Remember that you are dust/Ash Wednesday (evening)

READ: Genesis 2.4b-23

Genesis 3.19 tell us:

“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

In a few moments, we will hear those words again, as the remembrance of our brokenness and mortality are smudged upon our foreheads and we begin this 40-day journey of repentance and fasting in that season which we call Lent.

But before then. let’s think about where we come from.

In the second creation account, which we read today in Genesis 2, we understand a few very significant things.

God made everything in the five days before we were created.

It’s maybe a little humbling to think the trees came before us, the plants, the animals and the very ground from which we were created.

We were last, in the order of creation.

In that same vain, it’s humbling to think that God didn’t create us first and then create the things we need;

but that God made all of creation first, and gave all of creation the thing it needed: Us.

The writer of Genesis tell us God reached into creation — into the dust of his creation — and formed us in his hands, like clay to a potter.

And then God made us in God’s image.

Everything that we are is because of God.

Our entire being derives from God.

Plants and animals — the Bible tells us that God spoke them into existence.

But only humans were made by God’s touch.

Literally, God’s handiwork.

That’s an amazing blessing, and it’s a blessing to know that we have been given dominion — stewardship — over all of creation.

Yet, we cannot forget that we are made from dust.

And without God, that’s all we are. Dust.


But God breathed into us the breath of life.

In the Hebrew, ruach. Wind. Breath. The Holy Spirit.

And we became animated.

Animated to love and serve one another.

Animated to glorify God.

Still, God created us freely, and not out of necessity.

That means any freedom we have is from God.

So we’d be remiss to read this second creation account and skip over the fact that of all the other things that were made before us was this certain tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The other tree in the garden — the Tree of Life — was good for us.

It was open to us.

And it means we were in communion with God.

And why we wanted anything more than that is hard to imagine.

But we did.

And the forbidden “fruit,” as it were, was for us to find away to reach beyond God.

And so we ate of this fruit.

And this new word “sin” entered our vocabulary and began immediately decaying the very life God gave us.

Sending us on a journey back to dust.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian and pastor who gave his life in fighting against the unimaginable evil in Nazi Germany before and during the holocaust, said that sin is speaking about God in a way that reaches beyond God.

God promised death after the Tree of Good and Evil;

But the serpent links the partaking of the tree as a promise that one would be like God.

Bonhoeffer would say we’ve changed living in the being of God for death in which we’re similar to God.

Of living in our own resources instead of going to God.

And in doing that, decaying back to dust.


We remember this tonight.

We can look around our world since the Fall of Humankind and see just how living in our own resources has fared for us.

We play god in the world.

We play god in the world when we assign value to creation, and then go about treating creation according to those values.

Creation: The natural world, which we are full-on destroying all around us.

Creation that God made before us.

To sustain us.

And to take care of.

We play god in the world when we assign value to creation, and then go about treating creation according to those values.

We do so with humans — with the very sacred people whom God made with his own hands and blessed with all of this abundance.

We play god when we decide who is worth feeding, healing and loving in this world.

As if God didn't command us to love one another or take care of one another.

And we play god even when we’re not thinking about any of this stuff.

We simply passively condone evil in this world.

If there was one symbol in all the world that should be marked on our foreheads, you’d better believe it’s dirt.



“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The cross

As Jesus sets his sights on Jerusalem, and specifically, on the cross, we see the promise of God’s radical love for us.

Upon the very earth that God has created, God, too, had been born as a human being.

A child in a manger.

What does it feel like to be a human, we can almost hear God ask.

God knows.

And what does it feel like to suffer the decay of sin?

God knows.

What does it feel like to return to the dust from which we came?

God knows that, too.

Not only because God knows all in God’s omniscience:

but because God experienced it as a human being.

And out of that same creation was formed the wood of the cross.

Out of that same creation was carved a tomb.

Out of that same creation was built a bridge with the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ our Lord.

Like the earth from which we are derived,

Our very salvation is derived directly from God.

Even though we chose the dust of death over the God of life, God still reaches out to us from the Cross and creates a new beginning for us.

When we feel the ashes being smudged on our heads, know that they are in the shape of the cross because of the choses we’ve made and the salvation that is offered to us.


Before Jesus’s ministry began, he was brought out to the wilderness and tempted for 40 days.

He suffered, he fasted, he prayed.

Likewise, in these 40 days we call Lent, we do the same.

It begins tonight with the imposition of ashes and recalling the dust at both ends of our human life here on earth and the cross that makes a bridge between death and new life.

How will we respond?

I’ll most likely fall asleep tonight with these ashes still imprinted on my forehead and in the morning, I’ll find them smudged on my pillowcase.

I’ll remember from where I came.

And the peril of where I have to go.

But the hope that I don’t remain there, as dust in the ground;

but as a new creation paid for by Jesus’s blood.

While our created lives here on earth certainly derive from God;

Our creation in new lives in eternity also certainly derive from God.

It’s through Christ’s blood that reverses the corrosion of sin and death in our lives.

And that means we can once again walk back into the garden, freely, and once more approach the tree of life.

How will you mark these 40 days?

Surely, these ashes on your forehead tonight won’t still be visible through this season of Lent to remind you.

So what will you do?

How will you remember the mercy and life you’ve been freely given?

Some of you will give up something for Lent.

A food, an activity, a habit — something that makes you think FIRST of God.

Something you’ll have to empty yourself of and go to God to fill that void.

Others may take on an activity — good works, something to bring more love into the world each day of Lent.

Whatever it is, it must be disruptive.

It must take you out of your comfort zone.

That you have to go to God for strength, courage, endurance…

You have to go to God first.

You see, there were no detours for Christ walking from the Gethsemane to Golgotha.

From that peaceful garden to the place where the breath of life would leave Jesus’s body to be remitted to dust.

There was no delay.

Jesus went to God directly.

We are called in this season of repentance and fasting to do the same.

To go directly to God.

Not for God’s sake; God doesn’t need our sacrifices…

But for our own sakes.

In this way, we become stronger in the Lord.

We become closer to God.

And we understand better our very creation.

And the love and grace and mercy and beauty of Christ’s sacrifice for us.

So that when we’re called — and we are — we wear these ashes in affirmation of that wondrous love.

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