This year, Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day falls on the same day – 14th February. Rather an interesting combination don’t you think?
Valentine cards and gifts will be sent to loved ones and perhaps secretly to those
with whom we would like to share our romantic affections. For some they will go to
church to be marked with a Cross made of ash and oil to publicly acknowledge their
sin and their deep desire to seek God through the season of Lent.
In all of this there is a recognition that we all need to be loved and accepted by God
and other human beings. There is also an understanding that even from the days of
Adam and Eve we often get relationships badly wrong despite our best efforts and
intentions. That is why I strongly believe the Church should be a safe space of loving
acceptance and sanctuary!
1 Samuel begins with the story of Hannah the mother of Samuel. Hannah was one of
the two wives of Elkanah. From the story we know she was not well treated by her
husband (no Valentine’s then!) and Peninnah the other wife. Every year they went
to the Temple to worship God and even in the house of prayer Hannah was
subjected subversive control and abuse even when it came to receiving gifts with
which to worship God.
Hardly surprising, Hannah in despair goes off by her own to pray for a child which
will remove the stigma which is the root cause of the bullying directed towards her.
Sadly, even when at prayer in the Temple, Hannah is rebuked by the senior priest for
apparently being drunk! Poor Woman!
Thankfully, God hears her prayer, and within a short time Hannah falls pregnant and
having delivered the baby, Hannah calls him Samuel and explained “I asked the
LORD for him”.
The best theology is often done through the stories we tell and Hannah’s story is
compelling. Despite all her trials she was convinced that she deserved to be able to
pray in the Temple even though she was seen as a drunken failure. Our church doors
and hearts should be open to all that they might walk in.
With every blessing – John
Revd John Gordon