…from dust you are, and to dust you shall return.
I didn’t know whether to smile or hang my head in shame as the pastor spoke these words over me this morning. Should I thank her for the blessing of the ashen cross she scetched upon my forehead? I know better than to argue with her judgement, anyhow. After all, what could be a better sign of my broken humanity than wondering how I was being viewed by one, in God’s place, calling me to repentance?
The first time Adam heard those words, I wonder if he had a hard time believing them.
Who can believe something they have not seen, after all? How do you hear, for the first time, that your days are numbered?
Death is an enemy that we try to defeat with one simple strategy. This also goes back to the Garden of Eden. We hide.
And this is why we need a time like the Lenten season. To force us to see our selves for who we are. Who we really are. Not what others say about us. Not what we would like to believe. Not what we want to be remembered for. Lent is a discipline that forces us to recalibrate our heads and our hearts toward the hard reality that we are only human. And broken human at that.
In the Heidelberg Catechism, the Christian is asked “What does God’s law require of us?” The answer echoes Jesus. Love God. Love others. Simple. Clear as day. It would be great if the questions stopped there. Mainly because the next question is damning.
“Can you live up to all this perfectly?” Logical progression. The answer?
“No. I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.”
So today, especially on Ash Wednesday, we reflect on the justice of God in bringing down the law against us. This is a day of reckoning. This is a day to square our lives back up with reality. It is a day of spiritual recalibration.
It is a day that rebuilds our wonder in the unlikely cosmic reality that this just God is God for us.
May we have the courage to be sinners today.