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Summary: What do the two have in common?

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Sermon for Pentecost and Mother’s Day 2008

Today is Mother’s Day! Today is also Pentecost!

Mother’s Day is celebrated once a year on the second Sunday in May. The holiday is inspired by the British day in honor of Mothers and brought to America by a woman named Julia Ward Howe as a call for peace during the American Civil War. Her idea influenced Ann Jarvis who in 1858 attempted to improve sanitation in the Appalachians through what she called Mothers’ Work Days.

When Jarvis died in 1907, her daughter named Anna Jarvis started the crusade to found a memorial day for women. The first such Mother’s Day was celbrated in Grafton, West Virginia, on May 10th 1908. In 1914 president Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day really as a day for American citizens to honor those mother’s who son’s had died in war.

It’s rather odd that only nine years after the first official Mother’s Day, the commercialization of the US holiday became so rampant that Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of what the day had become. Today Americans will spend $2.6 billion on flowers, $1.53 billion on pampering gifts—such as spa, another $68 million on greeting cards, it amounts to almost 10% of the US jewelry business, and we will spend $3.51 billion on dinning out today alone.

Don’t get me wrong, mothers are worth every cent, but should we not extend the holiday to every single day of year. Not the commercial aspect of it, we would go broke, but living the way our mothers desire—in other words the honoring aspect of the day and living our lives every day that make our mother proud?

Today is Mother’s Day! Today is also Pentecost!

However, Pentecost Sunday may be one of the most neglected of the church calendar. It doesn’t bring the excitement of Easter, or Christmas, or the revenue of Mother’s Day. Maybe it the simple fact that after five or more months of effort invested in Advent to Christmas, then Lent to Easter, both ministers and parishioners may simply be mentally and emotionally exhausted, especially after the intensity of Holy Week there’s this psychological “let down.”

Or it could be the concern with some of “Pentecostal theology” fostering a type of suspicion leading to our downplaying of it in the Lutheran Tradition. You know, with tongues of fire appearing above heads, people speaking in tongues, everybody hearing in their own language. That’s some freaky stuff. After all, we’re Lutherans you know.

Yet Pentecost dates back quite a bit further than Mother’s Day and also has a wonderful history. It was originally a Hebrew festival, beginning the 50th day after the beginning of the Passover. In the Old Testament it was originally an agricultural festival celebrating and giving thanks for the “first fruits” of the spring harvest. On this festival every 50 years all debts, all slaves, all land, all sin, everything you one had ever done wrong was supposed to be forgiven. Your land returned, your slaves returned, your sins forgotten. But guess what? In the history of the world the 50th year has never been celebrated. Never.


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