Ashes for Valentine's Day? // M-Note 2.10.24

This year, Ash Wednesday also happens to be Valentine’s Day. I’ve seen a lot of jokes going around about the irony of celebrating romantic love and mortality all on the same day!

On Ash Wednesday, we remember our sin, mortality, and need for forgiveness. Ashes are an ancient symbol of repentance and so we mark our heads to both confess our sin and as a sign of our desire to receive forgiveness. On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate romantic love with elaborate gifts, chocolate, and bright colors.

But, if you look more closely, maybe they’re not as different as we think. Both, in their own way, are really about love. On Ash Wednesday, though we focus on sin and mortality, we do it because we know that we have a God in Christ who loves us enough to forgive us. On both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, we recognize that life on earth is fleeting so we express our love to those that are important to us. Sure in one case it is with worship and ashes, and in the other case it is with flowers and chocolate, but in both we celebrate life, we express love, we practice forgiveness, and we look with hope towards the future. So maybe celebrating them on the same day is fitting after all. 

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, the 40 day period leading up to Easter. During this season Christians observe a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline, setting aside time for prayer, contemplation, and being in relationship with God. 

On Ash Wednesday, we will start in the morning with Drive-Through Ashes To-Go from 7-9am at all of our sites. This is a simple, quick way to begin your day by receiving Ashes and a short prayer. Then, that evening, we’ll have a powerful worship service at 7pm at our McCausland site.

Finally, for The Gathering’s Lenten Devotional this year, I’m honored that the team has chosen to use my new book, The Methodist Book of Daily Prayer. To participate, you can get the book and sign up for a daily email reminder to guide you on your journey.

If you don’t have a copy of the book, we’ll have them for sale this weekend at worship, or you can buy one online.

I encourage you to join us in at least one, or preferably all three, of the ways above. These small practices can make the Lenten season extremely meaningful and make Easter even more special. If you have never been, Ash Wednesday worship is particularly powerful.

Finally, this weekend in worship, I will announce The Gathering’s plans for Easter 2024, including where we’ll be celebrating - yes, it’s somewhere new!  I will also continue our series Money Talks, covering saving and spending and some practical tips on how to do both faithfully. You won’t want to miss it. Have a great weekend, and I will see you Sunday.
P.S. We’re still looking for lots of volunteers for the second annual BEYOND: a conference on February 26 & 27. We’ll host more than 200 pastors and church leaders from all over the country to hear from amazing speakers and learn together about how to cultivate churches that are both inclusive and growing. Please consider helping us to welcome and extend hospitality to all our guests in true Gathering fashion. You can check out all the ways to serve, see the available shifts, and sign up here.
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