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Love they neighbor: Area pastors parallel holiday with heavenly messages

Love they neighbor: Area pastors parallel holiday with heavenly messages


Apart from Christmas, Valentine’s Day is likely the most commercial time of the year, when lovers, parents and friends spend an average of $143 on flowers, jewelry and chocolates in lacy, heart-shaped boxes to express their affection for one another.

Though Valentine’s Day is the day we try to show our affection with flowers, candy and a beautiful card, the Rev. Charlie Hansen, pastor of Holy Spirit Community Church, 5900 11th Ave., asked if we will show this same love the next day or the day after that.

“Did you know we have a God who does that every single day? That no matter what we do, he loves us. People struggle with that concept because humans aren’t capable of that kind of love,” he explained. “There is only one who can love without conditions, without hesitation: Jesus Christ. It is agape love, and so pure, so strong, so forever, that everyone who calls Jesus their Lord receives it.”

Hansen compared God’s love to getting a beautiful bouquet of flowers, a box of sweet candy and a beautiful card every day of your life. John 3:16 in the Bible describes the depth of love God has for all. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

“I pray that everyone has a wonderful Valentine’s Day with that special person in your life. But even more, I pray you’d want that amazing feeling of love every single day of your life that is given so freely to all who ask,” he said. “John 15:9 says, ‘as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.’”

Christ the King Church

The Rev. Michael Salvati, pastor of Christ the King Church, 5934 Eighth Ave., said Valentine’s Day reminds him of the greatest love story of all time. He refers to it as mankind’s “Dear John” letter to the God of the Bible.

Dear God,

I can’t take it anymore. You are just too stifling. I have found someone else who has promised to let me be me. Someone who will let me do what I want to do. He doesn’t insist that I need to change. He gives me what I want when I want it. He doesn’t say “no” to me. He has promised to give me the life I’ve always wanted.

Sorry God, but I’ve found another,

Your Former Sweetheart

“And with that we left God for another. Familiar? If you are willing to admit it, each of us has signed our name at the bottom of this ‘Dear John’ letter,” Salvati explained. “But it turns out, the one we left God for proved to be a sex trafficker. We left God thinking we had found freedom to do what we wanted to do whenever we wanted to do it, but we left God for a pimp, a pimp who branded us with his dollar sign and brought us to a truck stop to make the rounds amidst the dumpsters. That’s the power of sin for you. Sin promises us freedom but ends up enslaving us — every time. Like a pimp.”

And while making the rounds at the truck stop, Salvati says that one day you hear God’s voice call “Sweetheart” to you from behind the dumpsters, asking you to come back.

“I love you and I’ve come to these dumpsters today just for you. I want you back and have come to take you out of this place and to bring you home with me. Sweetheart, will you leave your pimp to come back to me?” he said. “That’s the shocking love of God for you. After we rejected him for a pimp, he came for us. Shocking. Amazing. Humbling. But what is even more shocking and amazing is that God, in order to rescue us from our pimp named ‘sin,’ took on human flesh and shed his blood to bring us home to him. Sweetheart, this is the greatest love story of all time.”

First Christian Church

It doesn’t matter what you say if the people you are talking to cannot hear you, explained the Rev. Brian Gorman, pastor of First Christian Church, 13022 Wilmot Road. Though it seems like a simple truth, he said if you want others to hear you, you need to speak in a language they understand.

“Have you ever noticed that the most loving things that other people have ever done for you were often the things that were uncomfortable or unusual for them?” asked Gorman. “You hear this as love because they spoke in your language rather than in their own. This is what God has done for us as well. Jesus makes it very clear that he does not want to suffer and die; but he does anyway. He suffers, is beaten, has his beard pulled out and is spat upon. Why? Because of his love for us. Sacrifice is a language we all understand, so God spoke it through Jesus in order to show us how deep his love is for us.”

Lord of Life Lutheran Church

According to the Rev. Stacy Seger, pastor of Lord of Life Lutheran Church, 5601 Washington Road, love is a difficult concept to capture and difficult to explain with words, actions or deeds or to capture in a piece of art.

“The oversimplified definition from the dictionary says love is ‘a feeling of strong affection’ for someone or something based on a variety of factors,” she said. “For any of us lucky enough to have felt love of any kind, it is far more than a feeling. Love has the power to awaken, energize, create and connect us to one another and hurt, destroy and divide.”

Human love is imperfect, flawed and messy because humans are imperfect, explained Seger. She adds that genuine love requires us to extend humbling compassion to ourselves and to others.

“What would it look like for us, as God’s children, to be not just a people of faith, but a people of love formed in love, created for love, stewards of love — the embodiment of God’s perfect love. We certainly won’t get there by ‘falling’ as the adage says, but we will get there by being honest, open and intentional in the ways we care for, affirm and welcome into relationship all of God’s children,” she said. “As we celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, let it not be a day of celebrating just romantic love, but let it be a day to celebrate God’s love; the love that unites the whole world.”

Light of Christ Anglican Church

For the Rev. Eirik Olsen, rector at Light of Christ Anglican Church, 6501 Third Ave., Valentine’s Day is a day when we remember that we love someone, they are special, that we are committed to them and they are worth celebrating with gifts and expressions of affection.

The feast is dedicated to making others feel special and he said there are two parts to a good Valentine’s Day observance.

“It’s about realizing and relishing the wonderful and lovable person we are relating to, but it’s also making sure we communicate in such a way that they get it, so the bonds of love are reinforced and grown,” Olsen said. “Typically, this is a mutual expression of love. When that is the case, the possibilities for joy become nearly infinite, which leads me to an idea and a prayer.”

At best, Olsen said Valentine’s Day can have intimations of the divine that are especially manifest when we truly love another human being who is made in God’s image.

“It can become a little joyful reflection of the Kingdom of God. A good Valentine’s Day can hint at why Jesus says that when we love those who are near us, as if they are our ‘other self,’ it’s like loving God with all of our heart and mind and strength,” he said. “Jesus’ first miracle was to make water into wine at the Wedding Feast of Cana. He can take something down-to-earth like a human celebration of love and turn it into a revelation of God. When real love is given and shared, there is a chance that a divine blessing will come to rest upon our human joy. That might be a good aspiration and prayer for our Valentine’s Day celebrations, in any case.”


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