Living Into the Questions During Lent This Year

By Deacon Timothy Siburg


I had a conversation with a pastor recently. They told me about an Ash Wednesday experience from years ago. A young girl came to them with a question. They asked, “Those aren’t grandma’s ashes, are they? Whose ashes are they?” 

You might be laughing. You might be horrified. But if you take a moment, I believe you can imagine this scene in your own congregation, and it is as good as an invitation to live into Lent as you can find. 

Lent doesn’t need to be the season of drudgery that the church has long made it seem like. If we look a little further out, knowing the events that are to come as we walk together as the church this season, and the stories along the way that we will hear in worship after Jesus is tempted in the wilderness, we know too that we will hear the familiar story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well. We’ll hear stories familiar, that are all about discipleship. For me, that’s what Lent really is. 

Lent is an invitation to discipleship and intentionality. It’s a time to connect the dots. For too long as the church we have made assumptions that God’s people who are the church, understand and know things, that we don’t. We’ve gone along with the thinking that we do things because they have always been done a certain way, or that it’s just the way it is. But, how is that faithful? For example, if we’re honest, how many people really know that the ashes used on Ash Wednesday are most often ashes from the palms used on Palm Sunday the year before (or at least some kind of plant-based ash) and not that of a loved one who has gone before us?

Yes, Lent rightfully begins with a focus on our own mortality and our need for the One who brings life out of death. That is good and that is right. And it’s also the beginning point for why we go through this time each year. But through this season, we’re also invited to go a little deeper with Jesus in his walk toward the cross. To ask questions, big or small. To sit with those questions for a while. And to have the courage to ask them and talk about them, even when they might make us laugh, cry, or worry.

One of my favorite questions that I often ask myself is, “Why do we do, what we do?” In this Lenten season we are going to dig into this question as it relates to Lent. Over the course of the next four weeks, this space will include reflections from Rev. Dr. Ashley Hall. Rev. Dr. Hall serves as an Associate Professor of Theology at Creighton University and as a pastor at Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church in Omaha. In his multiple roles and vocations, he also serves as the expert for ecumenical relations for the synod and continues to be an international and ecumenical leader in this work. By the very nature of his ministry, he is one who lives into questions and comes at them from as many angles as possible to provide insights, ideas, and inspiration. 

Church, I invite you to join me in making space to ponder these and other questions this season.  Join me in pondering them with hope, honesty, and humility, as together we wrestle and grow as the disciples Jesus calls and invites us to be.

Along the way this Lenten season, we would love to hear your questions, ideas, and honest wonderings too! Please share them with your siblings in Christ of the Nebraska Synod by tagging @NebraskaSynod on Facebook, reaching out with an email, or inviting your congregation into this as well through pictures, words, posts, and videos. As we do this, as we make space questions, we’ll lean in, and live into Lent together.