“All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.” Ecclesiastes 3:20 (NIV)
“Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7 (NIV)
Welcome to Ash Wednesday 2011, the first day of Lent 2011! Are you ready for this amazing journey with Jesus that’s beginning today? I pray that you are.
What exactly is the importance of having the ashes smeared on our foreheads in the middle of the week? Well, I believe the scriptures above give us some clues as to what this ritual can mean.
The first text from Ecclesiastes is the one that is quoted as the ashes are placed, in the sign of the cross, on our foreheads. “Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return.” It’s basically a reminder that we’re all going to die on day. “How morbid!” you say. Morbid? Maybe. And a fact of life. We don’t get out of here alive! And yet, this is only part of the story … as the second scripture reminds us.
We are told by the writers of Genesis two (versus what we’re told by the writers of Genesis one, a lesson for another time) that God formed us humans “from the dust of the earth.” Yet, God didn’t stop there. In a most intimate and loving act God “breathed into our nostrils the breath of life.” It was only after God did this "breathing into us" that we became “living beings.” While remembering that we are dust, let us also remember we are much more than dust.
As we move through the realities of this 2011 Lenten season grappling with the challenges/opportunities of our sometimes frail, failure-proned, foible-ridden lives ( and during Lent we do this grappling by fasting, praying, confessing, giving to others, etc.) let’s not forget the other side of the reminder the ashes offer us. We are failing flesh infused with the very life of God! When we do our repenting (which means to turn) this holy season, let’s repent of the fact that we so often forget this truth. Here the words of Jesus and the Apostle Paul as you begin your Lenten faith journey this Ash Wednesday:
“I can of Myself do nothing.” John 5:30a (NKJV)
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)
Lenten Blessings …