…then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.
Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.
February 26 is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent. We will gather on that evening to begin the forty day journey to Good Friday and Easter. As we worship we will gather around the altar and receive the imposition of ashes. As the sign of the cross is marked on your forehead these words are spoken, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
Those words come from Genesis chapter 3. They are spoken by God to Adam as part of the punishment for disobeying God’s command to not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “the Fall.” These words remind us of our mortality, that is that we will die in this world. Since life in this world will always be touched and tainted by sin, one can consider that dying is a gift from God to take us out of this misery.
This is true for us who have already died to this world. Ash Wednesday points us toward the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. By faith we are joined to his death, which redeems us from sin and the power of the devil, and his resurrection, which assures us of our eternal life. That eternal life will be a restoration for us to the life untouched by sin which was lost in “the Fall.”
We are dust and to dust we shall return. That statement is also an affirmation of the power of God. The one who first formed us from dust can certainly reform us in a new and more perfect form for a life that has no end. That is the glory of Easter beyond the darkness of Lent. We are dust, but God takes us, molds us and remolds us, and continues to breathe life into us through the Spirit.