Pastors Corner: February, the month of love and sacrifice

There are two notable events taking place in February that are important to grasp an understanding of. The events recognized this month are centered on two main components of life: love and sacrifice. The two, of course, are Black history and the beginning of the Lenten season.

Black History Month recognizes the accomplishments and sacrifices of African Americans in the U.S.

The first official observance came in February 1976, under President Gerald Ford, who proclaimed: “In the bicentennial year of our independence, we can review with admiration the impressive contributions of Black Americans to our national life.”

The year 1986 was the first year of the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a national holiday. But long before the Emancipation Proclamation (1863), long before the “I Have a Dream” speech (1963), Black Americans demonstrated love of family and sacrifice to their country even though they were not always judged by the content of their character but by the color of their skin.

Knowing our past will always unlock the door to our future. Far too many Americans know little about the rich cultural heritage of African Americans who helped to build our nation. February gives all Americans an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the accomplishments that African Americans have achieved in this country, despite the history of racism and oppression.

The love and sacrifices of King and countless Americans must be acknowledged and recognized. They must be noted as true heroes in American history. From education and literature to music and entertainment, sports and politics, Black Americans have been prime movers in every sector of life.

Just to name a few, there are the previously mentioned King; writer and activist James Baldwin; poet Maya Angelou; Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress; Olympian Jesse Owens; strategist and organizer Bayard Rustin; Bessie Coleman, the first Black licensed pilot; publisher Robert Sengstacke Abbott; singer and entertainers Ethel Waters and Nat King Cole; the first Black chief justice, Thurgood Marshall; and Pulitzer Prize author Gwendolyn Brooks.

It is vital for all Americans to acknowledge and educate themselves of the love and sacrifice given to all Americans by Black Americans.

In February, we also celebrate the beginning of the greatest expression of love and sacrifice. The season of Lent is the beginning of the ultimate sacrifice of love that has ever been expressed to humanity. From Ash Wednesday for 40 days (not including Sundays), we prepare and share the fulfillment of the birth, life and ministry of Jesus.

Luke 4:1: Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2: where for 40 days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

The word “lent” comes from the old English word lencten, which means lengthen – referring to the season of spring and longer daytime. The length of Lent represents the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness before beginning his ministry.

The power of true love is always demonstrated through sacrifice. The love of Jesus is demonstrated through the fulfilling sacrifice of following the direction of the sacrifice requested of the father. Love is translated through sacrifice (John 3:16,17).

The Lenten season is not merely a religious act. It is about the ultimate sacrifice. Many believers follow in kind and give up, or sacrifice, something in their lives in reflection and appreciation for what Jesus did for us. It should be said that you will not find any biblical mention of observing an annual period of 40 days of fasting and abstinence preceding the festival of the Passover, although much of the Christian world observes the 40-day period of Lent, which precedes Resurrection Sunday.

The Lenten season is a time of observation, fasting, penitence and prayer for many believers around the world. It is predominately observed by Catholic believers, but Christ followers of all denominations can and do participate.

The purpose of this column is to accentuate the point that the sacrifice of love is on full display during this season.

What is love without sacrifice? It is simply an overture of words, thoughts and possible emotions. God proved his love through the sacrificial actions of giving.

February is filled with sacrificial significance. It is my prayer that you grasp the sustainable importance of what this time brings you. I would ask that you educate yourselves of the accounts of Black American history this month and beyond.

Then, take this time to honor our savior as we love sacrificially during this Lenten season.

Michael F. Cole is the pastor for the Worship Center Ministries and the Dixon Church of the Brethren, both in Dixon.