From dust you came and to dust you shall return. A mediation on dust. (Ash Wednesday. Matthew 6:1-21: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17; and 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10.)
From dust you came and to dust you shall return. We are all sons and daughters of the first ones made from dust. We all have a common material beginning – star dust, primordial mud, the dust of Eden, the plains of Africa – however we understand our origins they are in physical matter. We are of the earth. And to the earth one way or another we return. A physical cycle of life like all other living matter. No matter how light our spirit our bodies tie us to the earth and physical being. And the more we know of the human body and mind we learn there are no neat divisions between matter and spirit. Dust is gift and limitation, blessing and banishment.
From dust you came and to dust you shall return. Jesus’ own formation and ministry began in dust. In the dust of wilderness and trial and wrestling with the angelic and demonic inhabitants of wilderness. God was and is as present in the dry dusty wilderness as in beautiful holy temples. Jesus did not count it beneath him to become us, to become a creature of dust. He inhabited material life with the mews of an infant, the exploration of a child, and a man of compassion for all human flesh and a relish for life – for eating for drinking for companionship. Divinity became fully human not from afar but from within dusty form. We are therefore holy dust.
From dust you came and to dust you shall return. Jesus did not disdain dust. He grew up in the dust of a dry land. He came to maturity in the dusty wilderness. He walked dusty roads to find his people. And at the end he washed the dust from his disciples feet. He - the teacher - knelt at their feet and washed them, served them, taught them from below, the tasks of loving. His actions alarmed and offended and shocked his followers into new understandings of love and service.
We are but dust and to dust we shall return. May Lent teach us the gift of dust – of humble service and eternal belonging. Amen.
You may like to consider my reflection on Ash from last year.
And it is not too late to join the Lent-Easter devotional study.