Dust and Ashes
Our Lenten devotions begin with an invitation that draws us into a deeper relationship with God in Christ Jesus, as well as into a serious look at who we are inside and out, and what God desires for our lives. The invitation is from God, and the outward and visible sign is a stark and humbling reminder of our frail humanity, and to whom all honor and praise is due. As the ashes of the previous year’s dried and burnt palms are smeared on our foreheads in the sign of a cross, we hear these words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
To remember that we are dust is to humbly acknowledge our Creator and to give thanks to Him for the gift of life. To remember that we are dust is to realize just how easy it is to be blown around or swept off course, but only IF we forget to keep our eyes on God, fail to discern His will with heart and mind, or fail to practice His graciousness. To remember that we are dust is to rejoice that we are clay in the hands of the master potter! It is God who shapes us, and has created each of us to uniquely fulfill His purposes. God has breathed life into us, and by the power of the Holy Spirit blessed each of us with spiritual gifts to build up the Body of Christ as co-creators; to share the Good News; to imitate Christ’s love, compassion, and mercy; to heal others in His name; to reach out to the most vulnerable members of society, including children, the oppressed, and the abused; to care for those in any kind of need or trouble; to offer and accept forgiveness; and to continue Christ’s mission of reconciliation.
To remember that we will all return to dust is also profoundly humbling. Our earthly lives are so full and busy that we sometimes forget these important aspects of life from God’s perspective. The first is that we are completely dependent on Him for every breath we take, every beat of our heart, and for all the moments of life. In fact, in the vast history of salvation, our earthly years are like a blink in time. The second is to give grateful thanks for all that Christ has done for us. That is to give thanks for the gift of faith, which carries with it the promise and hope of our everlasting life in Him. The third is that the purpose of our lives is to love and serve the Lord, and to love and serve our neighbors as ourselves. Nothing is more important than giving ourselves back to God, discerning how He is guiding us in service, and responding with loving obedience. We serve at God’s good pleasure. There is a cycle of life: we plant seeds, we help the seeds to grow up in healthy and fruitful ways, and we usually have to do some weeding and pruning for the good of the garden, as well as watering. We trust that God will send others to complete His work. We must also remember that we are merely stewards of all God’s good gifts. We don’t own anything – it all belongs to God. Finally, our returning to dust reminds us of God’s abundant life-giving activity throughout our lives and in the life of the Body of Christ, including this community of faith. The good news of dust and ashes is the promise of resurrection to new life, new growth, new strength, and new opportunities to love and serve the Lord.
God bless you all, as you move forward together with your interim pastor and your new rector. My heart and my prayers remain with you. Thank you for your love and support, and most of all for living your faith with integrity. It has been an honor to serve alongside you.