Ashes to ashes, Dust to dust….
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.” -- Genesis 3:19
One of the highlights of my travels last year was the opportunity to visit the Great Pyramids of Giza. These monuments to the Pharaohs of the past have stood for thousands of years—a testament to the lives of not just these rulers of days gone by, but to the builders who erected these monuments. And despite their extreme longevity, upon closer inspection, you can see the reality that even these monuments are only temporary.
The hands of vandals and tomb robbers of days gone by, the effects of wars that have swarmed around them, the work of the elements and of time have all caused the original glory of these testaments to the life and work of the Pharaoh to fade. With enough time, even the solid stone of these “masterpieces” will be eroded to dust.
Similarly, when we visited the Myan pyramids at Toniná in the Mexican state of Chiapas, we saw this once great city that is gradually being excavated for study to better understand life during the Pre-Columbian period. But for the excavation of a few of the temple pyramids though, one wouldn’t know they were standing in a great city. The surrounding area looked like rolling foothills…like we were standing in the Ozarks. Instead these hills were actually a number of unexcavated structures that have been covered by time, vegetation and… well... dust.
And then there is the modern-day reality show, Life After People, that uses abandoned villages on Ellis Island and in other areas to show what Post-Apocalyptic life will look like on earth.
But this is not new knowledge.
It is ancient wisdom.
Long ago our forebearers proclaimed in the creation narratives that our life on earth would return to dust… that the hope of life and memory beyond ourselves lies not in the works of our hands, but our relationships with God and others.
And so today as you have the ashes imposed upon your forehead… or as you see others that have a smudge on their forehead… remember that as the ashes remind us of the dust to which we will return, they also remind us that the way to life is our relationship with Christ and with others.
For just as dust returns to dust, life springs from the ashes though Christ.
Prayer: Often Lord, we need to be reminded of our mortality. We like to think of ourselves as gods…able to achieve immortality on our own. But without You…without Your Grace…we are but dust. What great love You have for us, that You would love us enough to come and live amongst us, to breath life into the dust and to create us. What great love that You who alone is eternal, would forever hold us in your love that we might have the hope of life everlasting. Amen
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran