Hope Weekly
February 9, 2018
Today's reflection comes from Presiding Bishop Eaton:
A Valentine Gift from God

"Love means never having to say you're sorry" (Love Story).
"Forgiveness guaranteed. Repentance optional" (sign in front of a Lutheran church).
This year Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day fall on the same date. It seems like an odd pairing-Ash Wednesday, a day of solemn repentance and honest reckoning of our brokenness, and Valentine's Day, a lighthearted celebration of love. Do we fast and pray and commit to rigorous spiritual disciplines, or do we dive in to Champagne and chocolate? Is it a day of contrition or of abandon? Do we abstain or do we indulge?
It's strange how our culture divides up human experience and the way it puts a premium on happiness, self-fulfillment and conflict avoidance, particularly in personal relationships. The good life is untroubled. There should be no worries and certainly no cause to acknowledge pain or wrong. It's a life of endless possibility fueled by positive thinking and affirmation. It should be perky, upbeat and fun. And somehow love needs to be shaped the same way. Certainly there is no room for Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day in the same space.
The two quotes above are the manifesto for this worldview. They hold out the promise of pain-free, investment-free, responsibility-free relationships. They encourage an unexamined life, a kind of Teflon existence to which consequences don't stick. They sound like the real thing but are as poor a substitute as the sentiments printed on the little sugar valentine hearts are for a real expression of love. In this world, Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day make no sense together. But here we are. This Feb. 14 will hold two holy days. And, in our life in Christ, they aren't incompatible but inseparable.
The history of salvation is one extended love story between God and God's creation, between God and humankind, between God and God's people. We were created in love for love. Real love. Love that is solid and deep and unflinching. Love that is true enough to be honest.

The history of salvation is one extended love story between God and God's creation, between God and humankind, between God and God's people.

God's work of reconciliation in Christ is God's eyes-wide-open acknowledgment of human rebellion and sin, the undeniable fact that all is not well no matter how hard we try to fix it or deny it. The remedy was the all-in, complete love of the incarnation, crucifixion and death of Christ. Jesus meets us right in the middle of our pain-the pain we feel and the pain we cause others-and without minimizing the depth of our offense, offers forgiveness and new life. Love does not mean never having to say you're sorry-love means being able to say you're sorry.
Lutherans point out that grace is a gift, but sometimes we get a little carried away. I believe the sign in front of one of our congregations that claimed "Forgiveness guaranteed. Repentance optional" was trying to announce good news. Instead, it sent passers-by in the wrong direction. Our reconciled new life in Christ not only makes it possible for us to strip away any illusion of a whole and holy life that we bring about by ourselves, it compels us to repent.
Theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned us about this cheap grace. He wrote: "Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. ... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate" (The Cost of Discipleship).
So, Ash Wednesday is a valentine from God, one that invites us to enter deep into the mystery of true love, honest examination of our lives and the possibility of real repentance. The Ash Wednesday valentine starts us on the journey to the cross, to the passionate love of God shown in the Passion of Christ. And after the cross, the resurrection. No more pretense, freedom.  

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper
Join us Tuesday, February 13 from 5:00-6:30 p.m. for a Pancake Supper before Lent begins. There will be a pancake decorating contest for all ages, crafts for kids, and lots of food and fellowship. Suggested donations are $5 for adults and $2 for children and students. All proceeds will go toward our youth going to the ELCA youth gathering in Houston, TX this summer.

Ash Wednesday Services
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday services on February 14th and Noon and 7:00 pm. Each worship will include the imposition of ashes.

Midweek Worship During Lent--
Thy Will Be Done
"Not as I will, but as you will," Jesus prayed to his Father the night before he went to the cross for our salvation. And that is our prayer as well this Lent as we seek to do God's will in our lives, as we draw near to the observance of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection during Holy Week.
Each Wednesday between Feb 21 and March 25, you are invited to a simple meal followed by worship.

Congregational Meeting 10am Sunday
All members are encouraged to attend a congregational meeting to approve the annual budget 10:00 am this Sunday in the Sanctuary (between worship services). 
Cake & Canvas
On February 25 from 2pm - 5pm, the high school youth group will be hosting a Cake & Canvas afternoon. Our very own artist, Patsy Camp, will be leading a paint your own canvas event. There will be cakes, cookies, coffee, and other refreshments provided along with all supplies. Please wear clothing you are comfortable painting in and invite your friends. Cost is $35 and all proceeds will go towards the ELCA youth gathering this summer. RSVP to Pastor Kristin at pastorkristin@hopetoledo.net