Lisa Witherspoon
Associate Director of Children’s Ministry

Luckily for my husband, I have never been a big fan of Valentine’s day. My philosophy is, if you love someone, you should show them EVERY day – not just on a particular, commercialized date. He, of course, is very supportive of my ideology on the matter.

However, as a preschool teacher, mom, and, children’s Christian educator, Valentine’s day is not optional. In fact, it is kind of a big deal. Of course, I am not opposed to the general concept of love, so I have tried to use the holiday as a reminder to myself and others that we are called to love one another – not romantically, but to love as Jesus loved.

500 times

What does that look like? Well, in children’s ministry, it often looks like the story of the Good Samaritan. Children can relate to a man who needed help, two men who walked on by, and one who stopped to help – to offer love. When I ask, “Who showed love in this story?” even the youngest disciples can answer.

Older children enjoy a good trivia question and guessing game, so I routinely ask them on Valentine’s Day, “Do you know how many times the word ‘love’ appears in the Bible?” They might guess anywhere from 10 to 1,000 times. They are usually surprised by the actual answer. It varies by translation, but the word “love” appears 348 times in the King James version and 538 in the NRSV, which is what the FPC pew bibles are.

If it is in there more than 500 times, then, clearly, it is something important and we are meant to pay attention. (Of course, the word “love” didn’t appear at all originally, because the Bible wasn’t written in English and there are multiple Greek words for different types of love, but that’s a conversation for grown-ups!)


Filled with love

Like most things, “What does this look like?” took on a whole new meaning this year when loving our neighbors actually means staying away from them, covering our smiles with masks, and not being together inside our church building. Yet, we are still called to love, right?

I was concerned that love would be hard to teach and difficult for children to see this year, but the Holy Spirit is among us even as we are physically apart and FPC is certainly filled with people who understand and practice love.

This Valentine’s Day weekend, FPC preschool, elementary, and youth families will deliver 65+ care packages, filled with love, to other members of our congregation who live alone, have lost a loved one, or remain isolated as the pandemic continues. Families will read about the good Samaritan or recite “love verses” out loud around their kitchen tables. They will pray for others. They will give their time and care to someone they may not even know. Package recipients will, I pray, feel that love and be comforted knowing that they are prayed for, thought of, and adored by a family of faith that cannot be separated simply by distance.


How love abounds

I think this might, in fact, be one of the most meaningful things I have experienced in all my Valentine’s Days. Enough, even, to halt my February 14 holiday cynicism this year. Watching First Preszers care for each other and our community reminds me that, indeed, love abounds, even as this pandemic continues.

  • Love abounds around kitchen tables and in care packages assembled, delivered.
  • Love abounds in thousands of pounds of canned food donated to feed the hungry.
  • Love abounds in meals provided to those in need.
  • Love abounds in Lent kits thoughtfully prepared.
  • Love abounds in communion kits delivered.
  • Love abounds as families gather around the font to rejoice.
  • Love abounds as families gather in the Columbarium to mourn.
  • Love abounds as youth serve at Backpack Beginnings.
  • Love abounds in Weekday Preschool classrooms where children laugh and learn.
  • Love abounds in the notes played and words preached in our sanctuary and watched through our screens.
  • Love abounds on Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
  • Love abounds in phone calls made, notes sent, and prayers lifted.

We can all rest assured that love abounds at FPC. Despite the physical separation, despite the obstacles currently in our path, on Valentine’s Day and every day – indeed, love abounds.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

See how Love Abounds at FPC!