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Remembering Our Dustiness, Proclaiming Christ’s Cross

February 22, 2012

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

With these words the season of Lent is upon us.  The time of self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving and works of love has begun.  During this season we focus on the journey of Jesus to his cross, taken up for our sake and for our salvation.  Jesus’ death for us exists at the crossroads of our need and God’s love.  God’s loving action in saving us through Christ begins this day with the reminder that we need saving.

We are dust, and to dust we shall return.  This is, at one level, a reminder of our mortality.  We come from the earth and to it we return.  Beyond this is the reminder that our accomplishments our dust, our lives themselves are dusty.  We are sinners who have burned through God’s good gifts.  The palm branches of our good intentions have been reduced to ash heaps.

We are dust.  We are mortal.  We are sinful.  Marking others (and being marked) is a powerful reminder of our need.  This is powerful enough at our regular worship services as adults dutifully process to receive the sign of the cross.  It was driven home for me this morning, though, during preschool chapel.  Normally when we look at a child, we see life and love and a future stretching on, it seems, forever.  Surely such children need not be marked, need not be told of their dustiness!  To mark sixty or so children with ashen crosses is to remember the depth of our need.  Even these children are dust, mortal sinners in need of God’s grace.

In the cross of Christ we see our need met with God’s love.  We remember today that we are mortal.  We proclaim that our mortality exists within the eternity of God’s love.  We remember today that we will die.  We proclaim that resurrection will triumph.  We remember today that we are sinful.  We proclaim today that God has grace for us in Word and Sacrament.

We hear today that we are dust and to dust we shall return.  We also prepare to hear the new word: We are God’s, and to God we still belong.  For the cross of ashes is also the cross of baptism, marking us not for a day but for all time.  When you come to receive the sign of the cross, remember your need, your sin, your mortality.  And remember that the cross is indelible, God’s gracious answer to your deepest need.

“Rend your hearts and not your clothing.  Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.”  Joel 2:13

From → Lent/Easter

  1. Julie Doerler permalink

    Thanks Pastor Dave. So glad I read this before worship tonight….

  2. Thanks, Julie! Blessings to you this Ash Wednesday.

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