Journey through Lent: Day Two (Valentine’s Day)

The pew at Old South Church in Boston where I proposed to my wife.

The pew at Old South Church in Boston where I proposed to my wife.

Last night the congregation I serve held its Ash Wednesday worship service. We prayed, and sang, and received communion together. And then we received the ashes that signify the start of Lent. Finally we reflected in silence on how we would observe Lent, and we asked God for strength and wisdom during this time. I left feeling everything that Ash Wednesday evokes in us: recommitted, penitent, meditative, and finite.

But this morning the world woke up to Valentine’s Day, a day that at first glance may seem pretty antithetical to the previous one. Here is the day when we spend so much on flowers, candy, dinners out, and cards. Those who are in relationships are often so worried about getting it right. My first Valentine’s Day with my now-wife, I called her friends to consult just to make sure I was doing it right. (They assured me, rightfully, that she would care far more about a genuine sentiment than how much I spent.)
But what does any of this have to do with Lent?
I don’t believe that you have to have ever fallen in love in order to understand God’s love. But for those of us who have, and who have had a good experience of it, our love for our partners is often one way to better understand God’s love for us. Just like a parent’s love for a child is a way for them to better understand the way God loves us too. If we were to put all the loving experiences in our lives together, and catalog all the ways we have loved others and been loved ourselves, we still wouldn’t be able to comprehend the enormity or the complexity of the way God loves us. It is too big, and it is too wonderful.
I believe Lent is about learning how to love. In Lent we try to better love our neighbors. We try to better love our God. And we even try to better love ourselves; God’s beloved. If Valentine’s Day helps us to do that, then it has a place in faith, and it has a place in Lent. May God’s love bless you especially this day, and may it bless all whom you love.

Not About Me: Day One (A Journey Through Lent)

379246_10151246708651787_459997397_nI received ashes about an hour ago. My partner was on her way to Boston to assist in Old South Church’s Ash Wednesday observances, but she ashed me first. Later today she will be joining other clergy and seminarians as she stands in front of the church and offers ashes to the busy pedestrians on Boylston Street. And now I’m sitting here in the office of my small town church in Vermont, ashes on my forehead, waiting to see if any parishioners who can’t make our evening service will drop by for ashes.

Our contexts today are very different, but our hopes are the same. Maybe the people we touch with ash will stop for a minute, reflect on the day, and feel the tug on their hearts from God that comes every Lent, beckoning them back to the divine relationship.

We impose the ashes on one another with the the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” And Lent is all about returning. Not just back to dust, but to what makes something extraordinary out of that dust. Lent is all about returning to the creator, and returning towards the way that God’s son showed us. A way of love. A way of reconciliation. A way of hope. A better way.

Today I’m starting my Lenten discipline in the form of a challenge to myself (you can read about it here:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-emily-c-heath/its-not-about-me-a-lenten-challenge_b_2659425.html ). I’m hoping that in Lent my thoughts and my actions will help return my attention to God, and to God’s people, again and again. I invite you to join me, in whatever way works for you. Even if you have been away from church, or away from faith, for sometime, it’s not too late.

God will always welcome your return. So, why not today?