“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. “ [John ch3 v16]
This Sunday is known in the Church as the Sunday before Lent which begins on Wednesday. It is also of course, better known as St Valentine’s Day where hearts, cards, chocolates, red roses and take-away meals for two are in demand, irrespective of lockdown restrictions.
There are all sorts of stories about St Valentine. It is thought that he was a priest, perhaps even a bishop, who was martyred in Rome in about 269. But no-one is entirely sure why the celebration of St Valentine’s Day came to be connected with love. One legend suggests that Valentine was caught officiating at Christian weddings which had been forbidden by the Emperor. In particular, Valentine officiated at the weddings of young men who otherwise would have been conscripted into the army.
He cut hearts out of parchment to remind the men not only of the vows they had taken, but also of the fact that God loved them. As the centuries passed, people began to pray to St Valentine in search of romance. So, it was perhaps that St Valentine’s day became associated with hearts, romance and love. Whatever the truth or not of the legends that surround him, what is clear is that Valentine was martyred for his love of Jesus Christ lived out in service of others.
When you think of love at this time, what do you think of? The loving support of all your family perhaps, or, the nearest and dearest, or all the people who mean so much to you. For instance how many photos of the people whom you love do you have? Have a look round the house, or on the phone or the IPad or tablet, you might be surprised at the amount! It is heart-warming to be surrounded by all of the family from folk our age to the next generation and the next. Look at how far this extends to aunts uncles cousins and their families and so on, including good friends. All with reminders of good times or happy events where the close bond of family is strengthened when people get together.
When we think of Love there is no greater love than that which God has for us. In John’s Gospel he describes God’s Love for the whole world. Not just the favoured few, not for those who had done wonderful things, not the rich or the famous especially but all of these folk and all of us. It was a break-through moment for the world. The realisation just how much God Loves each person, it was a surprising piece of news for Nicodemus [the man who Jesus was talking to] as the Jewish nation were sure that God loved them alone, and not the Gentiles [i.e. the rest of the world].
This love is unconditional, it is simple, we are all loved because we are, not because of who we are. God does not ask for any favours from us, does not expect us to bargain our way to Him. Saying to God things like “Lord, If You help me”, then you promise to be good or go to church, but that does not work because God does not bargain. He expects our love and adoration as a spontaneous reaction to His Love for us. It is a simple way of life and worship, we love Him because He Loves us.
This love is sacrificial because God gave us His only Son, in order to save the world. In return all we have to do is believe in Him. It sounds simple but for many such Faith is hard to come by because questions need to be answered, doubts darken the mind. In fact it is simple, we do not need a degree in Theology to come to Faith. We simply need to invite Jesus into our hearts. Believe first and in time the questions will be answered, doubt dispelled. The Love of God is Pure and Simple, it is reflected in human terms, where our love for our dearest and our families and friends always sees the best of in them, always ready to forgive, always to be happy in their company. If we can be that way with each other think how much higher and purer God’s Love is for us. Think of the photos around you of the folk you love, think how large the wall would be to hold the images of the whole human race. What a wall that would be to see and God knows each imageas well as you know your photos. Each photo you have has a story behind it of where and when it was taken and the snapshot is also a snapshot of the sensations in time. He knows all of these images very well and each story and each thought and the of the love that person has for Him. Pretty awesome!! Thanks be to God for all of His Love.
LET US PRAY
Lord of all and King of Kings, so great and so mighty,
Yet mindful of each one of us,
We thank You for those around us who love us,
We thank You for family and friends, for those closest to us.
We thank You for Jesus, sent to Save us.
Lord, today we think of those in need of prayer.
The lonely, the anxious, the fearful, and pray for your strength in their lives.
We give thanks for and ask Your Blessing on all Key Workers, may we be ever grateful,
May we never take them for granted again.
We pray for all young people, going through such difficult times that might find
Guidance and support from family and good role models.
We ask these in the strong name of Jesus
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