Why I love Ash Wednesday and Lent part 2: Death

Ash Wednesday 2012 at HFASS. Photo by Amy Clifford


In the rest of our lives it seems that we are consumed by the hopeless project of ensuring our own immortality.  As though we can live forever or fend off the insult of aging with the right combination of exercise, diet, self-care and if we can afford it, elective surgery.  Face creams, hair die, yoga.  The offers of false promise are all around us.  Luring us into the delusion of endless youth as though we can buy our way out of the foundational truth of who we are.  Mortal.

But while we are denying the truth, God is delighting in it.

This is what we hear in Psalm 51:

Indeed, you delight in truth | deep within me,

and would have me know wisdom | deep within.

That’s the desert we journey through in these 40 days of Lent.  The wilderness of the truth deep within us.  A wisdom which is not of this world.  We journey with Jesus through the desert of Lent but it’s almost as though we have to clear through a whole lot of brush to even get to desert.  Lent is about hacking through self-delusion and false promises.  Lent is about looking at our lives in as bright a light as possible, the light of Christ, to illumine that which moth and rust can consume and which thieves can steal.   It is during this time of self-reflection and sacrificial giving and prayer that we make our way through the over grown and tangled mess of our lives. We trudge through the lies of our death-denying culture to seek the simple weighty truth of who we really are.

This is not a season of  taking up self-denial, it’s a season of relinquishment.  We let go of all the pretenses and destructive independence from God.  We let go of defending ourselves.  We let go of our indulgent self-loathing.   Like the prodigal son we then begin to see a loving God running with abandon to welcome us home.  But we can’t begin to see this God until we turn from our arrogance and certainty and cynicism and ambivalence.  The Psalmist says that God delights in the truth that is deep in us.  The truth. God doesn’t delight in the purity of our doctrine or the perfection of our piety.  God delights in the truth and wisdom underneath all the overgrowth of despair and false pride.  Therefore there’s no shame in the truth of who we are; the broken and blessed beloved of God.  There’s no shame in the truth that our lives on earth will all end and that we  are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.  It’s not depressing.  What’s depressing is the desperation of trying to pretend otherwise.  What’s depressing is to insist that I can free myself I just haven’t managed to pull it off yet. What is so wonderful about Ash Wednesday and Lent is that through being marked with the cross and reminded of our own mortality we are free. We are free to hear the song of our own salvation which tells of Christ who offers life and forgiveness. This song sings of a God who creates clean hearts and renews our spirits.

….to be continued



“In The Beginning”: A Sermon on the Occasion Of Paula’s Baptism
Some Questions for Mary; an Advent Sermon
updated 2015 speaking schedule
Enemies, Retribution and Women Giving Birth – a Sermon on Jonah
About Nadia Bolz Weber

I am the founding Pastor at House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. We are an urban liturgical community with a progressive yet deeply rooted theological imagination. Learn more at www.houseforall.org

  • Patrick Ruth

    Thank you for both Pts 1 & 2- I too love Ash Wednesday and Lent for their call of mortality and recognition of our individual sins. As Merlin said in “Excalibur”: ” It is the way of [hu]man[s], that they forget…”

  • http://www.faithculturekiss.org Michelle Markwart Deveaux


    This is what I keep thinking whenever I read your blog. Thanks for having the patience and discipline to sit and write and speak out into the air what many of our souls are whispering during the busy-ness of our day.

    May we continue to hear the song.

  • Mary Jo Markham

    I too love Ash Wednesday and Lent. I find such a peace in becoming introspective and quiet during this time. I missed Ash Wednesday service this week due to extenuating circumstances. I feel as though I missed the beginning of a book and started in the second chapter. I will catch up though. God does create new hearts and cleanses our sins. Praise to Him!

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  • http://siftingthroughmybrain@blogspot.com Franny

    Broken and blessed beloved of God: that’s us! Maybe you have used these words before, I don’t know; I am kinda new here. Anyway, I love this. So true and so comforting. Thank you!

  • livingbygrace

    Just read this and have been blessed beyond words. This is the message of the church, I think. The core, the words that all people need to hear everyday. Thank you so much for allowing God to work through you to speak to me this morning.

    “Therefore there’s no shame in the truth of who we are; the broken and blessed beloved of God.”

  • disqus_OFY6btKBW4

    The aging, ever-more-grateful, warm-hearted, time-travelling Nana in me, the one learning to follow Jesus and walk humbly with others in the thin space between earth and heaven, loves this piece by “our Nadia”. Thrilled to wear the mark — the cross of Jesus Christ, on my body tomorrow, and in my heart, always. Death — be not proud. You are enemy, but also friend. Be still. Bow your head. Step aside. We wear His sign, we hear the song; and we are coming. Marilee Ruebsamen