This Sunday is Mother’s Day. For the barren woman, attending church on this particular Sunday is often an exercise in frustration, woe, even great shame brought on by the absence of longed-for children. Far too often, we pastors help amplify these feelings in her.
This is a pastoral plea. Brothers, I beg you, remember every Sunday your entire flock. But especially this Sunday, remember all the faithful women who Christ has entrusted to your care.
Remember that a part of your flock have received from the Lord the blessed vocation of motherhood, whether their children are biological or adopted. In the prayers of the church rejoice with them, give thanks to God for them, and ask God to help them raise up these gifts from Him faithfully.
But remember too that many in your flock – whom you may or may not be aware of – have not received the gift of children from God. And they may be longing for that gift. Please be sensitive to them. Recall that the natural inclination of sinful man towards a theology of glory has resulted in them receiving countless “helpful” comments and encouragements that are nothing but empty promises and legalistic claptrap. Pray for these women, too, that they would receive what they long for: the gift of a child, biological or adopted. But also do not fail to pray on their behalf that God would give them the faith and trust to contentedly rejoice in what He ultimately does give to them. It may not be a child. In other words, help them to pray “Nevertheless, Lord, Thy will be done.”
And also remember the sheep of Christ’s flock who are past the time of having any expectation of receiving the gift of a child. Please don’t leave them out. Pray for them, too, that they would recognize in their lives all the good gifts the Lord has given to them.
Please don’t parade them in front of the congregation in order to offer up prayers on their behalf. Please don’t draw unneeded attention to them by giving flowers or some other admittedly well-intentioned gift only to those in the congregation who have children. Allow the barren to sit and grieve, to receive from their Lord, and to pray along with you. That’s your God-given task in the Divine Service, anyway: to lead them in prayer and to care for them with Christ’s true, comforting word and sacrament.
In fact, my encouragement would be, if at all possible, to limit your Mother’s Day references in the service to the prayers. Keep your whole flock focused on Jesus and His forgiveness present there for them today. But in the prayers do indeed pray, praise, and give thanks for the mothers, and mothers-to-be, and all those who desire motherhood but have not or will not receive that gift from God.
I think these words, included in this year’s Let Us Pray for Easter 7 from the LC-MS, fit the bill nicely:
Father of glory, Your Son, our Lord Jesus, in His incarnation, took on our created human flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary. He submitted to His mother, honoring and obeying her, so fulfilling the commandment where we have not. On this Mothers’ Day, graciously accept our thanksgiving for our mothers, whom you have given to us. Teach us to honor them aright — loving, obeying and giving thanks for them, as is fitting in Your sight. Strengthen all women with child and protect them in their deliverance. Comfort all women who long to have children, but cannot, that they may find their consolation in You and Your unfailing love. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.