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Love, Lent, and Prepositions

“In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”

— Alfred Lord Tennyson

What do love and Lent have in common? A great deal, actually, but especially this year since Ash Wednesday—the beginning of Lent—falls on Valentine’s Day.

Our word “Lent” is most likely derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for Spring, lencten. Early Christians (about 200 AD) created a 40 day church season leading up to Easter. Because the date of Easter fluctuates, the days of Lent vary too, but they are always in the season when the days are lengthening (at least in the northern hemisphere), i.e. lencten – Lent.

In one sense, our worship and time spent in God’s Word doesn’t change from season to season in the church year—we always seek to keep our eyes centered on Jesus, go to His Word to hear Law and Gospel, understand sin and grace, and build up our faith with the Word. However, each season also bears a special focus. The focus in Lent is on Jesus’ suffering and death, our sins which led him to the cross, and repentance for those sins.

At first blush, pairing Ash Wednesday with Valentine’s Day might seem to be a contradictory combination, but a closer look reveals that the two days are coupled in a rare beauty.

Jesus said, Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). If Valentine’s Day is a “day of love,” there’s no greater love to celebrate than that which God demonstrated to us and the whole world of sinners by sending His only begotten Son.

Remembering the cross and Jesus’ sacrifice is the perfect way to view Valentine’s Day in a whole new light—a brighter light, a truer light. Just think about how much of what is exchanged on Valentine’s Day happens because of a sense of duty because it’s Valentine’s Day. There’s no duty attached to the cross—only grace and mercy. Think about how superficial some of the “love” is that is expressed on Valentine’s Day. There’s nothing superficial about the love of God which runs so deep that God’s eternal Son became man and shed His blood for a world that naturally hates Him.

Many do take advantage of Valentine’s Day to express true and genuine love for one another in meaningful ways, but even then the cross is still in view because true, meaningful, genuine love in the fullest is a reflection of the love that brought Jesus to us. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

We will begin this year’s Lent season with a worship service on Ash Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. The Ash Wednesday worship service will include celebrating the Lord’s Supper. There will also be a soup supper before the worship service.

Midweek worship will continue for five more Wednesdays (7:00 p.m.) after Ash Wednesday. A second soup supper is planned for March 21.

. . . oh, and the preposition? The Sundays during Lent are Sundays in Lent rather than Sundays of Lent. Each Sunday worship service is intended to be a “mini-Easter” and a celebration of a living Savior. The church spends Lent in penitential sorrow but rises each Sunday to a celebration of what it knows to be true, namely, the work of redemption is complete and our triumphant and victorious Savior lives!

The midweek Lenten worship services will include a pulpit exchange among the pastors of the Inland Northwest. We will prayerfully “Keep Our Eyes on Jesus” as we consider six texts from Hebrews.

Easter/Lent Trivia

  1. Do you know the formula for determining when Easter is?
  2. Why that formula?

Answers:

  1. The first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring.
  2. Jesus rose from the dead on the Sunday following Passover. The Passover is determined by the Jewish calendar which is lunar (vs. our typical solar calendar), thus the formula.