Dwelling in the Desert (Ash Wednesday)

Ash Wednesday 2018

As we mark Ash Wednesday and begin the season of Lent, Justin Fung talks about the difficulty of the deserts we find ourselves in — the places of “This is not what I thought life would look like” — and the opportunities that lie there too. [2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10]


Abraham Heschel, “Dust and Image”, from I Asked for Wonder:

Man … is a duality
of mysterious grandeur and pompous aridity,
a vision of God and a mountain of dust.
It is because of his being dust
that his iniquities may be forgiven,
and it is because of his being an image
that his righteousness is expected.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser, “Entering Lent”:

“[In fasting] Lent invites us to stop eating whatever protects us from having to face the desert that is inside of us. It invites us to feel our smallness, to feel our vulnerability, to feel our fears, and to open ourselves up to the chaos of the desert so that we can finally give the angels a chance to feed us. That’s the Christian ideal of Lent, to face one’s chaos. … The need for Lent is experienced everywhere: Without sublimation we can never attain what is sublime. To truly enter a feast there must first be a fast. To come properly to Easter there must first be a time of desert, ashes, heaviness, and tears.”

Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Walter Brueggemann, and Eugene Peterson, The Life with God Bible:

“Our wildernesses and deserts are not our endings. It is the Spirit of God who leads us about in them. They are our opportunities.”

Jan Richardson, “Blessing the Dust”:

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made,
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear