Dear Family and Friends of Grace Church,
This devotional is about Valentine’s Day. Which makes it about three days late, as you’re reading it this morning. Appropriate, really, considering how many awoke on Monday and only then realized that they needed to do “something/anything” to make it look like they’d been planning for Valentine’s Day all along. (No, not me…I remembered…this year…) Now, Valentine’s Day is not an official Church holiday. It’s more of a Hallmark Moments invention than Church feast day. Yet, as Virginia Assisting Bishop Porter Taylor reminds us this week, it is connected to an actual Church tradition: a tradition of love that connects with God’s love for you and me.
While the Church calendar says that today we commemorate Cyril and Methodius, two missionaries in the 9th century who spread the Good News in Thessalonica, not many of us are going to offer gifts today saying, “Happy Cyril and Methodius Day.” If you are reading this in the morning, and someone is expecting a present or candy or flowers which you don’t have, it might be a good idea to turn your computer off and go to the store.
However, if you are prepared, then join me in pondering the spiritual dimension of Valentine’s Day.
I like chocolate a lot. Well, too much. However, I am still somewhat shaken by my junior high experience of wondering if anyone other than my mother would give me candy as my Valentine. There’s that adolescent fear that gets embedded in us and makes us wonder if we indeed belong. My way of dealing with it in junior high was wearing myself out with sports: football, basketball, track. However, there are no athletic games going on in the middle of the night when the voices ask over and over again: “Do you belong? Are you good enough? What if people really knew what you are like?” And on and on.
Here’s the thing. I am no longer in junior high and most of you reading this aren’t either. However, those voices don’t really go away; the vocabulary just changes. Now it’s, “Do you belong to the right political party?” “Is your behavior around Covid acceptable?” “Do you own enough?” “Have you read enough books?” And so forth. We get older, but part of us never leaves the eighth grade.
So, what’s the gift we need today and every day? It’s what Henri Nowen wrote and talked about all the time: “You are the Beloved” not because of what you do or how you voted or if you are safe or unsafe about Covid or what you own or how many degrees you have and on and on. Being the Beloved is so beyond the mentality of the eighth grade.
You are the Beloved because Jesus Christ is the source of love, and he has no taste. He loves everyone. Period. He doesn’t want your candy or flowers. He wants your heart.
My wish for all Christians is to embrace the truth that Christianity is a love affair with the living God. This is the Good News. Every day in Christ and with Christ is Valentine’s Day. Every day is a gift from God because God loves us and invites us to embrace that love, return that love, and spread that love.
I know that Virginia is for Lovers, but so is everywhere because of who Christ is and what He has done. What if that love was the gift we offered to the people we meet today? What if we looked for the face of Christ in each person we met and accepted that we are called to be that face for them?
There’s a story of an elderly monk who was the guest manager at the monastery. He would sit outside the guest quarters and greet pilgrims. One day it was late. The sun was going down. As a person on retreat came towards him, the old monk squinted his eyes and exclaimed: “Jesus Christ, is it you again?”
We are to receive the gift and give the gift. You are the face of Christ to the people you meet, and they are the face of Christ for you. That’s the real gift today.
Let’s make Valentine’s Day more than happy. Let’s realize it’s holy.
Bishop Porter Taylor