?Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.? 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Recently I was reading and re-reading this passage as part of an exercise in a book my Sunday School class was studying together. The goal was to be still and slowly, intentionally reflect on each phrase. Countless times I've heard or read these verses that show us what true love actually looks like. However, this time one phrase repeatedly caught my attention: ?it keeps no record of wrongs.? This idea is counterintuitive in a world where we are taught from a young age that everyone keeps score and that we have to earn everything, including love and forgiveness - even from God. The concept of someone loving us in such a way that no score is kept, no wrong remembered, is difficult to grasp and maybe even more difficult to accept. Yet God has a habit of acting in ways that directly contradict the world. If the very nature of God is love, part of that love is welcoming us back with open arms when we return home no matter how far we have strayed, much like the father in Jesus' Parable of the Prodigal Son.
The imposition of ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday is a visible reminder of our sinful, broken, human existence. I love the practice we have at South Main of the giving and receiving of ashes not just from our ministers, but from our fellow church family members as well. It says to me that we are all in this together, we have all fallen short, and we have grace for one another. In this Lenten season of reflection on our own shortcomings and need for forgiveness, may we truly understand the love that God has for us and accept His forgiveness and grace, so that we may, in turn, extend the same love, forgiveness, and grace to others.