LEA Weekly Devotion
Week of February 18, 2018
1 Thess. 5:16
Whoops! One got away. Read more.
LEA Devotion from the Past (2006)
Week of February 18, 2018
The Forecast: Rain
Hmmm ... teaching ... gentle rain. Read more...
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
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
Dallas Lutheran School
Lenten Reflections on Culture and
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?
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.
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
rich blessings of your Imagination living gracefully this Lent.
Ash Wednesday 2018