Celebrating Valentine’s Day can be a joy or a burden. Some struggle with the constant reminders of romantic love. Some struggle with the pressure to buy traditional gifts regardless of personal preference or finance. Some mourn a love lost. Some mourn a love that has never been. Others are truly celebrating. They are full of love and want the whole world to know. There are often surprises for some and for others life changing decisions. No matter how you feel about Valentine’s Day, God loves you.
God loves you completely and unconditionally. It is a love larger than any love that one person can feel for another person. It is a love larger than what we feel for ourselves at times. It is a love that is present before we are even aware, and it is a love that continues always. This love is not only for us, but it is a love God has for everyone.
This Valentine’s Day maybe we should consider how we respond to God’s love. In this season of reflection and preparation, maybe it is time that we look at how we share God’s love with others in the world. Are we as loving as we can be, or are we pre-occupied with our own feelings? Are we wrapped up in ourselves and our circle of friends, or do we consider those beyond our personal circle? Do you show care for those in your daily life, or do you demand that they march to the beat of your drum?
Many in our world spend a great deal of time and energy on finding and cultivating a romantic love. What if you gave God a tenth of that time to showing love to other people? If we reached out to one new person each day for the rest of Lent, would our perspective change?
This week we will have a special service, held only once a year. It is Ash Wednesday, and it marks the beginning of Lent. Even if you have not been to this type of service, you may have seen folks with black smudged crosses on their foreheads.
It is not like most of our worship experiences, and some of us may not even realize why there are black smudged crosses on people’s foreheads. The ashes are placed on us, sometimes even on the head, to remind us that we are made from dust and to dust we shall return. As human beings we have a finite life. We will all die. We remember that this is because of our sin, the sin we personally have committed as well as the sins of all of humanity. From the beginning of creation we have disobeyed God’s law.
Yet, we know the rest of the story. Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we have life forever in the Kingdom of God. He paid for our sin with his own life. He conquered death so that we can live in God’s kingdom forever.
During the season of Lent, we remember our sin and the sacrificial love of Jesus. We seek to draw closer to the One who gave all for us. As we reflect on our sin and God’s love for us, we are preparing for the Easter celebration. When Easter comes, we are then able to more fully participate in the gift of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
We hear this question during this time of year. Some of us even give something up. Why? We know that at times there are assorted medical tests and procedures that require fasting, but those are for accurate results or avoiding potential problems. These are about physical well-being, not about spiritual disciplines. Some have fasted in protest of an unjust practice. This is not a spiritual discipline, but it is a response to a human behavior.
Giving up something or fasting is a way for us to grow in our spiritual lives. As we deny ourselves, we are able to become more aware of God’s sacrificial gift for us. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, fasted weekly. Fasting allows us to pay penitence for our overindulgences. It also allows more time for prayer. We fast from something we depend on so that we may more fully depend on God. Many of us think of a traditional fast, such as giving up food or drink. However, there are other types of fasts. Some give-up social media for Lent. Still others abstain from meat during Lent.
Consider this spiritual discipline for yourself and your family. You may choose to give up alcohol, chocolate, food on Fridays, Face Book, going to the movies, potato chips, texting, or some other thing that is a part of your daily life. In the giving up, you are making more room in your life for God.
Are you ready? This is a question we ask ourselves as well as others. We ask others if they are ready when it is time to go or begin. We ask ourselves if we have everything we need for an event, journey or process. We are checked for readiness for medical procedures, roller coaster rides,worship experiences, and leaving our home.
We all struggle to find the place where we belong. Christians have a place of belonging. We belong to God.