From my pastor, Chris Rinker: “Giving up something is not punishment but making a space for God to create something new in us.” He followed that with a question I will be pondering for awhile: “What can I do or not do for Lent that will make space for God in my life?”
I read this one from a fellow pastor in a Facebook group responding to a question about what words to use while imposing ashes. I’m sorry I don’t remember his name, but his words have stuck with me. He suggested saying “You are dust, but remember what God can do with dust!”
That got me thinking. We are dust of the earth but also star dust spewed forth billions of years ago by the Big Bang that is still creating and expanding God’s universe. Ash Wednesday is a reminder to accept our mortality so we, like Buzz Lightyear, can leap into the future and go to “infinity and beyond.” We chuckle at a Disney toy making that kind of foolish leap, but on the days we believe** we know that it is exactly what we are called to do—to trust without fear, even when the foundations of our world are shaken by rockets and bombs; even when we fear what a madman with nuclear weapons could do to life as we know it; even when we fear that human kind is hell bent on destroying Mother Earth with our pursuits of greed and power.
To trust God in such a time as this is to surrender all that we rely upon to give us security—all of that earthly stuff because to quote Kerry Livgren of the rock band Kansas, “all we are is dust in the wind.” But that wind is the Holy Spirit/Wind that breathes life into dust, that shapes star dust into us who are, on the days we believe and on those we don’t, truly created in the image of Being itself. Our current form goes from dust to dust, but our essence, our being is eternal. When this mortal life is over we trust that we will be forever in the heart of God who is love itself. Amen
** “On the days we believe” is a phrase I have adopted from Rachel Held Evans’ book “Wholehearted Faith” where she dares to write what I have often been afraid to say out loud. I will be forever grateful to her for her gift of honest vulnerability and helping me claim that I too have good days when I believe and many others when I’m really not sure.