Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

By Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett

Lenten Love

Read: Psalm 51: 1-17

This year we experience a calendar rarity as the U.S. Valentine’s Day and Western Christianity’s Ash Wednesday fall on the same day. (The last three times this happened were in 2018, 1945 and 1934). Though these two special observances are quite different in focus, they have a commonality. Both point toward love.

The legends and history around the origin of Valentine’s Day are manifold and the subject for another time. In short, contemporary societies across the globe associate this international holiday with romantic love.

On the other hand, Ash Wednesday emphasizes God’s love as it launches Lent, the six- and one-half weeks season of the Christian year that highlights Jesus’ life and ministry. Ash Wednesday and Lent have been observed in the Western Christian Church for centuries. This season highlighting human mortality, penance, and Jesus’ suffering culminates in the greatest expression of love the world has ever known- our Savior’s death on the cross. Three days later, on Easter Sunday, we observe Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead, the world-changing first century event that broke the power of sin and death.

In addition to reminding us of God’s amazing love for humanity, Ash Wednesday and Lent provide us with avenues to respond to Jesus’ actions on our behalf. Some people give up a favorite food during Lent, like chocolate or desserts. Others add actions to their lives such as serving at a food pantry or doing a daily good deed. The point in Lenten observances is not to earn God’s favor or to demonstrate how “holy” we are. Rather, Lenten practices are a way to express our gratitude for Jesus’ love in our lives.

The fourth verse of a great Issac Watts hymn beautifully states the why of observing Lent. “Were the whole realm of nature mine; That were an offering far too small; Love so amazing so divine; Demands my soul my life my all.” https://hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/298

February 14 is a day when we celebrate love. This year, with Ash Wednesday falling on Valentine’s Day, for Christians the emphasis expands to God’s love. How will you respond to God’s love this Lenten season?

It is a joy to serve as your bishop. Blessings!

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