Return to Dust

Return to DustScripture Text:  Psalm 51: 10-12

10Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.  11Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. 12Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Scripture Text:  Genesis 2: 7

7then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

This is the day.  The pancakes are gone.  The Mardi Gras beads lay strewn across the road as the wind blows them toward the gutter.  Whatever you did yesterday is gone.  The bingeing stops. And now, now we return to dust.  What an odd lot we are.  We eat and drink ourselves silly early this week so that we can approach the altar today and have ashes wiped on our foreheads.  We party and binge and then mark ourselves as sinners, repentant once again.  I used to think that this day was somewhat overly morose.  It never made sense to me.  Why are we carefree partyers one day and then sullen pious ones the next?  And then, we are warned against being overly pious, overly “showy” of our faith disciplines.  So make up your mind, already!

Dust…dirty, yucky, dust…the leftovers, that which remains, that which stays behind clinging to that on which it lands.  We try to wash it away or wipe it down or use some product named Lemon Pledge to give it a fresh scent and perhaps prolong its return.  But, no matter what, it ALWAYS returns.  But on this day, we return to it.  And then we pray to God that we might somehow get a clean heart, a fresh start, a new beginning. And yet, the second Creation story says that God created humans from the dust of the ground, from the dirty, yucky dust that blew uncontrollably across the land.  The dust moved freely from one place to another carrying the beginnings of life whether or not it knew it.  And then God breathed life into it and it became something new, a new Creation made in the very image of God.

And so this day, we return.  We return to our beginnings.  Rather than expecting God to “wipe us clean”, this day calls us to expect God to create us yet again.  We return to dust so that God can take us, breathe life into us once again, creating in us a clean heart and a new and right Spirit.  Today we become dust once again, moving freely and then clinging to God yet again.  I think, given that image of the dust, I am tempted to become a little “Peterish” (oh no, not just my forehead, but ALL of me…Create ALL of me.) But in that speck of dust shaped in the form of a cross, God begins me again.

Lent is not just a time for squaring conscious accounts but for realizing what we perhaps had not seen before.  (Thomas Merton)

FOR TODAY:  Become dust.  Become free to be created yet again.  Open yourself to God breathing life into you yet again.

Grace and Peace,


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