Dust to Dust: the perpetual power of God to give life
Prayer: Father, you have made us temporal beings, yet you are forever God. We long to participate in your forever, but we have only one lifetime to do this. On this day, as we come before you repenting our shortfall, lift us up to see the brightness before us and your confidence in us as the mark of your eternal love.
Scripture: Genesis 3:19
By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.”
“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.” These words I say quietly to myself as I shovel three times and toss earth over the coffin of my father-in-law, George, who now lay in the deep grave prepared for him in a remote Jewish cemetery. He, a Jew, and I, a Gentile. Prayers were uttered over him in a language I don’t speak, yet these words of prayer spoke themselves through me to his remains in this moment. His earthly body would be returned to the ground: human to humus. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Even his coffin, made with dove-tailed wood joints, would disintegrate with time. All would be but a breath. No evidence would remain.
Yet. Dust does not have the final word. This man did not know what lay beyond the grave; he told me so in our last conversation. But surely there is something more than we know. George had lain the groundwork for this ever-ness over a lifetime of creating, meticulously hand-crafting bonsai of such beauty they were celebrated across the globe. So wondrous, practitioners would come across continents in order to marvel. So treasured, their care would be entrusted to others soon after their creator had passed. This Jewish man had spent a lifetime creating what he knew would long outlast him. That they would have life beyond his death, he made certain.
As we enter Lent, we invest ourselves in this certainty. Because Christ died, we, though human, repent in dust and ashes to embark on a life that will outlast this one, a life that is truly life.
- Take a moment to consider who has invested in you? A parent, teacher, pastor or friend? Is there someone in whom have you invested?
- Have you ever engaged in a project or creation (without reward or notice, perhaps in secret) which you hoped would bear fruit beyond your lifetime? Last longer than you?
- If you attend an Ash Wednesday service today, remember the significance to the Jews of the Shema carried with them, even strapped on their forehead. A mark of ashes, a pressure on your flesh, a sign of repentance.
Give thanks for the power that lives in you because of others.