It’s February 13…Mardi Gras…Fat Tuesday…and two things have not escaped my attention.
First, it’s been over six weeks since my last reflection. Sorry about that. It’s been a long six weeks, as the winter has worn on. Cold – really cold at times, along with a particularly nasty flu season. And busy – lots to do with annual meeting, and other sundry items. But more on that in a moment.
The other thing I can’t help but notice is that if today, February 13, is Mardi Gras, then tomorrow, February 14 – Valentine’s Day – is Ash Wednesday. Yes, indeed. The day of valentines, loves, flowers, and candy is also the day of ashes. Yipee…
But at least we can have some fun today. So, if you haven’t taken the time today to celebrate to excess, to revel in all that Lent is not, you still have some time. Not a lot, but if you hurry…
After all, the fun stops tomorrow. Ashes, no alleluias (we “buried” them in worship on Sunday), and a journey focused on the cross, don’t make for much of a party.
But wait, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. February 14. So, there is that. We can, for a moment, or maybe for more than a moment, forget about the bleakness of Lent and instead imagine that all is really quite well, and that the power of romantic love can triumph over all things. After all, isn’t love the greatest emotion around?
Of course, it is! Love is greater than all else. And that’s why the meaning of tomorrow, Valentine’s Day, is wrapped up in a kiss.
And that’s why the meaning of tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, is wrapped up in a kiss.
Valentine’s makes sense. Whether it is a tender kiss between spouses or romantic loves, or the gentle kiss of a parent to a child, the kiss is an intimate expression of something really deep. Psychologists tell us that the kiss is a most profound expression of our connection to another human being. For whatever reason, the kiss triggers in us powerful feelings of caring and belonging. In a kiss I express a profound and deep sense of security, even as I receive the same in return. Awesome stuff!
And so Valentine’s Day, with the flowers and candy adding to the moment, really can be wrapped up in a simple kiss, in that act of affection that becomes the emotional embrace that binds us together.
Not only powerful, but heavy too!
With all that, it would seem reasonable to spend our time tomorrow focusing on the gift of love and affection. What else could be of such importance?
Well, how about love and affection? Only this time, of a different sort.
So, let’s go with February 14, this time as Ash Wednesday. And keep the kiss. Not the kiss of a spouse or lover, not even the kiss of a parent or child. This kiss is deeper. This is the kiss of a good and gracious God.
Ash Wednesday marks a moment in time, both for Jesus, and for us. Each week, as we hear the story of Jesus in the Gospel readings, we walk the story that begins at Christmas and ends with the joy and wonder of Easter. Ash Wednesday is when the story turns and Jesus begins to make his way to Jerusalem, and then to the cross On the cross, Jesus will take upon himself all of our failure, brokenness, sin, and vulnerability. That, by the way, is the point of the cross. Yes, Jesus suffers greatly and dies on the cross, but many people have died agonizing deaths. The difference with Jesus is that he carries all of our stuff with him, and in fact, carries all of the agony of the world on his shoulders. That’s is what the cross is about. And that journey begins tomorrow. February 14. Ash Wednesday.
But that journey is also our journey. Through Lent we walk with Jesus, recognizing our weakness, and coming to grips with our need for something beyond ourselves. Our need for the gifts of the crucified Jesus. In the journey of Lent I am reminded of how truly broken and vulnerable I am.
All of that makes for a gloomy time. Lent is not much of a party!
But Ash Wednesday…and Lent…is about a kiss. It’s about God’s kiss through Jesus. For in the midst of all my failure, brokenness, sin, and vulnerability, the kiss of God through Jesus renews and restores me. The crucified Jesus takes from me all that weighs me down, and revives my life.
That’s what I need – now and, well, always. But especially now. Remember? It’s been a long six weeks. The winter has been hectic and wearing on me. So now, today (Mardi Gras) and again tomorrow (Ash Wednesday) and Thursday…Friday…and on and on…I need that kiss. More than even the powerful romance of Valentine’s Day, I need the kiss of Jesus, the kiss of life!
So, what about you? I invite you to ponder...what is weighing on you these days, that you need the kiss of God through Jesus? Where is your need, your brokenness, your vulnerability? Where have you failed, and desperately need the embrace of a loving God?
And then think back…when have you already been kissed by God? When, in a big – or small – moment, did the kiss of God lift you to new life?
Or when, looking back, did God’s kiss restore you, and you only realized that gift in hindsight?
Looking ahead…looking back…God’s kiss, in the crucified Jesus is the kiss of life!
That’s why, in the end, it’s not just Valentine’s Day or Ash Wednesday that is wrapped up in a kiss. It’s today, tomorrow, and everyday.