Cosmic collisions let us examine our hearts

"Ash Wednesday meets Valentine’s Day February 14"

Columnist Ray Waddle, a former Tennessean religion editor recently wrote in the Tennessean in its February 7th issue:  “to those who savor cosmic collisions on the calendar, check February 14. Besides Valentine’s Day, it is also Ash Wednesday. The annual celebration of romantic love shares a date this year with the first day of Lent.  Candlelight dinner meets liturgies of repentance. Champagne festivity goes face to face with the Book of Ecclesiastes.” (Click here to read his article.)

About this cosmic collision, Waddle uncovers for us a surprising statistic: this embraced (or dreaded) holiday is a commercial colossus now with $18 billion a year spent which breaks down into gift spending averaging nearly $140 a person in cards, jewelry, roses, and champagne.

Ash Wednesday, meanwhile moves in the other direction, acknowledging what Waddle refers to as “the broken heart of the world” -- life’s mistakes and wrong pursuits and the inescapable facts of our mortality.  On Wednesday, I will make the sign of the cross on foreheads as these words are said “you are dust and to dust you shall return.”  Tough words on a day that acknowledges life’s mistakes and wrong pursuits and the inescapable facts of our mortality.

Yet these desolations don’t get the last word.

Tomorrow, when Valentine’s Day collides with Ash Wednesday I am tempted, when I say “remember that you are dust” to draw a heart instead of the cross to hold in creative tension the desolation (our own limits) and the hope of God’s promises that is at the heart of this strangely life renewing glow of Lent.  A heart - or a cross - reminds us of the promises of God that we are God’s, that there is no sin, and no darkness, and yes no grave that God will not come to find us in and love us back to life. These promises outlast our earthly bodies and the limits of time. For we come from God and to God we shall go.

There is so much that gets in the way of that simple truth and it is at times like on Ash Wednesday -  when all of the other things that occupy our attention doesn’t matter as much. 

So on this day of cosmic collision, I hope you will stop by when we will be outside in our parking lot from 7:30 am - 9:30 am for the imposition of ashes and for a time of personal prayer for those who desire prayer.