The Vicarage

Dear Friends

This year February 14th is a very special day. It’s special because it is Valentine’s Day and millions of cards and gifts will be shared but it is special in the church because it is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the six weeks called Lent.

Lent is the time when Christians take time to try and live more fully in God’s way, the way that Jesus showed us. At the end of Lent comes Good Friday, when we remember the love of God on the cross, where Jesus died. Then comes Easter Day, when we celebrate that love brings life and joy to the world.

Valentine’s Day is about love – and so is Lent. There are aspects of love which we are at the heart of both these celebrations that combine on February 14th this year.

Firstly love says ‘thank you.’ Valentine’s Day helps us to tell people we love them. Sometimes that is people who know – and sometimes, by tradition, it comes as a mysterious surprise to people who don’t know! It can be about romantic love between couples but to know you are loved is a wonderful thing. At the heart of Lent stands the promise of just how much God loves us. Some people know that truth and celebrate it afresh; but to others it comes as an annoying surprise, which it is often difficult to accept and believe. As a church we must find ways of telling that truth afresh so that others can discover the wonderful truth, for which they too can be thankful.

Secondly, loves gives up. For the Valentine to endure it must involve compromise and sacrifice as well as passion. Love often means giving up something for other people – being unselfish and generous, thoughtful and kind. Lent is traditionally a time when Christians try to live carefully and follow the example of Jesus more closely. We give things up as a small remember of the cost of love and sacrifice that Jesus made for us.

Thirdly, love takes up. In expressing our love for someone we commit ourselves to going the extra mile, taking time to listen and even doing things differently in future. A true Valentine is about so much more than an annual card or gift. Though it is wise not to forget! Lent is a time when Christians decide to take up new ways of living, perhaps giving more away, praying more, reading the Bible more. We seek to do things differently not only so that we might change but to make a difference to the world.

Last Sunday the Diocese of Blackburn prayed for Poulton, Carleton and Singleton and for myself and Carolyn by name. In the intercessions I couldn’t bring myself to read out my own name. In public, at least, I find it hard to pray for myself. It is hard to ask for prayer just as it is hard to ask to be loved, but it is a wonderful thing to know that you are prayed for and to know that you are loved. There are dangers in sending out too many Valentine’s cards to different people, especially if you might be detected. However there can be nothing but good to come from the Lenten summons to tell people that they are loved and that we hold them in our prayers.

Combining the seasonal greeting and the Church of England’s Lenten motto, I say

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Live Life Love Lent!”

Martin Keighley

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