ashesAfter two Ash Wednesday services today, I am duly reminded of my mortality—as the liturgy reads, “the frailty and uncertainty of human life.”

I didn’t need much reminding this year. Last week at a conference at which I expected to see her, I learned of the unexpected death of a youth ministry colleague. We weren’t close friends; I had only met her a few times. But I always experienced her as a genuine person, full of life and love. She was only nine years older than me, and the thought of her leaving behind a family that will miss her dearly breaks my heart.

I must say that I think about mortality differently now that I am a husband and father of two. Thinking about cutting short my time with them is a place in which I cannot dwell for long.

Mortality also has new meaning now that all but one of my grandparents are gone. And my own parents get older each year, as do I. As do we all.

On this day we are reminded that our shared mortality was shared even by Jesus, the one whom we call Lord and Christ. And during this season of Lent we reflect on his short life, especially the last few years, and then the last few weeks, and then the last few days in which he did remarkable things that changed the world and have the power to change the world still.

How will he call us this Lent? How will he call me? Will I be attentive enough to hear?

As I reflect on mortality this night, of one thing I am certain: we must make the most of the days we are given.

John W. Vest

John is a "church hacker" attempting to overcome the limitations of church as we know it. To connect with him and learn more about his work, please visit

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  1. my most poignant Ash Wednesday memory is of you bringing Noah up the March after he was born and putting ashes on his tiny forehead. The dissonance of him, so new to life and the truth that all of us, even he, is dust and to dust we shall return, profoundly shaped me. I shared that story yesterday during my Ash Wed meditation. Thinking of y’all!

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