Header Color:
Main Color:
Footer Color:
Weekly Devotion

LEA Weekly Devotion

Week of February 18, 2018

1 Thess. 5:16


Whoops! One got away. Read more.



Devotion from the Past

LEA Devotion from the Past (2006)

Week of February 18, 2018 

Deut. 32:2-4

The Forecast: Rain

Hmmm ... teaching ... gentle rain. 

Guest Devotions for Lent

Ashes and Hearts

Bible Readings: Genesis 3:19 and Ezekiel 36:26

By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. ESV

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. ESV

While “ashes and hearts” may not have the same ring to it as the name of the late 1980’s band “Guns and Roses,” it is a term that can be used for next Wednesday as that day, this year, is both Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day. On the surface, it seems like a unique mix and clash of celebrations. Actually, it will happen again in 2024 and 2029 before not making another appearance in the 21st century.

When I Googled “ashes and hearts,” what I got was a listing of places that would take the ashes of a loved one and place them in a heart pendant. Not exactly what I was looking for, but maybe not that far off of the connection of these two days.

Ash Wednesday, the traditional beginning of the Lenten season, is often marked by the placing of ashes on a worshipper’s forehead and accompanied by the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This is a reminder that repentance (the theme of Lent) needs to be immediate and regular, since no one knows when their life will end or when Christ shall return.
Conversely, while Valentine’s Day was originally a celebration of the martyrdom of an early Christian, St. Valentine, since the mid 19th century it has become much more secular in nature. It is marked by celebrations of romantic love, often revolving around depictions of a heart. This depiction can be candy, cards, on clothes, and even pizza.

So, how do we put these together? What do ashes and hearts have in common? Well, probably not much. But, I think there is a certain Christian symmetry to the idea of ashes first and then hearts. As Christ-followers, we know that our repentance (ashes) must be complete and contrite before we can fully understand the forgiveness and love (hearts) that is ours. God mercy through his Son cannot be easily understood without one accepting the reality of our sins and that of those around us.

The beauty of God’s grace and love is that no matter how persistent our sin and guilt are, through confession and repentance we begin to feel the warm embrace of God’s love and forgiveness. Just as our heart pumps life-giving blood through our body, so God’s love through the power of His Spirit reaches every inch of our lives. That gift of forgiveness overcomes whatever sorrow and depression living in a world fouled by sin can cause us.

Think again of the pendant I mentioned. But replace the ashes of a loved one with the ashes representing our sinful lives. God’s love wipes away the guilt and fear those sins cause. The heart pendant reminds us of that. While our sins and their consequences (ashes) don’t disappear, God’s love (heart) puts them in their place and robs them of their eternal power.

That is the true message of the Gospel story, the one we celebrate fully on Easter Sunday.

As you look around this week at your life and the lives of those around you that you love and interact with each day, maybe the “Ashes and Hearts” Wednesday is a perfect combination. As we receive the ashes (often in the morning), it is a fitting prelude to the hearts of love we may receive later in the day. God’s love reigns supreme and is the only antidote for the sin that we remember, acknowledge, and repent of on Ash Wednesday and throughout Lent.

Appreciate the unique combination that is ours this year as we enter into another season of Lent.

© 2018 David Bangert
Executive Director
Dallas Lutheran School
Dallas, Texas

Lenten Reflections on Culture and Imagination

Our modern culture feels a bit tattered and chaotic these days, and our imaginations are a bit weary. Culture is a perspective that people use to shape, create, and validate life. Culture includes simple and complex concepts that change over time, without formal votes or a predetermined pace. The wider the cultural perception is, the more likely many subcultures may exist, vying for attention or dominance. Just look at popular music. After World War II, my parents met and courted amidst Swing and crooners. I grew up with folk music and rock and roll that was morphing into Blues, Country Western, Jazz, Funk, and Rap, to name only a few voices seeking to influence my engagement with music. Even church music changed as the organ declined, and guitar groups evolved into praise bands and hymnals gave way to projectors. The times they are still a changing. Are we still arguing over saving each man’s dignity and pride viewed as both a concern for fairness and self-respect and as an egotistical rant?

I would suggest that music is just one example of how cultural issues demonstrate that creation would prefer things its own way, using its own energy to put new wine into fresh skins that will not burst. Shouting out that NEW is BETTER, sinners seek change also, but mainly change that is in their own innovation. I am glad I never embraced the Nehru jacket that, with an assist from the Beetles, swept the culture for a time. Part of the problem is that we forget that culture has many levels and most are not vital to daily life. We often treat our habits as sacred, while failing to recognize divine values such as mercy and freeing prisoners as cultural norms. This is the culture of which we are all a part, The World. How do we change that which we seek to control? Strong words, clever logic, loud shouts, fear, even seduction and physical destruction have all been used to effect changes, and most have failed to succeed. How do we stop relying on our own wits to create a culture we seek to control? Why not use our imaginations to see visions and dream of what our Creator intended? Do we really need a new job, a larger house or another invented holiday to celebrate? No, we need to be still and listen to the words of prophets, history, epistles, and gospels that we have had all the time.

Lent calls the church to a season of reflection, anticipating Easter and salvation to use our imaginations, to again question our selfish natures but not to defend a sinful culture. Rather, we are called to witness the hope in God’s plan to that culture. We are called to exercise the freedom of our imaginations, to reflect upon salvation and the promise from God who came to us, called us by name, and still sustains us. We are called to resist getting bogged down in false cultures, following foolish trails, and seeking self-centered goals. Sin drives us to seek so many shortsighted solutions. Recently, Dr. Robert Kolb provided an intriguing notion at a presentation on campus. The idea was that, GRATITUDE AND CONTENTMENT ARE EVIDENCE OF TRUST AND FAITH. They may be observed as fruits of the Spirit, spiritual comfort, even advice to live by. I would suggest that living in gratitude and contentment allows us to actively use our imaginations to discover authentic cultural ideals in which the Creator’s will is evidenced by our habits and actions, which are less chaotic and frustrating and more persuasive than seeking worldly goals focused upon winning, success, fame, or power.

Enjoy rich blessings of your Imagination living gracefully this Lent.

George Guidera

Ash Wednesday 2018