It’s February! Love is in the air! The stores are all decorated in red hearts, the USPS is bracing for its “second busiest” time of the entire year, flower sales are about to skyrocket, jewelry stores are open later than usual (“If you love her/him, you’ll buy her a chocolate diamond! Tastes good, too!”) and the radio is full of “gooey love songs!” February 14 is St. Valentine’s Day, and it, like many holidays, has its origins and roots in church life and tradition. According to many, Valentine was one of those ancient martyrs, giving his life rather than taking an oath of allegiance to Caesar and Rome, the most powerful nation on earth in its day. Cards and letters, starting way back then began to appear with the closing salutation: “In Valentine’s honor and with love....”
Now, there are folks who find Valentine’s Day depressing, deplorable, and even antithetical to their lives. They’ve lost loved ones in death, relationships have come to unhappy conclusion, or something has “gone wrong” that makes “Happy Valentine’s Day” difficult to offer. Love, the underlying premise of Valentine’s observances, is perhaps the most abused and misunderstood word in the English language. There were, you probably already know, three words in Greek that we’ve consolidated into just one term: eros (physical attraction), phileo (brotherly/kindred love - think “Philadelphia,” literally, the City of Brotherly Love), and agape (self-giving love). When the Church speaks of Jesus, or when Paul delivers that wonderful meditation on love in I Corinthians 13, the latter (agape) is the term most used.
This year, Valentine’s Day comes on a Sunday, early in Lent (actually, it’s very first Sunday!). On that day, in both the sanctuary services, I will be inviting all married couples to come with their bride/groom and renew their marriage promises with each other. It’s a way of asking for the grace
of the other spouse to let go and discontinue remembrance of any and all infractions that have happened in the past and make a “new” start - again! In the movie, City Slickers, Billy Crystal’s character is talking to his best friend, reminding him that when they were boys, and one of them hit an errant ball, the other would offer a “do over,” meaning that they got another chance to make things right. Maybe that’s what I’m inviting you “married folks” to do on Valentine’s Day, 2016...grant them a “do over” for cranky mornings, hurts great and small, wounds that may be as fresh as yesterday, and love that went to bed angry a time or two.
If you’re willing to start this “Season of Repentance” in this way, and start fresh and new “one more time,” then let me invite you to prepare to come to the front of the sanctuary on Sunday, February 14, during either of the morning’s worship services, along with your sweetie, and renew your promises, be touched with the grace and love of God, find forgiveness of the wounds of the past, and take up a new life together.... again!
Grace and peace.
Jim Earley, Pastor