You are dust, and to dust you shall return. On Ash Wednesday, today, Christians are reminded of this as the ashes of palms are imposed upon our foreheads. You are dust, and to dust you shall return. And thus begins the season of Lent.
We’re encouraged to sit with this on Ash Wednesday as we prepare for the journey toward Jerusalem and the cross, and ultimately to Easter. We are dust – this is far deeper than just being about our mortality. To be sure, we are mortal. We will return to dust. I find this comforting.
Dust is ordinary. We’re ordinary. We’re of the earth. Of course we are. Adam – remember Adam? Adam – literally “Earth Creature” – is named from adama – earth. We are ordinary, and yet we do extraordinary things. We are ordinary and yet we are made in God’s image.
Ultimately, we will return to dust. It’s the great equalizer. We will all be the same in the end. As a Unitarian Universalist, I find this fits in beautifully with the Unitarian Universalist principles of affirming and promoting the inherent worth and dignity of every person; justice equity, and compassion in human relations; the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; and respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. It’s like Aunt Eller sings in “Oklahoma!” – “I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else, but I’ll be danged if I ain’t just as good!”
Ash Wednesday gives us permission to be imperfect. It’s not an excuse to give up, but it reminds us that we just aren’t all that. And that’s fine. Ash Wednesday helps to keep us grounded. We may reach for the stars, but we remain anchored on earth. We belong to the earth, and that binds us to each other.
On this Ash Wednesday, I invite you to consider what it means to be made of dust and to know that we will ultimately return to dust. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. And may your Lenten journey bear spiritual fruit.
That’s my mite. That’s all I’ve got.