Three powerful words
Preached by Angel Figueroa, Campus Minister, at LunchTime Ministry on Ash Wednesday
I love you.
I’ve heard it once said that these three words are the most powerful words in the English language. We all desire to love, and especially, to be loved in return. This desire is so deeply ingrained in our society that we have an entire day dedicated to celebrating love. Valentine’s day is one of the biggest holidays in American society, one that is impossible to escape. It is a day rich with pageantry and an underlining consumerism. If you truly love somebody you will spend a lot of money on dinners, and flowers and candy and all the things. You have to show them that they are more important to you then anything else. V day is a BIG deal and if you don’t do it just right, well maybe you don’t love your partner after all.
I have a confession to make. I’m not the biggest fan of Valentine’s day. While I dislike the consumerism of it, that’s actually not my biggest issue with it. No, my biggest issue is that it focuses exclusively on one type of love. Now it’s true that little kids give valentine cards to everybody they know. But once you grow out of that adorable age, then it becomes something different. Now to be clear. I have no problem with romantic love. I think it’s lovely and a God given gift for those fortunate enough to find it. But it’s also not the only type of love there is.
That’s actually why I enjoy coming to LTM so much. It is here I see love in action, lived out in seemingly small ways. I see a deep and abiding love in Spike, often after working in the shelter the night before, being here first thing in the morning to open the doors and offer at least a temporary break from the cold. I also see a deep and abiding love in the guests who come here day after day to be part of each other’s lives. It is often those who have the least to give that are the most caring and loving of all.
And today especially we celebrate yet a third kind of love. We celebrate the love from above. The love of God is one that we can never truly understand, because it is entirely selfish and without reward to the one giving it. In fact God so loved the world that God entered it in the form of the Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. This is a BIG deal. Life isn’t easy. It’s full of pain and sorrow and loneliness as I think some of the people here in this room know too well. Yet in order to restore all of creation God entered our fallen world and lived as one of us, with all the ups and downs that implies. And in order to ensure our salvation and the restoration of the heavens and the earth, God submitted to death, even death on a cross. That truly is a love incredibly deep and wondrous.
In the Lutheran Church when we are baptized, we have the sign of the cross traced on our heads. In just a few moments we are going to bear that same cross, but this time in ash. As we leave this place, I want that cross to be a reminder to us. A reminder that even when life seems at it’s hardest and most dire, we are loved. God is with us even in the midst of our personal deserts and wildness. God is with us even though we are imperfect and feel that we are not deserving of that love. Those three words I started with? They are powerful, there is no denying that. But as we leave here this place I want you to bear in mind these three words which are even more powerful. God loves you. No matter what we do or who we are, God loves us. Let us remember that this Valentine’s day.