Hello Church Family, this is Pastor Phil.
This substance that we use for the rite of the Imposition of Ashes, it don’t look like much. Just some ashes, some simple burnt carbon. Nothing more.
Until we hear the words that are so often associated with these ashes during a Christian funeral service: earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life
With these words, these ashes become a symbol of our mortality and our earthiness. Not only are we made from this stuff we are this stuff. Without spirit and consciousness, we are simply inanimate earth, dust, and ash. This is you and me. We are earthy, dusty, ashy animated creatures living among other earthy, dusty, ashy animated creatures, in an earthy, dusty, ashy universe.
We certainly don’t like to think of ourselves this way or to remember this is who we are. We spend a lot of time and energy doing everything we can, to forget we are earthy, dusty, ashy animated creatures. I don’t need to go into the exhaustive list of things and ways that we try to avoid remembering that we are dust. But, all of those ways, they get to be, and they feel so often, desperate, manic even sometimes, all to avoid thinking about our own mortality.
The same is true when we experience a loss of someone we love. In the Western Culture we live in there is an expectation that grief shouldn’t last very long, that we should just get over it, and not allow ourselves to dwell on the reality of our mortality. Just pretend that was in the past and we’re just “fine” until we’re not and we slam face first into our own mortality.
You would think and we are told that living like, ignoring our mortality, is supposed to make us happy. Live for the moment, positive thoughts only allowed, no downers or down thoughts like about our own death. Instead, we pretend we’ll be just fine and work so hard and pay so much money to maintain that illusion and then wonder why we’re so anxious when the illusion starts disappearing. Because, if we’re not dust, we’re like a god, we can live forever, we can manage it all on our own, we don’t need any help, especially from the real God.
But that is living a lie and it doesn’t do anyone, any favors.
Because we’re not a god, we can’t manage it all on our own, we can’t live forever on our own power, we need help. We are weak, vulnerable, and helpless. We are earthy, ashy, dusty animated creatures. Nothing slams that reality home like some of this dust.
When we deny the reality of being dust, try to do it on our own and fail, we lose the opportunity to receive the help that is there waiting to give to us freely what we are so desperately trying to do on our own.
But when we switch it around and not only confess and admit that we are earthy, ashy, dusty, animated creatures, but take pride in that fact, wear it on our sleeve like a badge of honor, tell everyone we know how dusty and mortal we are, even, dare say- have some ashes imposed on your forehead in the shape of a cross; that changes everything.
When we admit and even take joy in the reality of being earthy, ashy, dusty, animated, creatures who are not a god and who need help we are also confessing and taking joy in the reality that because we are creatures—we have a creator. We have God.
That in and of itself, isn’t a lot of consolation, because the word God can be very generic. It can mean from the agnostic viewpoint the something out there, but I don’t know what it is or what it thinks about me to some beliefs in that word meaning a deity out there who is really ticked off at the earthy, dusty creatures and likes to poke them to see how much they can take. So much of that has to do with our interpretation and our own fears. But we have a way to know who God is and what God thinks about these earthy, dusty creatures.
God became an earthy, ashy, dusty animated creature, to show who our God is, how much our God loves us, and in what way we can know our God. As Jesus taught us, we are not simply earthy, ashy, dusty animated creatures with a God creator out there somewhere. No, we are also beloved children who have a loving Heavenly Father. No longer do we say God, but Heavenly Father, and no longer are we just animated clay, but we are also beloved children.
As beloved children who are also dusty, earthy creatures, we can take heart and hope knowing that our Heavenly Father has a plan and a purpose for this dust. Not only does this dust exist now in this life, but the consciousness that God gave to animate this clay (our spirit) continues to live with Him in Heaven, but then God will ultimately take all of this earthy dust and remake it all into something new, reunited with our spirits, to live with God forever in the New Heavens and the New Earth.
So, for you and me, take joy and pride and inspiration from your mortality. Love and explore what it means to be animated clay. Take heart, knowing that your place in creation as a dusty creature is not a bad thing at all or a thing to be avoided, no it is actually the best thing in the world.
It is the best thing in the world because it means, you have a Heavenly Father, and you are a beloved child. It means that your Heavenly Father is doing for you and for me what we cannot do for ourselves. That is give us eternal life with Him, and make this mortal clay into something immortal that will dwell with our Father and all of His Children forever.
Repent of being ashamed of your mortal nature. Repent, of trying to play god. Believe the Good News of Salvation in Jesus Christ. Take joy that you are dust and to dust you shall return because your Heavenly Father will take your dust and give you life forever with Him.