Dear Friends in Christ,
We are fast approaching the season of Lent, which begins this year on Valentine’s Day, February 14. Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality with an ash cross marked on our foreheads and begins a season of fasting and introspection whereas Valentine’s Day functions as a secular feast day, filled with plenty of chocolate and red flowers and outward declarations of love in cards and poems. As I began pondering about the overlap this year of these two events, I wondered what, if anything, they might have in common.
Did you know that Valentine’s Day originated as a religious feast day honoring one or more early martyrs and saints named Valentinus? It was not until the 14th Century that the day became associated with romantic love. And now in the last few decades it has become increasingly commercialized as a gift-giving day. Whatever its origins, Valentine’s Day reminds us to treasure our relationships and to show our affection. Those terribly expensive out-of-season roses demonstrate the absurdity of romantic love and the way that love can make fools of us all. And in the northern hemisphere, preparing for Valentine’s Day can be a way to mark time and a good distraction from the long winter days. So, Valentine’s Day can remind us to attend to our loved ones, to step out, if only for a day, from routine and obligation and to demonstrate the many kinds of human love that make life beautiful.
Lent is the 40-day sacred season that comes before Easter and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. We mark and use the time to pay attention to our relationship with God. Self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting, works of love, and reading and meditating on the word of God all help to make this an intentional quality time of demonstrating our love for Christ. As we do so, we become filled with the love that we receive from God who loves us so extravagantly. So, Lent can remind us to have a holy time with God attending to our relationship, to spend the season deliberately, and to experience the depth of our love for God and God’s for us.
Let’s wander and wonder in the wilderness together this Lent as we walk in the way of love, fasting from distractions and praying and studying together and giving and serving extravagantly. I also invite you to join with others in the congregation in listening anew to the words of Jesus by reading through the whole of the gospel of Mark.
May you have a blessed Lenten journey.
— Pastor Joan