Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. (Joel 2:12-13)
when i think of ash wednesday, i somehow think of funeral rites. the ashes to ashes, and dust to dust. the bit about the flesh having to return to the soil – the earth – the dust – it has been made of, and the spirit returning to god its creator.
and then i think of three things – first: how dust and ashes are the product of deterioration and to be disposed of. how people dislike the dusty shelves and the grit, and the sand between their teeth when the wind blows over the city. how dust is useless.
second: how much of what the ‘progress-oriented’ society – the cars, the things, the gadgets, the stuff – is like the dust that falls, and then the soul is naked and unarmed in the face of whatever comes after death. or how much of what we think we are and can do actually makes no sense, until the wish to achieve and become gives way to simply being who one is.
third: when this state of death is realised, and the doom apparent, there still is hope: returning to god, the source of mercy and healing, both bodily – fasting and weeping, and spiritually – by mourning and casting away the things we hold precious that are not true.
that moment of awareness of one’s misery and futility of all things, is also the moment of recognition of god’s power and ability to be everything in all things.
and god becomes this in christ. by christ becoming dust because we are dust, we can become christ-like if only we catch on to him – or allow him to catch on to us.
because the mercy and grace of god is made living (and dying) proof in christ’s life, death and resurrection.
the dust we are is precious enough. for christ to come and rescue it not sparing his life.
the dust we are is precious enough to be watered by the holy spirit, and turned into earth for christ to grow into.
the grave, the funeral, is a transition: an opportunity to cast off the redundant, and to enter a new life, a new consciousness, a new order. without this funeral, there is no resurrection, no eternity.
so… demolish the walls of dust, the fields of ashes in your soul and action; allow the mercy and forgiveness of god re-form them into a new life, catch on to the life of christ.