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February 2024

by Rev. Phillip Girardin

This year, there is an interesting confluence of holidays. In the secular world (and theological world) we have Valentine's Day. A day where people get very romantic, and the idea of love is celebrated the world over. The oddity in this, and perhaps the failure of the English language, is that in many cases it is not love that is celebrated, but another word that begins with an L. Lust. These concepts are often lost inside of each other. Much of popular culture does not celebrate love, but rather celebrates the carnal desire of lust. While this might not sound like an incredibly significant perspective, the viewpoint of them creates the dichotomy.

Lust is an incredible driving thing. People will do all manner of ridiculousness in order to fulfill the burning desire that lust creates. Not only do people do ridiculous things, but they then expect it to be accepted. The entire focal point of lust is the self. Lust is by its nature self-centered. It demands that the desires of the person burning with it be fulfilled, at whatever cost to the other person. Phrases that burn with lust would go to the effect of, I want...

Love on the other hand is completely the opposite. It's entirely outwardly focused. Love looks to how the other person may be served. Love considers how the other person feels; their wants, desires, and needs before our own. Synonyms for love would be words like cherish and adore. I adore you...

As we think about the idea of love and lust, how do we celebrate Valentine's Day? Is it an exceedingly hedonistic expression of trying to get what you want out of the other person, or is it something more? Is Valentine's Day about the fulfilling of your own desires, or pouring yourself out for another? Are we loving or lusting?

The other holiday that coincides with Valentine's Day this year is Ash Wednesday. We begin our walk through the Lenten season the same time as we celebrate the holiday of love. The same day that we, as Christians, will buy hearts and go out to dinner, is the same day that we will impose ashes on ourselves and recognize the beginning of the Lenten walk. One side is the conspicuous consumption of a hallmark holiday, and on the other is a season of fasting, repentance, and prayer.

Yet in the Lenten holiday, while we do become somber as we contemplate the work of Jesus, we also realize that there is a simple reality to what occurs in this Lenten season. We are the recipients of the love of God. God does not look at us and try to get anything out of us. This would be futile as we really don't have anything to offer. God is above us and beyond us fully. Instead, we see the love of God that while we were still sinners, Christ Jesus was sent for us, and died for our salvation. (Romans 5) The work of Jesus on our behalf becomes an incredible act of love given to us. Jesus does not expect us to do anything for our salvation, but rather does it all. He offer's Himself as sins price and gives us the benefit of His work. Jesus loves you so much, He died for you and gives you His resurrection.

Maybe Valentine's Day rightly celebrated is perfectly fitting to coincide with Ash Wednesday...

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Pastor Phil
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