With Valentine's Day approaching there is much thought and sentiment given to love. Love is so sweet, so sentimental, so beautiful. Hearts and flowers are the order of the day.
And yet for those who have lived life for any period of time knows, love, beautiful as it is, can be tough. For love to be easy we must be perfect, as the Lord our God is perfect. For love to be received, we must be emptied of ourselves, of our selfishness and sinfulness, of our restrictive judgements and prejudices. For love to impact our lives we must be readied by discipline and purification. The author of Hebrews in the reading today says "In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood." In our desire for union with God we must empty ourselves, laying all on the line, in order that we might be free to embrace the love given us by God. Love is tough, but without love we are dead. Love requires discipline and sacrifice, but the end result is a joy beyond understanding.
A week from today we enter into a discipline called LENT. It is a season of grace, a time of repentance and purification, that leads to our opening of ourselves to the love of God. It culminates in a celebration of events that are truly life changing - passion, death, resurrection. It brings us to Easter joy. But first comes the emptying, first comes the purification, first comes the dying. Then, and only then, can we live. To love is difficult ... but to love is what life is all about. The way we know this fact is because we know the God who gave all for us in love. And we are grateful ... for to know him is to love him ... and we do.