We are but dust...

Today is the day we begin our fast, we bow down our heads, we wear, not sackcloth, but ashes
and this is the day that God questions why on earth we are doing this:

“why fast? Why humble yourselves?”                                                                          
“Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?”

Why? 

Why not, God suggests, fight injustice, free the oppressed, feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked.

All commendable ideas, but it’s certainly easier to just give up chocolate.  
Should lent be not about taking up not giving up?     

about turning outwards not inwards?  

If so why do we fast? What is the value of ash, the purpose of remembering that we are but dust?

Reminding ourselves that we are but dust also reminds us of what we are not:

we are NOT our clever thoughts, our good intentions, our charitable giving, 

we are not our successful careers, our sparkling personalities, our happy families,

nor are we our good reputations, our many talents, our hard work.  

We are but dust.   

And, if we are but dust, mere mortal creatures, then there is nothing to distinguish us from the dust of any other created being:

the dust of our neighbours,

the dust of relatives who dislike us,       
                                                     
the dust of the prisoner who abused and murdered his own child, the dust of the suicide bomber who is bent on eradicating our dust from the face of the earth,
the dust of the woman caught in adultery,
the dust of her accusers,                                                                             
the dust of those who long to throw the first stone                                    
and the last 
then                                                                                                          
and now.  

They too are not the sum of all the things that they have done, or left undone, good or bad, they too are not the sum of what they think and feel and say. 
 
They are but dust – as are we.                                                                   

We are but dust, no better and no worse, than any other creature of dust. 

Knowing this makes it easier to love our brothers and sisters of dust, and loving them, it moves us to care for them.

But can mere dust be expected to forgive and heal, to reconcile and mend? 

can dust feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless and let the oppressed go free?

Dust cannot be expected to do any of these things – but God can.

And God chooses to do so with and in and through dust. 


Dust reminds of our end:                                                                             that we are frail and mortal, that our time and strength is finite, that we will soon enough return dust to dust ashes to ashes.                                                                                                 
But dust also reminds us of our beginning:                                                    
that we were made, created, moulded out of the dust into the image of God  and brought to life by God’s spirit breathing into us.  

We are but dust and to dust we shall indeed return,                                   
but in the meantime, we are each a vehicle and a vessel in which the spirit of the living God dwells and moves. 

In remembering that we are but dust we remember too just what astonishing things God can do with dust. 

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