming, writing and looking forward to gardening.