ASHES AND ROSES 2-11-18
ASHES and ROSES
February 11th, 2018
This year Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday happen to be on the same date. It might seem ironic that we would celebrate love, and death, on the same day, especially since in our wedding vows, we say “til death do us part”. But death only parts us physically from those we love, and even that separation is temporary. The person we lost will still be in our heart while we remain on this earth, and when our time here is through, we will be back together with them for all eternity. True love is eternal.
However, such a separation makes times like Valentine’s Day especially difficult for those whose soulmate in this life has been called to their eternal home. There are no roses, no candy, no cards to be bought or received – and seeing them being exchanged by other couples, for sale in stores, and in commercials only causes pain and longing. Just as David cried in our third Scripture reading (Psalm 77:1-6), they also think of the good old days, when their nights were filled with joyful songs, and ponder the difference now. We, as the Christian brothers and sisters of those who are going through such a trying time, should encourage and support them, and show them that they are loved.
For indeed they are, especially by our Lord Jesus, who is perfect love. And as we heard in our first Scripture reading (John 15:9-17), there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. And so, perhaps it really is fitting that we celebrate Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday on the same day. For Jesus did indeed lay down His life for us, His friends, whom He dearly loves.
But you might think, yes, OK, Jesus is our friend, and my sweetheart is (or was) also my dear friend, but doesn’t Valentine’s Day celebrate romantic love? Isn’t the most romantic of gestures when someone gets down on one knee, pulls out an engagement ring and asks you to marry them? The Bible likens Christ to a bridegroom and His Church to a bride. And the church is not a building, or a denomination, but it is comprised of those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and have received eternal life. Christ, the Bridegroom, has sacrificially and lovingly chosen the church to be His bride (Ephesians 5:25–27). Just as there was a betrothal period in biblical times during which the bride and groom were separated until the wedding, so is the bride of Christ (physically) separated from the Bridegroom during the church age. Our responsibility during the period of engagement is to be faithful to Him (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:24). At the rapture, we, the church will be united with Jesus and the official “wedding ceremony” will take place, when our eternal union with Christ will be actualized (Revelation 19:7–9; 21:1-2).
This year we will celebrate our love for our Heavenly Bridegroom, by placing ashes on our forehead on February 14th. And while they symbolize our own mortality, may they also symbolize our immortality through Jesus Christ, who laid down His life out of His love for us, and rose again to give us life eternal with Him. Ashes for roses. Think of them as a Valentine’s bouquet from Jesus, and a symbol that you are his betrothed, engaged to be married, and faithful to Him forever.
And if you have not yet accepted His proposal of marriage in your heart, make this the day you say “Yes!” Not “let me think about it” or “I’m not ready to get married yet”. The Bible says, “the ‘right time’ is now. Today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
So if you are worrying whether or not your earthly significant other is going to get you one or two dozen roses, or the brand of chocolate you prefer, or take you to that classy restaurant you’ve been hoping to dine at; remember, those roses won’t last forever, and that box of chocolates will soon be empty. Instead reach out to someone who won’t be getting a valentine this year. Comfort someone who is still grieving a recent loss, or still missing someone from years ago. And remember the words of Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.” So if you want to give Jesus a valentine (and I hope that you do!), do something kind for someone who everyone else has forgotten. Reach out to someone who is lonely or grieving. Send them a card, give them a flower, hug them and tell them you love them. By doing this you will also be doing it for Jesus, and your reward will indeed last forever.
And if you are the person who is dreading Valentine’s Day, remember that your first love is Jesus. Don’t be like the church in Ephesus in the second chapter of Revelation, to whom Jesus said, “I have this complaint against you. You don't love me or each other as you did at first!” or as it says in a different translation “you have abandoned your first love”. If you have ever lost someone dear to you, whether to death, divorce, betrayal, or abandonment, you know the grief that it brings; so don’t do the same to Jesus, who is waiting for you with open arms and a heart overflowing with love. Jesus loves you as no one else can, and He will heal your broken heart, if only you will let Him. And you will rise from the ashes and bloom like a beautiful rose once again. Amen.