More than Hearts and Flowers

AWAITING “SNOWMAGEDDON”, A PREDICTED 20+ inches SNOW,

IT BECOMES CLEAR SUNDAY WON’T BE A USUAL WORSHIP DAY!

SO PERHAPS AN UNUSUAL MESSAGE IS IN ORDER.

We’ll have no time before Sunday next to think about it, so I thought I’d take this chance to give you and me a little different slant on a moment that will focus a bit of our week… coming to Valentine’s day.

I INVITE YOU TO READ I CORINTHIANS 13,

OFTEN TERMED “THE LOVE CHAPTER”

I REMIND YOU IT IS MEANT TO DESCRIBE LOVE IN THE BODY OF CHRIST, THE CHURCH, NOT JUST ROMANTIC LOVE

(DESPITE ITS FEQUENT WEDDING USE).

THEN READ THE LITTLE MESSAGE BELOW AND ASK YOURSELF

WHAT THIS SPECIAL DAY AND WEEK CAN MEAN FOR YOU…

IN JESUS CHRIST, AND FOR ALL WHOM YOU LOVE AND SERVE IN HIS NAME.


More than Hearts and Flowers

Did you know that Valentine’s Day is about much more than hearts and flowers? Have you ever heard the story of how it comes to us, or how we could make it a time to express our love and faith in Jesus Christ? Maybe it would warm us on these cold February days to share a little about these things.

‘Truth is, none of us have ever received a Happy Lupercalia card, or a box of chocolates in the name of Lupercanus! That’s because about 1700 years ago, the Romans were discouraged from continuing their February 15 festival. It honored one of their pagan gods (Lupercanus) whom they believed protected their city. Among their customs on Lupurcalia, they placed the names of eligible young women in jars. From them, the young men drew names in lottery fashion, thereby pairing off with newfound sweethearts for the year to come. Both the growing church and the Roman authorities frowned on this and tried to alter it.

Enter Emperor Claudius and Bishop Valentine. Claudius II did not want young men to marry. He wanted them for soldiers. He feared they wouldn’t want to leave their families to do battle for his empire. Bishop Valentine, however, continued to perform weddings in secret. He believed in love, but more, he believed that love for Christ and Christ’s Kingdom were more important than empire and the emperor.  When word reached Claudius, he had Valentine jailed. Tradition says that two things happened there. First, the bishop fell in love with the jailor’s blind daughter Asterius. (While in prison, he is said to have healed her in the name of Jesus.) Those who loved Valentine for his devotion to Christ and to them, those he’d married, or wanted him to, showed their support by secreting notes to him. It is said he wrote back when possible. Eventually he was condemned to death, but wrote a final love letter to Asterius that he signed, “Your Valentine”. So began the practice of sending those February cards we still sign the same way today. By 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius outlawed the old lottery. He substituted the names of saints to be drawn on Feb. 14. Their lives in Christ were to be imitated by the recipient in the year to come. This development was short lived as young men at court abandoned the saintly and began to send handwritten notes to women they admired and wished to suit. All of this pretty much brings us to the present day and those opening questions about more than hearts and flowers, and expressing our faith and love in Jesus Christ.

Why not take this Valentine’s Day as a chance to show our love for Christ and His Kingdom? Why not pattern ourselves after the one for whom the holiday is named? There was real courage in standing up to the emperor in the name of Jesus. There was a deeper love than candy and confections can show in saying, “I honor the Kingdom of Christ above every other claim upon my heart.” There was a wonderful conspiracy of love in the Christian community. It supported Valentine with notes of care and kindness in response to all the tenderness this early bishop showed. That old bishop was prepared for his end, because he knew that there is no end to the love of God. If the cross would not have the last word with the Lord Jesus Christ, then no other cruelty can have the last word for those who love and follow Him. Courage, deep love, Christian community, tender kindness, triumph of the Spirit… these are the real marks of Valentine’s Day. Way more than hearts and flowers are at hand.

*** *** ***

Now I close with word of a special Nichols-Bethel Valentine Project. It will require about 35 helpers. If you’d like to help make somebody’s day, come February 14, somebody who could really use a blessing, call the church office and ask to be a helper on the list. OR E-MAIL US AT office@nicholsbethel.org. (It won’t cost you more than a little of your time and a very modest little gift. But it will mean a great deal to someone else.) In turn, we’ll make clear our request and share how you can help. (We can’t have to many Nichols-Bethel Valentines sign up!) It will be a lovely bit of love to give in the name of Jesus Christ.

Ken

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