Remember you are God’s beloved dirt.

Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.  

“What does that mean?” A woman asked me this morning as I traced a cross of ashes on her friend’s forehead.

 It was not the appropriate time to tell her that in Ancient biblical times, ashes, or stripping down to sack cloths, or fasting were used to express a time of mourning and repentance.

It was probably not the right time to go into the Christian Church calendar, and tell her that we Christians ritualize this spiritual practice by tracing a cross with ashes on our foreheads on this day we call Ash Wednesday.

It was also not the time to say that in this act of “ashing” that we acknowledge our humanness and thus our own mortality and frailty. But that we also acknowledge that the cross has redeemed our humanness, and through our baptism God claims us as God’s own beloved dirt. 

So instead, I said: “It means that God created us and wants us back.”

Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.   

While Ash Wednesday is a time when we are invited to stay with the betrayals of our hopes and the messiness of our broken selves – it is also a moment to remember that God created us out of the dust of the earth, and God redeems our messiness; God redeems our brokenness; God redeems our sins. God wants us back…because we are God’s.

So for us, though we’ve failed to hold to our commitment to Christ, it is Christ and the cross who remains faithful to us and walks ahead of us on this repentant journey.

And for that we do not wallow or take up permanent residence in our sorrows. For while the journey takes us to the cross, it is not the end of the journey, but takes us to the empty tomb and the beginning of new life in Christ.

So these ashes in the shape of a cross claim victory through death.  God’s victory over our death.

Though we are mortal, we live eternal – forgiven and free. ……

Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.


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