Rev. Ron Burcham, Risen Savior Lutheran Church
Valentine’s Day is going to be a bit different this year. February 14, 2018, is not only Valentine’s Day, but also on the Christian Church calendar, it is Ash Wednesday!
Valentine’s Day is typically a day when you tell the special people in your life how much you love them. For those who have a special someone, it is a day to give them flowers, candy or some other token of affection.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the season Lent, the six weeks that lead up to Easter. It is generally a time when we reflect on our lives and, more specifically, the way we have messed up and how much we need forgiveness. Many Christians will have ashes put on their foreheads with the saying “From dust you came, to dust you shall return.” The idea is to prepare us for the great news of God’s love in the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus and the forgiveness He won for us. We are, indeed, mortal, but because of Jesus, we will spend an eternity with Him in heaven.
Now do you see the dilemma? How does one approach Valentine’s Day when it is also Ash Wednesday? And how do you approach Ash Wednesday when it is also Valentine’s Day? This could get very confusing. I can imagine a young man out on a Valentine’s date with that special someone. She leans in for a kiss and he affectionately puts ashes on her forehead. This would not bode well for the rest of the evening. Then there is the pastor who has the members of his congregation approach him reverently at the altar in the Sanctuary and in a very solemn moment, he reaches out and gives them a rose and a box of candy.
How do you meld together a celebration of love with the beginning of Lent? Very well, I think. While Valentine’s Day is more focused on romantic love, it is still focused on individuals who deeply care for one another. The season of Lent is a time for us to realize just how deeply loved and cared for we really are. A couple of passages from the Bible come to mind;
“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“(Jesus said) Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends … I have called you friends…” (John 15:13,15)
Jesus didn’t give us flowers and candy, but instead gave up His life for us. Giving us back to our Father in heaven. Giving us the ability to truly love one another. What a great way to celebrate Ash Wednesday – focusing on His love. What a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, loving one another as Jesus has loved us!