“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19
The transfiguration of our Lord is such a glorious site that Peter has no interest in leaving the mountain top experience of beholding Jesus’ dazzling appearance and the arrival of Moses and Elijah. Christians can easily relate to Peter’s reaction. However, as the Church observes Ash Wednesday, no one says “Tis good Lord to be here!” There are no volunteers to pitch tents and allow Christians to sit and here over and over the somber epitaph, “Dust you are and to dust you shall return.”
We live in a culture that would prefer to excise the concept of sin from our psyche and avoid at all costs conversation about death. But the season of Lent begins with its cold and mournful reminder of our own sinfulness and the grim effects of our sin. But dust and ashes are why the resurrection matters. For any family who has stood at the graveside and heard the pastor speak those somber words knows that the only hope for grieving people at the time of death is Jesus, the One who became like us not only in His birth, but also in His death so that we might become like Him in His resurrection.
Don’t be afraid of words about sin and death! The Law kills, but the Gospel makes alive! Ash Wednesday is our annual trip to the graveside where we consider our sin and mortality. But God does not leave us at the graveside alone in our dust and ashes. He proclaims to us a message that He makes all things new in Christ in the resurrection that is to come. And just as we await the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection during this six-weeks of Lent, we also wait for the consummation of all things when Christ comes again in glory and the dead in Christ are raised to life everlasting. During this Lenten season, even as you contemplate your own sinfulness, may you live in hope through Him who is the resurrection and the life. Dust you are and to dust you shall return, but thanks be to God in Christ you shall be raised on the last day.
Prayer – Almighty and everlasting God, You despise nothing You have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and contrite hearts that lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness we may receive from You full pardon and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan