Today marks the beginning of Lent. Ash Wednesday will lead us up to the Easter celebration of the resurrection. Several conversations will center on what people will fast for the next forty days. You may have given up social media, carbs, sugar, caffeine, or Netflix. Often, we can get caught up with practice – the ash on a forehead and the fasting – that we can forget the purpose.
Dust, the nuisance of house cleaning. The small particle of material gets brushed aside. Having dust does not fall under cleanliness close to godliness.
God creates us out of dust in Genesis. What we shove aside, God miraculous breathes life to form humanity. Dust represents humanity and life. Dust becomes ash through death. Both dust and ash bring us back to our frailty.
Created beings have limitations, feel exhaustion, sin, have weaknesses and experience death. Sometimes we forget this fact in our everyday life.
Walter Brueggemann speaks of our forgetfulness of our humanity. He reflects on remembering this truth in the context of Ash Wednesday in Remember You are Dust:
In our forgetting, we neglect not only our God-given fragility. We also lose track of our vocation. We are, as breathed on dust, called into the service and company of another, called to do work other than our own. This creature, formed of dust, is entrusted with the garden, with all the animals, and with all living things. Our creatureliness binds us to the role of steward, friend, and companion of all other creatures who share fragility.
You may or may not participate in Ash Wednesday or Lent, but do not forget the reason for the preparation for Easter. In coming into contact with Christ, we become well aware of our human limitation and weakness.
In a world that fights aging and continuously searches for the fountain of youth, we find freedom in knowing we came from dust and will return to ash. The weight of perfection and immortality has been met with grace.
We no longer have to carry the burden or believe the lie of self-sufficiency. Christ’s humanity and divinity through His death and resurrection gives us life. Created beings find purpose, meaning, and significance from the Creator.
Ash Wednesday and Lent does not merely leave us in our fragility and frailty, rather it begins us on the path to Easter, the resurrection life found in Jesus Christ.
Realizing we are dust brings us to the reality of the Gospel. What we could never accomplish on our own, Christ offers us life through His reconciliation and forgiveness.
Photo credit by Austin Ban.