More than Dust?
“You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:19)
Tonight, many of you will be going to church and experiencing Ash Wednesday services. Each of my first three churches were new to Ash Wednesday services when I began as their pastor. Not surprisingly, similar statements came from the masses, “Isn’t that Catholic?” “What, are we turning into - Catholics?” While the comments made me sad, I remained undeterred. Before we can experience Easter, we must first recognize the “dust.”
We humans are like any other animal: we sleep, we eat, we... But unlike other animals we are capable of experiencing the Divine. And, unlike other animals, we are capable of great arrogance. Our narcissism is profound, leaving us with the false belief that we can be our own gods. The majority of people in this country have no regular commitment to a faith community. In Europe, the number is well under ten percent.
The reason ashes are placed on your head, with the words, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return,” is to remind each of us that we are not little gods. Apart from faith, we are no better than other animals. A monkey is higher in the evolutionary process than a cockroach, but a monkey is still an animal. We humans are higher in the evolutionary process than a cockroach and even a monkey, but without faith in God, we live...and we die.
Today, go to an Ash Wednesday service. Feel the crusty ash placed upon your forehead. Hear the pastor’s words, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This quote from God to Adam and Eve reminds us that we cannot create paradise by ourselves. Then pray to God for the wisdom to know how to live our lives in faith. You are preparing for the 40 days of Lent - that through the difficult self-reflection, we will be able to wipe the ash off our foreheads on Easter morning and celebrate Christ’s resurrection, and our own promise of life eternal. We can appreciate Easter, when we learn that while we are dust, God wants to make us so much more.