… you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19)
Today is Ash Wednesday – the very first day in the forty-day season of Lent. The season offers us the opportunity to consider who we are as we grapple with the reality of all that our God truly is. For, as Martin Luther himself said, it is only when we face God’s grace upon the cross that we can understand the gravity of our own sin.
There is much truth-telling in today’s narrative. We, as the body of Christ, gather together to mark our bodies with an outward symbol of our fallen nature. It is an express contradiction to the “high and mighty” notions that surround Christian culture. And it is something that I am certain much of the world finds refreshing.
Because we are not perfect. Though we are blessed beyond measure, none of us, as individuals or as families of faith, truly lives up to all that God has called us to. We fail. We fall down. We burn ourselves and our world to ashes. Sometimes literally.
Confession of our brokenness is essential to finding ourselves on the journey.
Yet, there is another truth that is just as important: all of creation (the entire universe) is quite literally made of stardust. Scientists have helped us to understand that all matter is this specific form of “dust” at its most basic elemental level. We are literally all made from dust – from the Biblical and scientific perspective.
And in case you missed it, there are some pretty incredible things made from that same dust. Galaxies. Mountains. Stars. Oceans. Creatures great and small. Planets. You.
Even as we confess our fallenness this day, let us not forget that in the beginning, God drew us up out of the dust, called us good, and breathed life into us. You may have fallen short. You are probably not everything you could be. However, you are still a beautiful, wonderful and incredible creation of God. Whoever you are. In whatever way you were made.
So yes, confess that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Then, in the following sentence, affirm our thanksgiving that our God makes amazing things out of dust (be it of the earthly or starry variety). Why? Because God is Love. And Love will always want love to grow until it encompasses all that is.
Or maybe, Love will keep reaching out until all that is realizes that we are already part of that same Love. Because in our end is our beginning. We are dust. Broken, yes. But also beloved, fearfully and wonderfully made dust. Thanks be to God.