You make beautiful things out of dust.
For much of the Christian community, today is the beginning of Lent – that season of preparation for Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. We begin these forty days with a service that includes the imposition of ashes.
Why ashes, you may ask?
Because in the earliest of the scriptures from our holy book, God tells the people “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This statement was made to the first humans as they were expelled from the Garden of Eden for wanting to play God. It is a reminder that we are mortal. We are limited.
It is also a reminder that we are fallen.
This can mean many things, but here is what I am suggesting: all of us have sinned and fallen short. From a very young age we are taught the broken ways of this world – racism, sexism, classism, ageism, bigotry. Hatred in all of its forms. Some parents are even convinced that hate is the only way to teach their children right from wrong. What is more, the systems that keep our world afloat have these forms of hatred so ingrained within them that we forget they are even against God’s purposes.
Ash Wednesday is a day we look this reality in the face. Our own faces. We acknowledge our own complicity and beg forgiveness from the One who never intended for any of these things to exist. From the God who breathed life into us – God’s own beautiful, loved creations.
The truth is that we all prefer to play God every chance we get. In doing so, we break our relationships with other people, with God, and with the Image of God alive within us (the one that was created to love and be loved).
We are fallen. We are broken. We are dust.
And yet, as the worship song says, God makes beautiful things out of dust. No one is beyond God’s redemption. No one is beyond God’s love. God loves us before we even ask. Forgives us before we are ready to grapple with our own iniquity.
So hear these words of hope on this day of repentance: yes, you have sinned and fallen short. Yes, we all have a long way to go to see God’s kingdom fulfilled. But there is nothing in heaven or on earth that can separate you from God’s love. Nothing you can do. Nothing someone else can do to you. And our God does make beautiful things out of dust.