How does today make you feel?
It might seem a wee bit gloomy, with its intimations of mortality.
The harsh reality of saying to each one of you
“Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return” is not something to undertake lightly – though the fact that it is said to me as well is a great thing.
We really are all in this together - this business of living – inhabiting our body, watching it change, grow, age...but it's very hard, I think, for any of us to believe that one day we too will die, even as with the passage of time we become more conscious of our bodies creaks and groans and the ills that flesh is heir to.
Next Ash Wednesday I won't be here with you. I imagine I'll be just up the road, in Coventry - but I don't really know.
Our journeys take us to unexpected places and sometimes take us by surprise in ways both good and bad
Remember, you are dust....
But – it's not just ANY mark that is made on our foreheads today.
It is the cross.
Ash Wednesday, with its reminder of our frail humanity, is balanced for each one of us by the resurrection hope that overflows at baptism.
On that day we are marked with Christ's cross – baptised into his death – so that we may each one of us share in his resurrection.
So, even as on All Souls day I read the Kontakion which finds joy in middle of mourning
“All we go down to the dust – yet weeping o'er the grave we make our song” , so today there is joy in the reminder that we are dust...
Yes, we are dust – but that dust is the stuff into which God, at creation, breathed the breath of life.
We are dust shaped by Him, - and that creative power which brought to life a substance that seemed so dead is still at work – and still brings the dead to life....again and again and again.
Dust – redeemed
Dust – transfigured
Dust – beloved of God
I've told you before of my friend Stu, who no longer uses the approved formula as he traces the cross in ash on the foreheads of his congregation.
Instead he speaks other words, words of Christ, to each kneeling soul
“I do not call you servants but friends”
“Abide in my love”
“God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son so that everyone who believes in him SHOULD NOT PERISH”
You are dust – but dust lightened with the life of Christ.
As we begin Lent, and try once more to re-orientate our lives so that they are more truly and fully Christ-shaped, remember that in all your fragility you are God's beloved.
“Rejoice, O dust and ashes
The Lord shall be thy part
His only, his forever
Thou shalt be and thou art...”