PUTTING THE LENT BACK IN VALENTINE
This year Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day and Easter falls on April Fools Day. I actually think that is quite fitting. Easter is the ultimate April fools joke God played on Death and every relationship could probably use a day of repentance more than a box of candy.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent
The biblical idea of repenting in sack cloth and ashes and an image of God putting a protective mark on the heads of the penitent people in Ezekiel 9 led to what we know as Ash Wednesday. It’s is a day of repentance that kicks off the 40 days of fasting we know as Lent.
Jesus fasted and resisted temptation for 40 days in the wilderness, so many Christians fast and resist temptation in preparation for the celebration of Easter. You may not realize it, but each Sunday in Lent we get to give up the fast as we remember the resurrection! That’s why if you do the math, you come up with more than 40 days. Whether you observe these traditions or not, self examination, repentance and imitating Jesus is always a good idea.
Valentine’s Day is a day of mourning for many
Even as we celebrate love and romance on Valentine’s Day, many people mourn. Those who have no valentine, those who have loved and lost to death or divorce, and those whose relationship is not worth celebrating all have this in common. For them, Valentine’s Day sucks. It is a reminder of brokenness and loss.
Let me remind you that even the best relationships end as the marriage vows promised, “Till death do us part”. The more you love, the more that hurts. Though the card may say “forever”, the vows are more realistic. So is Ash Wednesday. The blessing you may hear as someone smears ashes on your forehead says,
“From dust you are and to dust you shall return.”
There is something valuable about coming face to face with our mortality. It makes us appreciate life more and points us forward to the only solution there is to the problem of death.
A day to value the love you have or mourn the love you’ve lost is therapeutic. This Ash Wednesday Valentine mashup can remind us that nothing lasts forever in this life. Not yet.
There is coming a day when all things are restored. Easter is the signpost that points to that day of resurrection. Jesus was the first. He won’t be the last. So we wait expectantly for April 1st, when once again we can join God in mocking death . . .
“Death where is your victory, O Death where is your sting?”