Season of Lent: Ash Wednesday

stars and clouds at nighttime

Ash Wednesday Reflection

Karl Barth is known for the saying, “Preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” Afterall, the story of humanity is being told in both texts with the same struggles being lived out centuries apart.  A clear message that the wisdom of scripture is needed as much in our current context today.  As I think about writing for Ash Wednesday, when the theme is death and dying, I can’t help but tweak Barth’s quote a bit.  What is going through my head is to preach with the Bible (or your scared text) in one hand and your full identity in the other.  For me, this means preaching Ash Wednesday with a focus on death and dying knowing that I have a terminal diagnosis of stage 4 breast cancer.  I am dying.  It could be 3-5 years from now (the average survival time for someone with my diagnosis) or it could be 10-15 years from now as treatments get better and better.  No matter what, this Ash Wednesday is different for me, it is harder to talk about death and dying, but it is also still so important. Maybe it is even more important.

Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.  If you participant in the rituals of Ash Wednesday, these are words that you will read or hear spoken to you at some point today.  These words, in their starkness, remind us that there was a time before your existence and there will be a time after you are gone.  You came to life and you will die.  This fact is the same for all of us – no matter what.  Because of wealth, race and gender you may live a bit longer on average, but each and every one of us will pass away at same point.  In our American culture this is about as far as we want to go on this topic.  Acknowledge that everyone will die and then run in the other direction as fast as possible, because we may feel sad, or scared, or overwhelmed.  But this is the moment we should stay and face the question that dying raises for those of us who are living, “How do you want to live knowing you are going to die?”

Pondering your death is really about pondering how you want to live your life.  What kind of world do you want to be a part of leaving behind for future generations?  What is the legacy you want to leave for those closest to you? How do you want to be remembered in your community, in your family, by your friends? I can’t answer those questions for you.  Only you can do that, but I place these questions before you to ponder and to help guide your living.  However, I really need to answer these questions because death is not just somewhere far off for me, it is a dot in the future that will be clearly seen sooner than I expected.

I want to leave a world that is closer to putting an end of racism, and I deeply believe my faith brings me to this work.  The legacy I want to leave is as one who didn’t let fear get in my way and someone who was willing to ask for help when needed.  No one can make it through life alone.  We were made for community.  We were made to depend on each other.  I hope I was someone who others could depend on and that I had a sense of knowing who was dependable. Remember me as someone who wasn’t perfect, but asked for forgiveness because I believed in its power to restore community.  Remember me as someone who shared her story, so that others wouldn’t have to think they were the only one who doubted and was pissed at God, but still found a home in the church and faith.  Remember me as one who encouraged others and who helped reveal hope. Remember me as one who wanted to keep showing up longer then I was able to, but also knew that at some point I would have to let go and pass the journey on to those will come after me.  Remember me as someone who loved God, and loved neighbor as myself. 

Now it is time for you to answer the questions.  I need to get on with living until I die. Amen.           

7 thoughts on “Season of Lent: Ash Wednesday

  1. Susan Schnieder says:

    Absolutely Beautiful. Thank you for your powerful words. Life is a gift. Eternal life is as well. May both lives be wonderful for you. You show your faith and live your faith in either place but WE would like you to have longer here with us for as long as we possibly can.

  2. Carol Wiechers says:

    Pastor Kara i see you face as you deliver this Ash Wednesday message. What a blessing you have been , and continue to be, to me and countless others. God has been kind to me and my family, and all of us that He shared you with so many.

  3. Faith Pfeiffer says:

    God bless you Pastor Kara! You have been a blessing to many and we keep you in our thoughts and prayers! Peace be with you!

  4. K says:

    Ever since battling clinical depression as a teenager & attempting to end my life, I’ve been drawn to Ash Wednesday & Good Friday. Now don’t get me wrong, Easter Sunrise service holds a special place too but death & dying are where I connect. Lent is my favorite church season. To think that once upon a time we could have been a part of the atoms that make up the beautiful stars & planets in the night sky is mind blowing. Or that we can end up there again. I missed that opportunity to be reminded of my mortality by being marked with a cross of ashes on Wednesday.

    As a high schooler, I remember a youth group discussion on death & dying. I remember saying that I wasn’t afraid of death so much as worried about how others would remember me. When we die, that is the moment we no longer have the opportunity to shape & change how the world sees & remembers us. For me, my goal in life, while not simple, can be simply stated as something my mother often repeated in Girl Scouts growing up: always leave things better than you found them.

  5. Jane (Jamie) Brooks says:

    I will pray for you every day. You have been a blessing to many people. I have heard your words and sermons as you have been a guest speaker at Covenant Presbyterian Church.

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