Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday versus Valentine's Day?

For the 17 February bulletin

Ash Wednesday versus Valentine’s Day?

The season of Lent began today (at the time of writing this) with Ash Wednesday which happens to fall on 13th February. But I would suspect that for most of us, the more significant date that we would remember is the next day, 14th February, Valentine’s Day. (In all fairness, though, Ash Wednesday falls on different dates each year).
It struck me this morning that Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day do have something important in common. The connection may seems a little off tangent but let me try to explain.
Ash Wednesday begins a 40 day period of prayer and fasting to remind us of the frailty of our humanity and the need to repent of our sins. It points us to the fact that we have an avenue for forgiveness because of what Christ has done for us on the cross. The cross while a reminder of the gravity of our sins that required Christ to suffer and die, is also at the same time a celebration of Christ’s love for us.
Valentine’s Day (ahem … not a Christian celebration, but that’s ok :-)) is to some an enjoyable day where people celebrate their love for each other. But for others, it is dreaded day because it can end up a harsh reminder that they are not loved by the one they hope would love them (for example, when the “would you be my Valentine” request is turned down) or they have yet to find that “special someone”. For others it is a burdensome day trying to find that elusive “perfect gift” or “perfect activity” that meets the expectations of their significant other, or the one they hope will become their significant other (you put in your own example).
Ok, here’s the connection. Both days are in the end about the human need for love and acceptance despite our frailties. The former, Ash Wednesday wisely focuses on God and His love in the midst of our sins and insecurities. The latter, Valentine’s Day often focuses on human love which is clearly inadequate.
Consider the traditional OT choice for the Ash Wednesday lectionary reading: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17. In the midst of the very graphic prophecy of God’s judgment on a sinful people is the reminder of God’s love in verse 13:
Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 

So if you observe the period of Lent, keep in mind as you reflect on your sins and inadequacies that God is gracious and loving. The whole point of Lent is not to beat yourself up but to realize the seriousness of your sins and need for repentance, then and go to God to experience His forgiveness and rejoice!
And if you had a bad Valentine’s Day, remember that what is more important is that God loves you! And even if you had a wonderful romantic Valentine’s Day, remember that true love comes from God. (1 John 4:16:  God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him).  

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