From the Minister
This month sees the celebration of St Valentine’s Day and alongside the hot cross buns and chocolate eggs that herald Easter in the shops just after Christmas, there also tends to be a large collection of hearts and flowers. St Valentine’s Day is big business as we are encouraged to show our spouses, relatives and friends how much we love them and I wonder what the original St Valentine would have made of it all. We know very little about the original saint except that he lived close to Rome in the third century and is thought to have sheltered Christians facing persecution and conducted Christian marriage ceremonies in secret as they were condemned by Rome. He was eventually martyred by the emperor Claudius.
Perhaps however it is not a bad idea to have a special day to celebrate and reflect on the nature of love, providing we do so in its widest sense and don’t simply focus on romance. To love God and to love our neighbour are the two main commands in the Christian faith and so it is good for us to think about what love involves and how we fulfil our calling.
Perhaps at this time it is more crucial than ever to reflect on how we live out love of our neighbour. As tension grows between countries then we, even as individuals, feel tempted to raise the drawbridge and exclude those who are not like us. In contrast to this, one of my favourite passages from scripture is from 1 John 4:18: ‘Perfect love casts out all fear’. This verse seems to me to offer both comfort and challenge. There is comfort in that God’s perfect love for us means that nothing can separate us from Him and therefore we have no need to be fearful. Yet there is challenge because we are called to face our fears and seek to overcome them with love. In a world where those who live differently are often feared this means we need to be active in listening to the needs and hopes and fears of those who we might view with suspicion and in seeking to counter violence. This begins with each one of us reaching out to those who are marginalised or even those with whom we have never bothered to converse so that we can build bonds of trust. That might be a legacy of which St Valentine, who stood alongside the persecuted and marginalised, could be proud!