Ash Wednesday

I'm spending the Wednesdays of Lent with the good people of Fountain Lutheran Church and Root Prairie Lutheran Church. It's a two-point parish and they're currently without a pastor. It felt like a gift to be there tonight for Ash Wednesday - to be among them - to be journeying through this mysterious season together. 

After saying all the goodnights and goodbyes, everyone loaded up and headed out. I paused for a moment outside my car. First I looked over at the cemetery beside the church, and then I looked up into the black vastness of the sky. 

Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. 

There is no place quite like a country church on a gravel road late on a winter night. It's so dark and quiet. The sky appears eternal and endless. I felt tiny and huge at the same time. Temporal and eternal. Connected and alone. All the feelings, I guess. All the ends of all the emotional spectrums. 

Today during our staff meeting, one of my team members read the story of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness from all three Gospel accounts recorded - Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Luke and Matthew, the writers describe that Jesus was "led" into the wilderness by the Spirit. But in Mark, the oldest of the Gospels, Jesus is "driven" into the wilderness by the Spirit. 

The Greek word used in Mark's gospel is ekballo.

And here's what it means:

So when the Spirit "ekballos" Jesus out into the wilderness, the Spirit is not messin' around.
From the sounds of it...it's a pretty intense 40-day stretch.

In Luke and Matthew, the Spirit "leads" Jesus into the wilderness for 40 days. It sounds more gentle. The Greek word is "ago." Here's what it means: 

Different sort of vibe, right?

To be driven into an experience vs. to be led into an experience. 

I think it's interesting that we have these two different versions.

It's a lot like life and our personal Lenten journeys...and any of the other 40+ day challenges of our lives. Sometimes we are patiently, quietly led into challenges. Sometimes we are basically forced into them. In all the acounts of Jesus' 40 wilderness days, at the end of the experience, angels are there to nurture him back into healing...to attend to his needs. In his worn-out brokenness, he isn't left alone to fend for himself. 

Perhaps this year you're gently stepping into Lent. 

Or maybe you've arrived kicking and screaming. 

Whatever the case may be, I hope you feel the Spirit's presence along the way. 

Tonight, peering up at the sky after worship, I felt something. A sense of connectedness. A moment of perspective. 

I felt like dust. 



  1. Em, your intuitive feeling from last night about being stardust harmonizes with the current scientific view, that the heavier elements were forged when large stars exploded at the ends of their "lives". So our bodies also literally contain stardust. The size and time scales of creation are mind-boggling.

  2. What a descriptive writing. I could almost feel what you felt. Another great job!

  3. I've always felt quite connected at funerals at country churches. Nothing like standing out in the cold, hearing that empty wind in the tree branches. Saying your last goodbye, wondering what they might say to you if they were at your side. Summer is a good time, you can almost hear them whisper their last, through the rustling of the corn leaves at the edge of the cemetery.

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