Today is a day when, if attending an Ash Wednesday service, people around the world hear the words, "Remember you are but dust, and to dust you shall return."
I heard a really great sermon regarding that phrase (blessing?) that put into perspective the psalm I read this morning--which was also mentioned this evening.
I've always understood the connection of returning to dust as a sign of our mortality, but I never considered being dust a beautiful thing. Sarah (the pastor) was able to talk about the beauty of human creation, that since we came from the earth, we are part of the earth. We are limited and finite, and we are dependent on the One who gives us breath. (Fun fact: the word for breath used in Genesis when God "breathed the breath of life into is nostrils" is the same as the word used for spirit.)
But she also pointed out the The Fall is a reference only to the second half, to dust we shall return, as a consequence of Adam and Eve choosing to separate from God, separate from that which gave them life. The fact that we ARE but dust is not a consequence of anything we did. We are designed that way. God loves us for being that way.
And that was made clear in Psalm 103, which I read this morning but didn't fully comprehend.
8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
He has compassion on us and loves us BECAUSE he knows how we were formed, that we are but dust. We are finite. We have limitations. And even though we are here today and gone tomorrow ("its place remembers it no more"), God has and will love us from everlasting to everlasting.
It was just a beautiful way to re-see the same verses, and to have that time to think about and prepare for this coming season.
(cover photo image from this website)