Tuesday, May 8, 2012 | By: Zachary Bartels

The Mother of All Preaching Problems


My fellow preachers,

I need some advice here.

The Background: I have never been the kind of pastor who lets Hallmark determine my preaching calendar. I’m singularly unwilling to allow 10-20% of my precious opportunities at the pulpit to be hijacked by secular/cultural/sentimental holidays which are not rooted in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.

When such a holiday comes along, I simply continue preaching through whatever book I was working through. More often than not, I’m shocked by the clear providence involved, as the “special day” in question (particularly days that touch on biblical themes, like Veterans Day, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, etc.) fits together with the text hand-in-glove—totally unplanned, of course. Sometimes, I can even throw a bone to the holiday via a sermon illustration that serves the text.

But with Mother’s Day . . . well, let’s just look at my record . . .

  • My 1st Mother's Day at Judson: Preaching through Sermon on the Mount, I landed on, “If you look at a woman to lust after her, you've already committed adultery in your heart.”

  • My 2nd Mother's Day at Judson: Preaching through Joshua, it happened to be about Rahab, the harlot.

  • My 3rd Mother's Day at Judson: Preaching through Luke, the text was the woman of bad reputation (prolly a prostitute) who anointed Jesus' feet. (Some finding this less cute, and perhaps beginning to wonder if it’s by design . . . )

  • My 4th Mother's Day at Judson: I had just finished 63 weeks of preaching through Luke the week before and took it as a providential sign to preach a one-off expository sermon from a Mother's-Day friendly text. Okay, fine; it was a topical sermon. (Does Act of Contrition). I actually heard more negative feedback for this move than positive.

  • My 5th Mother's Day at Judson: Preaching through John's epistles, it seemed that the curse was lifted, as I was able to expound on love and truth.

  • My 6th Mother's Day at Judson: Didn't want to mess with it, so I took the week off and called in a real professional (Mikey Gohn) to deal with preaching on Mother’s Day.

  • My 7th Mother's Day at Judson (this coming Sunday): Preaching through Revelation, and have arrived at this text . . .
  • Revelation 2:20-23  “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.  I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.  Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works,  and I will strike her children dead.” [Emphasis mine, natch]

    Seriously? On Mother’s Day! Come on!!

Part of me thinks it’s a test or something. Either, way (if I put it off a week or not), it'll be a great intro. But what to preach? And how to address it? 

I realize that many pastors do not choose their own text each week, or do not preach through books in an expository fashion, but let’s do a little inter-denominational-clergy-colleagues-take-part-in-a-Baptistic-style-vote a la bad ecclesiatical reality show action on this one. I’m thinking maybe going with whatever one of the major lectionaries has scheduled this week . . . ?

What say you?

8 reader comments:

All Saints Episcopal Church said...

Well I am a lectionary preacher anyway, and I must say, this week's lessons offer much more Mother-conducive opportunities. Or at least NICE ones.

Erin said...

Oh, Zach. It seems God is having some fun with you. I say you preach it, don't mention Mother's Day at all or perhaps just a bit in the pastoral prayer thanking God for our mothers and mother figures in our lives, and move on with Revelation. You don't want to lose steam when you had a guest preacher last week.

Todd H said...

I always had fun coming up on some set "holidays" as well -- usually because there was always the expectation that you would do some feel-good sermon about moms/dads/veterans/people in love/God and country/etc that made everyone feel gushy and go home to a nice dinner and...well, you know the picture. The problem is that life doesn't go that way, so why should my sermons. Not all mothers are good - in fact, some of them are Jezebels that really mess up their family with their crackpot beliefs (just like some dads are Balaams doing the same thing). Mothers need to understand their impact, for good or bad; and God will not tolerate bad just because they happen to be a mother, just as He called this church to not tolerate Jezebel. They were doing some great things, but He still didn't want that influence in their lives. Bad mothers can make bad kids, and take them down with them, and kids follow out of sentimentality. Maybe that text is not bad after all, and Zachary can pull it off. Just sayin' :)- And no, I did have a godly mother :)

ZSB said...

Todd, will you come here this Sunday and preach all that? I'll double our usual honorarium out of my own pocket if you promise to shake every hand on the way out (opposite the person giving each woman a flower). XD
Seriously, though, that's good insight.

Anonymous said...

a mom worth honoring isn't like jezabel or doesn't have kids like jezebel. How to avoid raising a jezabel. Sexual purity and faithfulness to God (lack of idolatry) has its benefits. Sexual impurity and idolatry sets our kids off on a path potentially beyond hope.mike gohn

David Marvin said...

I think you should give an over-the-top, super sappy Mothers' Day sermon. Make it something that is so ridiculous that no one will complain about never hearing a Mothers' Day specific sermon again. Are you combining Pergamum and Thytatira in one sermon? You could just save Thyatira until next week. I always like the story of Balaam. I am sure a talking donkey is far better than Jezebel.

Rick McGarry said...

Today I went with my wife to the bookstore at GRTS to get books for her summer classes. Kinda Christianity was marked down to $2,so I bought it, read it and enjoyed it. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

Pastor Zach said...

Thanks for the feedback. Seems like forever ago that we put that sucker together. (If you liked it, might I suggest the follow-up, Younger, Restlesser, Reformeder).

I'll take the bargain price as a commentary on the irrelevance of the Emergent Church, rather than a commentary on our booklet! :D