Ash Wednesday: What If No One Came?

(Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019)

I am the minister.

And yet also a sinner, believer, servant, husband, son, Jesus-follower, holy wonderer and wanderer, and God-lover.

I am cold.

I am alone.

It is Ash Wednesday.

As the preacher serving a congregation—which has included churches in Wisconsin’s dairy lands, along with urban and rural zip codes of California—I would head for the sanctuary before dawn to prepare the elements. Some would be for a traditional communion, though on Ash Wednesday, I usually chose the dry, brittle matzah bread rather than a freshly baked loaf. Other items were less familiar, an annual nod to Ash Wednesday’s peculiarities. There was literal ash, burned down from the prior Christmas’ pine boughs. Oil. And words. Always words. Always something on a page to read, something ready to say.

I would be the celebrant. Continue reading →

A Lenten MacGuffin Served with Some Greeks

There’s a mysterious briefcase in Quentin Tarantino’s violent, vibrant Pulp Fiction (1994). Some characters wanted it. Some characters had it. Sometimes we (the viewer) observed the case was shut. Sometimes, it’s wide open, but the contents weren’t visible. In the film’s story, there was little doubt the briefcase mattered. People were killed. Lives threatened. When unlatched, the inside emitted an ethereal glow.

But then the viewer sees . . .


There were more important scenes than the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. Even if you haven’t watched or can’t stand the movie, trust me, it’s rightly considered a classic. Tarantino manipulated chronology with the script (kairos vs. kronos time, anyone?), John Travolta’s career was resurrected, and the film’s impact gave noir cinema a modern twist and shout.

But the viewer . . . never saw inside that briefcase. What was there? In a sense, the briefcase contained a MacGuffin.

Huh? Continue reading →

Lent, Ophidiophobia, and Wounds

I’ve never been bitten by a snake.

I’ve seen snakes. No, I’m not counting any zoo sightings. I’m referring to riding a bike along a sun-dappled path, hiking a trail through a jumble of boulders, and even a few times around my local suburbs. Yep . . . seen ‘em, nearly stepped on ‘em, and have gladly circled wide of many short and long, still or slithering snakes.

But I don’t fear the creepy, crawlies like the fictional Indiana Jones. Don’t label me with ophidiophobia! Continue reading →