By Sam Gutierrez
This Wednesday, February 17, Alger Park Church will join churches around the world in marking the beginning of the season of Lent with an Ash Wednesday worship service. One of the highlights of this unique service is the imposition of ashes, where people are marked with the sign of the cross on their foreheads with the words, "ashes to ashes, dust to dust". These words are a summary of the words from Genesis 3:19: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
And so, the season of Lent begins with a sobering tone.
These are hard words to swallow. The reality of our “dust-ness” can easily lead us to despair. Knowing that everything we do and say and accomplish will one day be forgotten can make some of us want to shrug our shoulders and whisper, “What’s the point of doing anything, then?” Others of us live much of our lives trying to overcome our “dust-ness” through work, with academic success, with the accumulation of things, or by having children--all in an attempt to do something that will last or to ensure our legacy will endure.
But the Scriptures point us in another direction. The secret to living a meaningful “dust filled” life is found in the ash-marking that happens on Ash Wednesday – the ashes spread on the forehead are not just an undefined smudge, but marked in the powerful symbol we recognize as the sign of the cross.
That is the secret. Christ became dust and died for us. We are not just dust…
We are beloved dust.
More than that, Jesus rose from the dust as a resurrected human with a new body that will never return to dust again. God promises that one day, God will raise our dusty bones from the grave and give us new, incorruptible bodies that will last forever. In and through Jesus, Genesis 3:19 gets an addendum. Just listen to what Paul tells the Corinthian church: Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
Friends, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, but Lent does not last forever...it points the way to the quiet Sunday morning when Jesus overcomes death once and for all.