Remember You Are Dust
March 6, 2019
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
In a few moments those words will fill this space as they are repeated again and again, accompanied by the sign of the cross traced upon our foreheads. They invite us to pass through the doorway of Ash Wednesday and into Lent—into a time devoted to self-examination and repentance. And they invite us to remember one simple truth–we are mortal.
Our mortality isn’t something we often like to face. It’s far easier to continue trucking along, ignoring the reality of our impending death. Until, that is, we are faced with a shocking reminder that forces us to grapple with it—a sickness, a death, an injury, or even a financial or personal crisis. Each have the power to bring our own mortality into sharp, and often frightening focus.
But what if the fact that we are mortal didn’t have to come as such a shock? What if we actually faced our mortality and found ways to embrace it, instead of avoiding it.
Facing our own mortality can take many forms. Some of you have participated in this “mortality facing” in Adult Forum over the last two weeks as you set down in writing plans for after you die, including your preferences for your funeral. This is an important practice, however my suspicion is, few of you will spend much time dwelling on this document once its completed. If I were to visit your home a month from now, I doubt I would find it hanging on your refrigerator as a daily reminder that you are mortal; that death comes for us all. Instead, it will likely find its way into a file folder for safe keeping until your death.
So if funeral planning doesn’t exactly get us to live into our mortality on a regular basis, maybe today’s words, and the ashy lines that accompany them, can. There is a message embedded in those words, and we are invited to not just hear it, but to pattern our lives in light of it. To pattern our lives in light of the fact that we are mortal.
Trace vertical line “Remember that you are dust.” Remember, that you are mortal, and you have limits.
We are mortal beings, and our bodies, our minds, and our hearts are fragile things. And when we forget, or ignore this fragility for too long, we shatter. We are not designed to be in constant motion. Our bodies need rest, our minds need replenishment, our hearts need restoration, and our souls need time to dwell in God’s loving embrace. As the first line is drawn upon your forehead, listen for God’s invitation to live more deeply into your mortality—to rest, reflect, and repent of your attempts to do it all on your own. Hear the message embedded in those words, “remember that you are dust,” and take the opportunity this Lenten season to begin or renew patterns of rest and replenishment in your mortal life—patterns and practices that takes seriously the reality that our mortal body, mind, and heart need limits; need rest; need replenishment.
Trace horizontal line, “and to dust you shall return.” Remember, that you are mortal, and you are called.
We are mortal beings, and our bodies, our minds, and our hearts are instrumental to God’s mission of reconciliation in the world. While we are not designed to be in constant motion, we are not meant to spend our mortal lives standing still, watching from the sidelines. Each of us has been uniquely gifted, blessed with talents and skills that God has asked us to put into action in the limited time we have on this earth. As the second line is drawn upon your forehead, listen for God’s invitation to live more deeply into your mortality—to join God in God’s mission of reconciliation. Where are you being called to new and deeper engagement in this mission? Is it, perhaps, time to learn—reading books and articles and watching movies and engaging in conversations that challenge and stretch you? Or is it, perhaps, time to step into a new ministry—one that scares you just a bit, but that you also can’t seem to get out of your head? Or, perhaps, it’s time to take the lead—stepping out in faith and calling others to join you in living more deeply into God’s mission of love and reconciliation.
Trace vertical line “Remember that you are dust,” that you are mortal, you have limits, and that you are called to participate in God’s mission of love and reconciliation, for
Trace horizontal line, “to dust you shall return.”