For God so LOVED the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
February is here. The dark days of winter are slowly but surely waning, and the first signs of spring begin to appear. There is even a popular American observance to mark this change—Groundhog Day.In fact, Americans celebrate all sorts of things in February (an escape from the dreariness of most of the month in most of the country?). February holiday sand celebrations run the gamut from observing that Groundhog to honoring past leaders on Presidents’ Day. It is also Black History Month. In addition, there are a few obscure, humorous celebrations too like Wave All Your Fingers at Your Neighbors Day,Read in the Bathtub Day,and International Tongue Twister Day.(Trust me… you can Google it.) But the favorite February observance, although not a holiday,has to be Valentine’s Day. It is a day to celebrate love, and many do that by sending cards, candy,and flowers to those dearest to us. In America Valentine’s Day accounts for nearly $20 billion in economic activity each year.
More importantly, February also begins the season when we remember how our God showed his love to the world. On February 17th, Christians observe Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. It is the time of year we reflect on what it means that ‘God gave his one and only Son.’We ponder the depth of that love as we focus on our Savior’s journey to the cross. We watch as Jesus institutes his Supper with his disciples. We see Jesus betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. We follow him to the judgment hall where he is tortured. We watch as Pilate condemns Jesus to suffer the horrible death of crucifixion on Golgatha. We stand silently as Joseph lays our Savior in the tomb. We walk away filled with sorrow over the cause of Jesus’ suffering and death—our sins. And, yet, our hearts overflow with thanksgiving for the Death that gave us eternal Life. Our hearts are filled with joy that our God showed us what true love is.
That love is summed up beautifully in these words:We know what LOVE is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. (1 John 3:16)May your February be filled with the love of family and friends. May your devotions be focused on the love that our heavenly Father lavished on us when he sent Jesus to be our Savior. May your hearts overflow with thanksgiving for his LOVE!
Christ the Life of all the living, Christ, the Death of death, our foe,
Who, thyself for me once giving, To the darkest depths of woe—
Through thy sufferings, death and merit I eternal life inherit.
Thousand, thousand thanks shall be, Dearest Jesus, unto thee.
Christian Worship page 114
Easter Retreat Cancelled
It is with great reluctance that once again the Easter retreat will be cancelled. It is frustrating for us all, but the signs all point to such a decision.Although the hard lock down in Germany is set to end mid-February,there are daily reports that the rate of infections is still too high. As a target for easing lock down restrictions the federal government would like to see 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in a seven-day period.Today the rate still stands at 90.9.New variants of the virus cause additional concern.The vaccine rollout is also proceeding very slowly in Germany. Younger, healthier people who wish to be vaccinated will have to wait several months for their turn. Even should the youth hostel open again for groups, many may find it unpleasant to meet, masked and distanced,in a small meeting room for our worship and Bible study.We are hoping to hold a Reformation retreat. So mark 29-31 October on your calendars for a special time together.
Ash Wednesday, February 17 this year, begins the season of Lent. The current custom of a 40-day Lenten season dates to 331AD when Athanasius instructed other bishops about observing Lent.The 40 days of Lent correspond to Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness where he fasted and was tempted by Satan before beginning his public ministry. Lent ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. The six Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter are not counted in the 40 days.The last week of Lent is Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday when we remember Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. On Maundy Thursday we remember Jesus’ instituting the Lord’s Supper in the upper room with his disciples. Jesus’ crucifixion is commemorated on Good Friday.And on Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The liturgical color of Lent is violet. It reflects sorrow and suffering and also the royalty of Jesus Christ. Often today in Lutheran churches the purple is replaced with black on Good Friday and a black veil covers the altar cross. The Gloria in Excelsis and the Alleluias are not used in Lent, reflecting the solemnity of the season. These customs signify the sorrow of the Christian that, while continuing to rejoice in our salvation, we recognize that it was mankind’s sin, our sin, which caused Christ’s death.
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and it is the custom of many Christians, including some Lutherans today, to mark the forehead or back of the hand with the sign of the cross. Ashes symbolize several aspects of our human existence: They remind us of God’s condemnation of sin, as God said to Adam, “Dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19) They remind us of the shortness of human life. At the grave the pastor will pronounce, “We commit this body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Ashes are also a symbol of our need to repent, confess our sins, and return to God.
For modern Lutherans Lent is a time for reflecting on our Lord’s suffering and death. Careful and honest consideration of the cause of our Savior’s crucifixion will produce a profound sense of personal responsibility for our Lord’s passion –his agonizing suffering and death.Through all the solemnity of Lent our thoughts will ultimately be led to resurrection. Because your Savior lived and died for you, you will also rise with him to a newness of life.
May God bless your Lenten reflection.
Photos this Month
- Heidelberg Schloss
- Bush in Spiesheim
- Nymphenburg Palace, Munich
- Market square, Nürnberg