Ash Weds-entines Day: A Love Stronger than Shame

On Wednesday, 2/14/18, we will gather for worship at 6:30pm, with Confession, Imposition of Ashes, Holy Communion, and the Invitation to a Holy Lent.

And, for a special treat, we’ll have chocolate fountains and Valentines themed goodies.

Why? Because Ash Wednesday only falls on Valentine’s Day once in a great while (the last time was 1945), and… why not?

Some Christians, including some Lutherans, fast on Ash Wednesday (in some form or fashion). If that’s you, you obviously don’t need to partake. Some folks give something up for Lent–often chocolate or sweets in general. Again, God bless your journey, and walk on by.

However, both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday/Lent can be confusing experiences for some folks. Valentine’s Day can be tough–even shameful–for folks who are single, recently broken up/divorced, or grieving a loved one–those “for whom love is a stranger.” Some folks in relationships feel pressured to have the perfect date/gift/romance, to spend more than they can afford, and so forth.

Lent, on the other hand, can also be a shaming experience. Jesus didn’t die for you to feel bad about your weight; Lent wasn’t created for you to go on a diet. Ash Wednesday is a reminder that this fragile flesh is a common human thing, and death rends the fabric of human life and love. But God’s love is stronger than death and shame. God’s life breathes beyond death. We will all die; God will not let that be the final word.

Lent invites us, then, into a time of reflection on our common brokenness and God’s undying love that makes us whole. We remember how the forces of death tear us apart, and how God has given us gifts to help ease the pain and make the journey more gentle–specifically, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

These gifts are not for us to work our way out of guilt and shame. They are meant to bring us back to the heart of God’s love, to the shadow of the cross, where our fragile lives are met with a love that knows, wears, and also overcomes death.

“Fasting” can take many forms. “Giving something up” may be a powerful way to be reminded–with each craving–of the One who can truly fill us with life, love, and meaning, more than chocolate or booze or carbs or ______ ever could.

On the other hand, maybe this year–with this odd calendar coincidence–is an opportunity to “fast” from the things that magnify our shame. To cling to worthiness and say “no” to the things that tell us we’re not good enough, thin enough, or whatever enough.

We aren’t saved by the number of calories we do–or do not–consume. We’re saved by the One who vulnerably entered into our shame, wore our weakness, and declared God’s “Yes” to every “no” that Death has to offer.

So come for the reminder of our shared mortality and dependence on God’s undying and vulnerable love. Stay for the chocolate.

Or not. You are loved and treasured and worthy either way.

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