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Ash Wednesday, February 14

Psalm 147:1-11 (NRSV)

Praise the Lord!
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
    for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
    he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord and abundant in power;
    his understanding is beyond measure.
The Lord lifts up the downtrodden;
    he casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
    make melody to our God on the lyre.
He covers the heavens with clouds,
    prepares rain for the earth,
    makes grass grow on the hills.
He gives to the animals their food
    and to the young ravens when they cry.
His delight is not in the strength of the horse
    nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner,
but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
    in those who hope in his steadfast love.


It’s an interesting coincidence that today is both Valentine’s Day (a holiday associated with love and devotion) and Ash Wednesday (which marks the start of Lent). This apparently only happens about three times in any given century, and I find it particularly meaningful that Valentine’s Day is the starting point for our 2024 Lenten journey—one during which we will be reflecting on the theme of “Love for Others: Hospitality and Service.”

For me, Lent is an intensely introspective time of trying to contemplate and discern how I can love God more. If the nature of God is love, then perhaps I should be contemplating how God goes about it. The psalmist observes in our passage today that God “gathers the outcasts,” “prepares rain for the earth,” and “gives to the animals their food.” That sounds like hospitality to me.

Furthermore, God “heals the brokenhearted,” “binds wounds,” and “lifts up the downtrodden.” Yep; that’s service. And Jesus’s life and ministry is replete with examples of showing love through welcoming the stranger or the sinner and by being a servant to others.

My challenge to myself this Lent, therefore, is to look more outward than inward… to learn to love God more by being more hospitable and oriented toward serving others. I’m looking forward to this journey—both on my own and together with my Lewinsville church community –

 to that glorious empty tomb.

Happy Valentine’s Day, and may we all have a blessed Lenten journey of love this year!


Dear heavenly Father, help us to see others as you see thembeloved children of God. Enable us to grow during this Lenten season, learning to look not so much to our own interests but, instead, to look with love to the interests of others.  In Jesus’s holy name we pray, Amen.

Clay McConnell