-Pastor Melissa Fain-
As I came back upstairs after worship on June 20th, I realized something. “I didn’t even mention Father’s Day!” My husband has a brief moment of shock, not from what I failed to include, but that he didn’t even consider it missing.
It is true that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day hang on by a thread in our household. As some of you know, Valentine’s Day is non-existent. As the 4th of July has come and gone, you might have noticed I didn’t even give it a sentence in worship.
These are all events, though, that are secular in nature and find our way into Sacred Worship. Each, in their own way, make me uncomfortable and here’s how:
I find Mother’s Day a perfect day to use feminine pronouns to describe God. At the same time, the use of the feminine to describe God fills me with terror, not because of God, but because of the backlash in the congregants upon hearing she/her language attributed to the Divine.
It’s not that there’s a lack of examples of God being described in the feminine, it’s that there is a lack of focus in the Church to those examples. Sophia, Mother bear, hen… We are given language to see God as more than masculine but something bristles up in us when we use She/Her language. How dare we explore God as both power in femininity and the least of these!
It’s verbiage I feel we deserve to explore, but it is also not natural because I grew up hearing His/He all the time.
None of that goes into actual mothers, and that’s me as a mother of two.
Probably the reason I want to push some into the feminine nature of God during Mother’s Day is the plethora of sermons about the masculine nature of God on Father’s Day. I can’t count how many pastors I have seen preach on the caring for mother because she works so hard on Mother’s Day, and then a few weeks later preaching on the masculine nature of God on Father’s Day. I’m going to extend enough grace to believe these guys don’t do it on purpose, but inadvertently they celebrate the servitude of the mom, and the divinity of the dad.
God is power! God is king! Happy Father’s Day!
I’m not going to say those statements are wrong, but I’m also going to say how and when we talk about God’s sovereignty and power is just as important as the topics themselves.
If I had it to do over I would have talked about God’s sovereignty and power during Mother’s Day and God’s servitude during Father’s Day. Even then, I would have been uncomfortable, because how we talk about service among females is drastically different than how we talk about service among males.
This is probably where I personally look like the biggest Ebenezer Scrooge to ever exist in the modern era. I don’t do Valentine’s Day.
If I were to do Valentine’s Day it wouldn’t be candy, flowers, and expensive dates. It would be to spam bee photos on February 14th, and July 6th. (He’s the Patron St. of courtly love, epilepsy and beekeepers.) It would be almost fitting, seeing as my name literally means honeybee in Greek.
Other than that, I just see Valentine’s Day as a day where we buy crap that will either add weight, trash, or both. Love is not in teddy bears the size of a Buick. Love is not in cheap or expensive chocolates. Don’t buy me tokens to show love. Act. Do. Live into love. Anything else is between you and yours. I want nothing to do with it. Flowers wilt, but action has lasting consequences.
4th of July
I am a Scout, and more than that, I am a Scout Chaplain for my Son’s Troop. Some of the leadership in my daughter’s Pack calls me Pastor Melissa. I am completely comfortable with taking the divine into a patriotic space. I am completely uncomfortable taking the patriotic into the Divine space.
I think most of American worship can’t see the difference between the two, and that’s a consequence of not setting clear boundaries of what is or isn’t worship, secular space, and Divine space.
I have very clear boundaries. On Sunday morning, I’m setting aside time and space to seek God. That language is incredibly intentional. Just as this language is intentional too: God can visit us in our time and space at any time or space. That means we can have a God moment while watching a firework’s show, planting a seed, or (sorry/ not sorry) sitting on the toilet. As I’ve written before, that is God engaging us. In response, we need to be intentional about engaging God back. The worship Space is made sacred because we’ve chosen to set it aside to meet God.
This is why you won’t see state/national flags in Fig Tree’s worship area. It’s also why I occasionally remind those on the other side of the camera to prepare their side to meet God.
You want to enjoy a fireworks show with your community while understanding the veterans around you? Great! That is a secular event, and should take place in a non-worship space. You want to sing the Star Bangled Banner at a sports event, go for it! Just don’t ask me to bring it into Sacred Space. While we’re on the subject, the same goes for sports. Aside from being an illustration to help understand the text better, it should stay outside worship.
The bottom line.
The more intentional you are about setting aside space to meet God, the more clear the lines become of what is allowed in that worship space.
The more intentional you are about what is Sacred and what is Secular, the more willing you will be to put away some culturally secular activities.
The more willing you are to read the Bible and see something new, the deeper and richer your faith is allowed to be.