As our congregation celebrated the fifth day of Easter yesterday (May 14), or as early church fathers called it—the eighth day or the day of new creation—I reflected again on what the difference one’s view of the role of historic theology meant for the church in our day. I am convinced most evangelical churches celebrated Mother’s Day as the central event of the day on May 14. I have no empirical data to tell you what percentage actually made their service into a celebration of Mother’s Day but I do have little doubt that the majority of non-Catholic churches in America turned this day, and the worship of their local church, into an event centered upon mothers.
Over the past fourteen years I have preached widely in churches across North America. I have experienced almost every tradition and form of worship known to evangelicals. On many occasions I have been in the pulpit of churches on Mother’s Day. On several of these occasions I was even urged to preach about Mother’s Day. (One church changed my speaking date to protect the church from a message with a note of repentance that would be less than appropriate on Mother’s Day.) I have witnessed the use of songs, special music and specially created forms, all employed to honor our mothers. This is a big event, especially in our modern evangelical and anti-liturgical settings.
I am not suggesting that we should not honor our mothers. Nor am I suggesting that we should not extend warm Christian greetings to mothers on this particular day. (Our pastor began with a public greeting to mothers and thanked God for the mothers in the congregation!) I am not even suggesting that the day never become an occasion for preaching on the role of mothers, especially in the modern age where motherhood is under the assault of radical feminism.
What I am suggesting is much less ambitious. In churches that despise liturgical forms in worship, the simple truth is that Mother’s Day becomes one of the modern “feast (celebration) days” of the church. Simply put, Hallmark Theology has replaced historical/biblical theology in our worship. The even greater tragedy is that we do not stop creating these new forms of worship each Mother’s Day. We have now created all kinds of special days; e.g. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day (July 4) replete with patriotic celebrations of America, Labor Day, etc. Then there are the endless special days and weeks all created to draw seekers.
I wonder if people who promote these events in evangelical churches realize just how much they employ liturgies they made up in America. I have seen evangelical churches react in virtual violence to recovering acts of historical liturgy as simple as “the passing of the peace” or the “reciting of the creed,” or “weekly communion.” Yet these same churches never think to question these various modern celebrations they hold in their yearly cycle. They even react to the lectionary, when a minister adopts it, but then choose to endorse preaching only on subjects that fit their style and culture.
Simple question: “Did your congregation celebrate the event of resurrection yesterday or did you make Mother’s Day the central event of your worship?” Your answer will tell you whether or not your church is committed to reforming public worship biblically and theologically or to accommodating the culture in ways that have almost nothing to do with the gospel of Christ.