The way the calendar falls this year presents us with a strange and wonderful opportunity! For the first time since 1945, Valentine’s Day fell on Ash Wednesday. The day we give each other cards, chocolates and flowers coincides with the same day we receive ashes and communion to prepare ourselves for the Lenten journey toward Easter. How wonderful! On the same day that we tell people how much we love them, we also get to hear about God’s love for us and the world. This uncanny coincidence has inspired our Lenten theme for this year: “Love is…”
Over the six weeks of Lent and Holy Week, we are going to take a deeper look at this word we use for just about anything and everything. What does the word “love” mean? What does the Bible say about love? What does love look like? What does love do? Lent this year is an opportunity to name six things that love is, and we hope that you’ll add to our list. But, our goal, as with our faith, is not simply to create a list of answers to what love is. Our goal is to use the journey through Lent this year to deepen our awareness of God’s love for us, our love for God, and what it means to make love a core practice of how we live as disciples of Jesus Christ.
The Christian faith can be summed up with these familiar words: “for God so loved the world”. God’s love led God to act for the salvation of the world by sending his Son to live among us, to teach us God’s ways and to restore a broken relationship with God. Only because of God’s actions in Jesus Christ can we love God at all. We love God because God first loved us, the Bible says. We respond to God’s action in our lives and in this world God loves. We model our lives after God’s actions, in us, among us, and most clearly displayed for us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This order of things, God’s love, then our love, is important in the Christian faith, because without God’s love first, we would not know the depths of God’s love or what it means to love deeply with commitment, sacrifice, and the belief that we are the people God created us to be through love.
A few weeks ago, at the beginning of this year, I preached the sermon on the journey of the Wisemen to the manger. I introduced for us the idea of peregrination, the journey we take to seek our resurrection. That is in essence of what the season of Lent and all of life as searching disciples is about. We are seeking our resurrection. Not just once, but all the time, in the way we live, the words we say, the kind of church that we are, the ministry that we do together, and most importantly, the way we open ourselves to let God transform us and make us new. Putting love into practice is opening our lives to welcome God and God’s love into us, to heal us, to shape us, and to lead us in God’s way.