Ash Wednesday [is] the beginning of Lent. And the church does a strange thing on this day. For those who desire it, we place ashes on their foreheads as we say, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Sounds like the ultimate reductionist view: Humanity is nothing but dust. So what is the insight here, and what more is there to say?.
There is nothing pretty about dust..To call someone dust in any other context would be fightin’ words. Don’t call me dirt. So why do we do this strange thing on this day. Remember, you are nothing but dust. What is this about?
First, this day reminds us of our creation. From Genesis 2, the second creation story in Genesis:
In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field had yet sprung up.for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground… then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being.
Dust is the material of a beloved creation. We cannot.must not.despise this loving work.. Remember that you are dust. You are not worth much as a commodity, but you are loved, beloved, shaped, molded, caressed, nurtured by the Loving God who made the stars and the moon, all the creatures of this world. Remember you are dust.precious, precious dust.
Second, this day reminds us of our mortality. “Dust your are and to dust you shall return.”
I am reminded of the words from the burial office, “We commit this body to its final resting place, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
It’s not morbid to think about death; it’s just the reality we all face. Death is the great equalizer. In death there are no presidents of corporations, no deans of universities, no lowly janitors, no prisoners, no homeless on the street, no rich folks, no poor folks. All of us are in the hands of the loving God.that’s it. The trinkets of honor and position.dust and ashes. The shame from others’ judgments.dust and ashes. When we remember, to dust you shall return, we remember that we are made for more than trinkets or shame. We are made for life with God – now and forever.
“And to dust you shall return.” Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are mortal, and in so doing confronts us with a simple question: We have only one life. How do we want to spend it?
Third, when we understand how precious we are to the One who created us from dust, and when we understand that we are made not just for this life but for eternity with God, then we can be free. Freedom.personal freedom.comes from knowing who we are and where we are going. We are free from being affected by other people’s judgment of us.
You know, it doesn’t matter who you are, others can find fault. If you work hard, people will say you’re uptight. If you enjoy life, people will say you’re lazy. If you’re wealthy, people will think you used and abused others to become rich. If you’re poor, people will look down on you, pity you, and assume you are incompetent. It doesn’t matter who you are, people can always find fault; they can always find a way to put you down..
The deep truth of Ash Wednesday .all those judgments do not matter..
We are human beings, dust, beloved of God; we.each one of us.are of ultimate worth..We are created for eternity! What is someone’s criticism compared to that? We are free, free of others’ judgment..
We spend so much energy on things that don’t matter: how we look.what people think of us.what we have or what others have. if we will get a promotion.whose sports team is going to win. We spend so much energy on things that don’t matter..
This, of course, is why Lent is a period of self-examination and penance. We need to stop and look at our lives.remember what we are made of, remember where we are going.and let go of all those things that don’t really matter, all those things that get in the way of loving God, loving others, and being loved by God and by others.
Remember, you are nothing but dust: Precious dust, molded and formed in the womb by a loving God, precious, precious and beloved are you.
Remember, you are nothing but dust, and to dust shall you return: Unique and precious, you are created for eternity.
Remember, you are nothing but dust: And that makes you free.free from human ambition.free from prideful denial .free from fear.free; free at last!
Remember, Dust you are, and as dust you are loved and free.
Rev. Ward B. Ewing – from “The Freedom of Being Dust”