Several of you have asked me about why I don’t always recognize secular holidays in worship. My immediate answer is because they are secular holidays, not church holidays. But let me give a few more reasons.
My vows as a United Methodist pastor are similar to a physician’s; I took a vow to do no harm. Being a pastor to over 425 people can sometimes make that task difficult. Keeping everyone happy is impossible; I quit trying to do that years ago. I have made some pastoral mistakes over the years, and even after 20 years I continue to make mistakes. Some of the worst of them have been over the celebrations of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. There are a lot of variables when it comes to families and celebrations of those days. Some people don’t have the fondest of memories when it comes to their parents. Some have recently lost parents. These days and the resulting celebrations can end up sending mixed messages.
I once served a church where awards were given for the youngest father/mother, the oldest father/mother, the father/mother with the most children, the newest father/mother, etc. I thought it was pretty cool… until I had a young couple come to my office to tell me how painful those Sunday mornings were for them. They had been trying to have children for several years and were finally told by a physician that they would never be able to have children. All of the Mother’s and Father’s Day awards made them feel that they had nothing to celebrate. I realized that I had done harm.
I tend not to make a big deal about patriotic occasions in church. I love my country as much as anyone; I have an American and Kentucky State flag that hang prominently in my garage. However, I do not worship or adore my country as I do Almighty God. So, for one hour a week, I think God and Jesus Christ deserve our total worship. In light of this, I am very careful to separate the worship of Almighty God and patriotic occasions. God always comes first.
I don’t try to avoid such things altogether, but I am very sure not to make the focal points of worship. God is always central to our worship. To quote the UMC Book of Worship: “Our worship in both its diversity and its unity is an encounter with the living God through the risen Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.”
That’s what we as a worship committee try to do each Sunday.