1 Corinthians 13:1-13- “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
As I write this column, it’s about 3 weeks until Valentine’s Day, but ever since December 26th, the stores have been filled with valentine cards and valentine candy. Growing up, Valentine’s Day always meant having your Mom buy a box of valentines to give out at the school party-each box or bag usually had about 30 valentines for the students, plus one for the teacher. You were supposed to give a Valentine card to everybody in the class, whether you liked them or not; whether you even knew them or not. It was Valentine’s Day, and that’s what we did. Some kids gave out lollipops or little heart-shaped candies - thereby avoiding all the mushy language of the valentine cards. It wasn’t until we were somewhat older that we began to understand what it was all about.
Today, valentine parties are still fun-getting flowers, cards, and candy is still nice; but I wonder, do we really need a special day just to tell people we love them? There are some who are very squeamish about saying those 3 little words. Some of us were raised to think that the way you tell others you love them is by the things you do for them. Others are afraid that someone might get the wrong idea, that they’ll think we mean it in one way, while we mean it in another. There are many, many ways of expressing love-and the really important thing isn’t how we express it, but that we let the people we care about, know that we care and that we show the love of God, the love described by Paul, to all, friends and strangers alike.
So you may now be asking, “Pastor Paul, where are you going with all of this?” This year, Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day. Is there any greater demonstration of love than that of Christ who took up the cross out of his love for you and for me? “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” Christ gave his life in the greatest act of love. He gave up all to ensure our salvation.
Many of us have a tradition of giving up something for Lent. A couple of years ago, I challenged you to go beyond giving something up, but perhaps add something to your life. So I would like to challenge you once again to enter into a time of penitence but also enter into a time of giving. Consider adding 40 days of kindness into your Lenten practice this year. Cards and flowers are very nice, but an act of kindness may say “I love you” louder and be more meaningful. Find a way to do something simple each day in an unexpected way. Another idea might be to find a place that you can volunteer some time. If your first response is, “I don’t have time” then maybe you need to think about it again. Spending time with others, extending generosity and compassion. Remember Jesus’ promise that when you care for others, you care for him (Matthew 25:31-46). Only you know what is realistic but a Lent discipline needs to be something that will challenge you and help you to remember what God has done for you and continues to do for you. Happy Valentine’s Day and blessings to you in this upcoming time of Lent.
Pr. Paul <><