This year Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day, February 14th. What does a celebration of hearts and love have to do with ashes and the beginning of Lent? Actually, quite a bit!
One of the scripture lessons on Ash Wednesday is from Joel 2:12-13: “Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing.” Lent is all about where our heart lies, to what it is attached. Is our heart focused on God and God’s desires…or on something else? Lent is about developing “heart healthy” habits of prayer, giving, and self-control.
O Christ, your heart, compassionate, bore ev’ry human pain. Its beating was the pulse of God; its breadth, God’s vast domain. The heart of God, the heart of Christ combined in perfect rhyme To write God’s love in human deeds, eternity in time. (ELW 722)
Here at Gethsemane, this Lent is also about hearts as we focus on cultivating compassion. Each Wednesday during midweek worship we will look at steps toward developing compassion by looking at Christ’s compassionate heart.
O Christ, create new hearts in us that beat in time with yours, That, joined by faith with your great heart, become love’s open doors. We are your body, risen Christ; our hearts, our hands we yield That through our life and ministry your love may be revealed. (ELW 722)
How do we our hearts beat in time with Christ – individually and as a congregation? This Lent, we will also begin to “take our pulse” as a congregation. The Church Council encourages every one to participate in a Taking Our Pulse (TOP) gathering. These TOP gatherings are small group meetings in members’ homes. We want to bring folks together to talk about our community, our shared experiences, and our future. These conversations will help us see how we might “tune our hearts to sing God’s grace” (ELW 807) in years to come.
Midweek worship…TOP gatherings…Lenten practices…My prayer for us this Lenten season is rooted in these words of Father Daniel G. Groody: “Discipleship begins with dwelling in Christ, entering the place of his loving embrace, staying under the gaze of his tender mercy. It involves living with a heart open to love, a heart willing to change, a heart ready to serve, a heart disposed to pray, like Samuel, ‘speak, for your servant is listening.’ The world is hungry not for busier people but bigger-hearted people. They seek not only people who work for God but people who are so at home with God that they become a doorway into God.”
Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy Lent!