The Pastor's Peace - February, 2013
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This year Easter is fairly early, March 31st; not the earliest that is possible (that being March 22nd) but still seemingly early, as it is anytime we have a March Easter. Of course, this is the February Pastor’s Peace, and so you might wonder what I am doing talking about Easter. Well, if you back up 40 days before Easter, not including Sundays, then you are at this little thing we call Ash Wednesday, also known as the start of Lent. This year the Easter cycle puts Ash Wednesday on February 13th, the day before Valentine’s Day. It might seem weird to have these two days right next to each other. In 2018 they will actually be on the same day, an event not witnessed since 1945. This year we will have ash applied to our foreheads, speaking of repentance one day, and then the next day we will be celebrating love, complete with chocolate and flowers. This might seem like quite the 180, but perhaps these two days are not so different as one would imagine.

We know, of course, that St. Valentine’s Day is dedicated to love. Last year I discussed all of the various theories of the beginning of St. Valentine’s Day, which are many and confusing; but let us just say that no matter how and why it started, the idea is that it is a day that we spend celebrating love and those we love. There are often gifts, cards, and things more expensive from husbands who have forgotten other special days, but more importantly it is about love. When we think of love we inevitably think of happiness and joy, feeling good, and contentment. These, however, are not usually the
emotions that come to mind when we think of Ash Wednesday. On that day some of us are sad, are repentant, or perhaps regretful about things we have done, and are focusing on ways we might be better and closer to God. Rather than celebrate, some of us actually fast during Lent to outwardly show our repentance. Despite all of that, I am going to say that Ash Wednesday is really all about the same thing that Valentine’s Day is--love. Ash Wednesday is about love, because God is about love; in fact, according to our Bible, God is love. When Jesus is asked about the most important commandment, he replies that it is to love God with all your heart, and the second most important is to love your neighbor. All of the commandments are based on this. If we look at the Ten Commandments, we see that they are indeed all about two things, loving God, and loving your neighbor.

If we had only this love of God and our neighbor, then we would never fall short of God’s commandments; unfortunately, however, we sometimes let other things get in the way. Ash Wednesday and Lent are therefore times for us to focus on this love, and to find ways to love when we have failed to love in the past. How appropriate it is, then, to have a holiday dedicated to love, Valentine’s Day, as a start to Lent. I hope this season, both of these days make you think about love, think about how wonderful it is, and understand that it is never something to be rationed, hidden away, or feared. Happy Ash Wednesday, and happy Valentine’s Day.

Peace and Blessings,
Pastor Brian