Dust and Ashes and Life
Know that the LORD is God.
It is God that made us, and we are God’s. (Psalm 100:3a)
Yesterday, Ash Wednesday, was the beginning of the season of Lent, reminding us that we are all created from the dust of the earth and that we will return to that dust at the end of life. The image comes from the second story of creation in Genesis 2, of God mixing the dust of the earth (Adamah) with water and shaping the first human (adam), then filling that human with the breath/spirit of life. Imagining God kneeling in the dust, playing in the mud, and sculpting a new creature, then bending over and breathing life into that creation, has always been a compelling image for me. Out of the dust – life!
The affirmation and reminder of Ash Wednesday, “from dust you were made and to dust you shall return,” is both sobering and affirming. We come from the earth and return to earth. We were given God’s breath/spirit of life in our birth and we return to that spirit in the end. Both birth and death hold us in the essence of life on this planet. Our faith calls and invites us to live every day with that poignant reminder and that lavish blessing.
The tradition of Lent has been a time of self-examination and repentance. Traditionally, we have been told to give something up for the season of Lent, making room for God to transform and reshape our lives into new and renewed faithful living. I grew up being asked the question, “What are you giving up for Lent?”
This year, we have already had to give up so many things. The COViD-19 pandemic has isolated us. We have had to give up how we worship together and meet and connect with others. The social justice and political issues we have faced as a nation, as a culture, and across the nations of our world have stretched and torn the very fabric of our lives. When so much has seemed to break down and fall apart, how can we give up one more thing?
And yet… and yet, our faith teaches us that even when everything is falling apart, God is still working in the dust and ashes, shaping new life, and breathing in new spirit. It is God who made us and it is God who continues to give life – on this earth-journey of life and in the eternity of life in God after death.
This Lent, I invite you into a journey of exploring this transformative, creative, life-giving energy of God at work in your life and in our world. Where life has broken and fallen apart, what new life is shining through the cracks? Where in the dust, is God reshaping and refashioning our lives? Where and how is God breathing into our hearts and souls refreshing winds of hope and grace? How is God working in and through you individually and among us as people of faith, to bring transformation to our communities? Even in our times of wilderness wandering, where and how is God present?
Let us join together in discovering God’s creative, life-giving Spirit as we pray together this prayer from Howard Thurman:
“Lord, Lord, Open Unto Me”
Open unto me, light for my darkness
Open unto me, courage for my fear
Open unto me, hope for my despair
Open unto me, peace for my turmoil
Open unto me, joy for my sorrow
Open unto me, strength for my weakness
Open unto me, wisdom for my confusion
Open unto me, forgiveness for my sins
Open unto me, tenderness for my toughness
Open unto me, love for my hates
Open unto me, Thy Self for myself Lord,
Lord, open unto me!