Dust And Ashes

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There’s a reason God made us out of dirt…

Having been raised in the United Methodist Church, I am familiar with the season of Lent and the tradition of self-denial many Christians observe as we remember the final days of Christ’s earthly ministry and His journey to the cross.  Year in and year out, whether I’ve been active in a church or not, Lent has always been a special time for me as I remember Who Jesus is, and who I am.

What I am.

This year I am singing and serving in a Lutheran church, and their observance of Lent includes elements I had never experienced before, including The Imposition of Ashes, a portion of the Ash Wednesday service in which the pastor or priest takes ashes and makes the sign of the cross on the foreheads of those who wish to receive them.  The ashes came with the scriptural reminder that,  “… thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”  (Genesis 3:19)  Receiving the ashes proved to be an overwhelming moment for me, and as I returned to my seat, quiet tears crawled down my cheeks as I contemplated the coming season of Lent and the nature of Christ’s sacrifice for me. No amount of self-denial I exercise during Lent can make me truly understand the magnitude of that sacrifice…and that is not what Lenten self-denial is meant to accomplish anyway.  My self-denial helps me to be more mindful of Who He is.

And what I am.

I am dust, and to dust I am going to return.  Genesis tells us that God took the dust of the ground, breathed life into it and it became Man.  Without God’s breath of life in me, I am only dust.  A collection of chemicals, elements and water.  Someone once analyzed the monetary worth of a human body based upon its chemical/elemental makeup, and that value was something along the lines of $5, including our skin.  A fascinating and humbling prospect.

I’ve always believed there is a reason God made us out of dirt. If He had chosen gold or jewels to make humankind, we might feel overly confident in the intrinsic value of our substance.  Acknowledging that God made us from the dust of the earth, breathing His Spirit into us to give us life, we can realize where our value really comes from, if we choose to.  I am grateful that my substance is frail dust, and that my true worth is what God has breathed into me.

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