Today marks an interesting mesh of the cultural and the Christian; it is both Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday. And if you have ever wondered the difference between the kind of sappy, emotional, sentimental kind of love human beings have for one another and the deep, abiding, sacramental love we have for the Lord, well, today is your day.
Because today, we will exchange token gifts. We will throw confetti in the air and shower one another with rose petals because we are so deeply in love.
And we will mark ashes across our foreheads in the shape of a cross, the ashes of the palms of last year's joyous celebration of Palm Sunday, because we have mournfully so forgotten our Love.
Because today, we will get down on one knee and pop questions, we will stand before altars and exchange a few words, making new vows to one another 'til death do us part.
And we will fall on our knees, dying, knowing that we have neglected our vows.
Because today, we will exchange greeting cards with silly or sappy messages, with great puns and tender love notes, words written to reflect the special kinds of relationships that we share with one another.
And we will cry prayers of repentance and write new words of love as we commit to restoring our most special relationship of all.
Today, we will go out to candlelight dinners and drink wine with our arms wrapped around one another the way they do in the movies and eat dessert from each other's forks and giggle about how awkward and lovely it all is, all while knowing how many times we have sat around His table this year without considering the deep love and joy that abides there.
Today, we will celebrate how much we love one another while we also mark the beginning of a season in which we grieve, repent, and make atonement for how poorly we have loved Him. It is a failure we cannot make up for with flowers or chocolate, but only with prayer and fasting.
And so, Lent is upon us.
The abundance of Valentine's Day fills up our love. It maxes out our affections for one another, re-stokes the fires, puts a little more vim in our vigor. It gives us the energy, the emotion, the high to go a little further, to do a little more, to love one another all over again.
The solemn remembrance of Ash Wednesday empties us. It pours out our failures, our fallings, our faithlessness at the altar and readies us for a recommitment, one which will come through holding onto that emptiness through unto the Passion when He pours Himself out for us and fills us once more.
And in either case, be it through candy or ashes, roses or palms, proposals or Promises, today renews our love.
Blessings to you on all of your celebrations this day.