Remember that thou art dust,
and to dust thou shalt return.
My older boys go to a Lutheran school and yesterday they observed Ash Wednesday. The kids could opt to have ashes placed on their foreheads, on their hands, or not at all. Both of my boys came home with ashes on their foreheads.
Although our church tradition does not observe lent, and I certainly grew up without any concept of lent, I have received ashes almost every year for the last fifteen years. My kids have too. I’ve always found it striking to hear the words “Remember that you are dust” spoken to my young children, even babies, as the ashes are shaped into a cross on their forehead. The fact is, these words are true – as true for them as they are for me. So I figure it’s a good reminder to us all.
Of course the truth of the gospel is that we were dust but through the grace of God we are so much more. My sweet children’s lives will fly by as if they were dust, but the true life that Jesus gives will never perish. So we remember that we are dust. That life is short and one day soon our bodies will decay in the grave. But we also remember that the grave is not the end of our stories.
Of course, we don’t remember this until Easter. Or Sunday – which points us to Easter. Right now we remember our separation from God, our existential need. We live with that reality on our minds and ashes on our brows. Without Jesus we are dust.
But Easter is coming, folks! The kids were told that they aren’t supposed to say “Hallelujah!” until Easter and my oldest boy says he’s already 0 for 2. He’s inadvertently said “Hallelujah!” twice and I’m glad to hear it. The newness of life in Christ can’t be stifled! And just as spring life will truly rise from under the ice of my coldest winter in New York, so will the resurrection truth of Easter joyfully redeem my dust to dust existence.