the one on Ash Wednesday
February 11, 2016, 9:00 AM

Sermon from February 10, 2016 - Ash Wednesday

Grace and peace to you this evening in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

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

Those are important words that we will hear this evening as each of you are welcome to come forward to receive the imposition of ashes upon your foreheads. The sign of the cross will be marked upon us as we hear those words – remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Those are ominous words we hear this evening. On this Ash Wednesday we come face-to-face with our own mortality. We come face-to-face with the knowledge that we are finite. As much as we wanted to believe when we were teenagers (and which the teenagers of every time and place believe) we are not invincible; we are not immortal. One day – we will return to the dust in which we were formed.

And that is how we begin the season of Lent. Where we remember that we are a small and fragile part in the history of life; in the workings of the kingdom of God. As we begin this 40-day season of penitence, repentance, and re-turning towards God; we remember that one day we’re going to be dust. We are confronted with our own mortality.

We hear from Joel this evening about the trumpets that are sounding – sounding the coming of the Day of the Lord. The trumpets that call out to all to turn. To re-turn to God.

So we come this evening to remind ourselves to re-turn to re-orient ourselves back towards God and the words that we hear to spring us into action is that we are dust, and to dust we will return. I don’t know about y’all, but reminding me that one day I’m going to die is not usually the best way to ‘spur’ me into action. In fact, I think most people when they hear that they just want to turn right back around and say, “Nope – sorry I’ll just go over here and listen to this guy talk about how great I am – we are – or will be again…”

Yet, tonight – in some ways more than any night – is a night where the church gets real and honest. Honest about how fragile we are, honest about how in the grand scheme of things we are ‘temporary.’ And that can scare us. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are being reminded about that eventual day can make our heart race and cold sweat to trickle down our backs.

We don’t like to be reminded of those things. I’ll be honest, I don’t like being reminded of those things. It is that sort of stuff that sometimes keeps me awake at night without countless questions and an onslaught of thoughts.

But – but – that is not all we hear this evening. That is not all we know. For though we remember that we are dust, and to dust we will return – we know that dust isn’t something that is absent from our God. In fact, dust – dirt – is incredibly important and special to God.

We remember in the book of Genesis that God collected and formed the dust. That God blew breath into that dust and created man. The Adam. Or in Hebrew – adamah; the one from the ground. That we remember in the Gospel of John that Christ – the Word – was present before creation because it was there in the beginning.

We remember that not one thing separates us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Not even death. Not even when we remember the fragileness of our lives.

Where others might speak those words in order to scare, provoke, or startle. We hear those words – spoken to us by our God of love – our God of creation – our God with us and we are reminded that it is God who breathes life into the dust. That out of dust God has made beautiful things, that out of each of us God has made beautiful things.

And that is the part of this night that I love. That tonight we get to be little trouble makers. As sin, the devil, and death might use those words to scare us, to turn us away from our God and into the arms of those who speak false promises and only cater to the good things in life. The ones that disappear when things become rocky and tough.

Yet, we get to be trouble makers this evening where we stand in defiance of sin and death. Where we proclaim as walk around with ashen crosses upon our foreheads that death does not have the final word. That sin is not going to guide our life. Where we remember that yes we are finite, we are not immortal, but that our God who has fashioned us from the dust, breathed life into the dust, continues to walk with us and guide us. The one who gathers us and forms us into beautiful creations from the dust.

That even in death we known that we are not forgotten. We are not alone. We are not abandoned.

We walk with crosses on our foreheads to remind us of the promise that God has made to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. That we are resurrection people. We journey these coming 40 days in Lent to find ways to remind ourselves of that promise and life – that dusty life of knowing who and whose we are.

Where it could be in pictures taken and posted to social media about where you see God present in the everyday – in the simple – in the beauty of creation. Where it could be in the giving up of those things that we take pleasure in as we remember that God is the goodness that sustains us through it all. Where we might dive more deeply into scripture so that we might see and know how we too are a part of this great and grand story. Where we may come into deeper conversation with God through prayer and devotion to help strengthen our faith during difficult and thankful times. No matter what it is that you practice during this 40-day journey – it is done so that you – that we all – might know that God is present with us. As we re-turn our lives back to the one who created us, formed us, who loves us, who forgives us, who redeems us, and who sends us.

Lent begins this night as we hear that we are dust, and to dust we will return. We remember that God is present in the dust and breathes life into the dust of our lives. Where we walk this dusty life knowing that God is here. Here in our life. Here in this meal. Here in the word. Here in our prayer, our giving, our devotion, God is here in everything.

Remember that you are dust – the dust that God has gathered, formed, breathed into – and that to dust you will return – that dust that God continues to gather, form, and breathes life into. Amen.

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