On February 14th, you may well hear two different words — “Happy Valentine’s Day” and “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season, begins on the 14th of February — Valentine’s Day. The two different words you hear on this day may at first clash in your hearing and in your mind. Valentines Day celebrates love and the love of life. Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality and that we will one day die.

But on thinking more about the celebrations of these two days, they are perhaps not that far apart. We do acknowledge our mortality on Ash Wednesday. We remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return. We admit that we are not God and that without God we have no hope and no life. But even as we acknowledge our mortality, we cling to the promise of God’s grace given us in Jesus. As John 3:16 tells us, “God so loved the world (echoes of Valentine’s Day) that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life.” God loves us so much that he comes to the world in Jesus and dies to defeat our enemies — sin, death, and evil. God gives himself that we might have life. The sign of the cross in ashes on our foreheads reminds us that God has acted in love so that we have life. Is this not Valentine’s Day? An act of love, a show of love brings life.

You are loved by God. He gives himself fully and totally for you and to you. In this we know life and we live in the promise of that life not just on Valentine’s Day — but in every day that is given us to live.

Thank you for the opportunity to have sabbatical time this summer. What a gift! I know that is something unusual and many of you would not ever have such an opportunity. But I plan to use the time to read, visit my parents for more than a day, maybe write a bit, and re-charge my batteries. We will also take a couple weeks of family vacation. We have a great staff and great pastoral support for this time in Pastor Woody and Deacon Robin. Again, thank you!

Blessings on your February!

Pastor Siri