February, for being the shortest month, sure asks us to jam a lot of bits in. It’s Black History Month, it’s the month in which Lent begins this year, and it’s the month we’ll wrap up our Philosophy and Theology course and start our book studies.
February is, of course, also the month in which we celebrate Valentine’s Day. Nothing should stop you from celebrating your loved ones with candy and care (I, for one, welcome any and all chocolate and take it as a deep sign of affection). In addition to these tokens of love, what can we do this Valentine’s Day to deepen our sense of capital “L” Love? Can we reflect on the loving nature of God and what that means for us in the world, what that calls us to understand and do in order to participate in God Love? Can we give love to one another in ways that go beyond affection and dip into meaningful, even costly love, the kind that obligates us to one
another? Can we explore more sincerely the mutual quality of real love that both takes from us and builds us up at the same time? It’s that grounding, surrounding, obligating, inescapable love I’ll be trying to keep top of mind, on my heart, and in my soul this February. Because that’s the love that will lead me (and I hope, you) into and through Lent. And February offers lots of way to work that love out in the way we learn and live.
Ash Wednesday is February 17 and we’ll have a YouTube premiere service that will kick off a series of short YouTube services I’m calling Wednesdays in the Desert. During these services we’ll try to enter the paradoxically loving and life affirming time that Jesus Christ spent not only in the actual wilderness contemplating the way that He would show the world what God Love looks like, but also in the very real desert of the hearts of the people of the ancient near east, His fellow Jews and his Gentile neighbors who had a thirst for a better way of being love in the
world to one another, despite the Roman rule over their lives. He taught them, and us, that to love as He does, we need to become concerned, as He is, about those around us who suffer. It’s not enough to offer chocolates to our friends and family, we must offer hope to the hopeless, comfort to the uncomfortable, health to the ill, welcome to the outcast, wholeness to the broken, and our power to demand justice on behalf of the marginalized.
We can do this in February, as we do every month, by praying together, worshiping together, exploring and supporting mission together, and learning together, especially about the concerns of Black and Brown people during Black History Month. This might include learning together through our book clubs. One will address the book Stamped from the Beginning, which takes the reader on a historical review of the beginnings and entrenchment of racist ideas in society and government, it’s a wonderful way to understand and prepare ourselves to address issues of race.
The other will address issues of faith by looking together at the book A Faith of Your Own, which will help us name our own faith ideas, drawing us nearer to our convictions and giving us strength for prayer and justice, for hope and worship, for faith and a lifelong curiosity to seek to know God better and more deeply.
This February let us anchor our Lenten journey and our learning journey in the love of God, who calls on us to safeguard the flourishing of all Creation, one community fed on mutual love and care.