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"Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust"

Minister's Musing

February 12, 2009
Pastor Bruce Boyce

Whether it is disillusionment, frustration, anger or simple disappointment, the words of King Solomon, the king who had everything, from the greatest wisdom to the greatest wealth of all time, Solomon sounds depressed! When pondering the words God records through him in Ecclesiastes, it is no wonder. Solomon got caught up in worldly living; it is no wonder he finds life to be pointless or purposeless. Ecclesiastes 3:19-20: "Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return."

But a different truth is proclaimed in Scripture that trumps Solomon's experiences in times of frustration. Ash Wednesday is just around the corner. God made you out of dust and dirt. In fact, many congregations will be observing Ash Wednesday with the "imposition of ashes". In this rite, while administering the ashes, you will hear: "From dust you have come and to dust you shall return." In simple earthly terms, these words are true. Like the deer or the raccoon laying dead at the side of the road will gradually decay with the help of crows, worms, etc., so would the human body left to itself. We used to like to watch CSI until we got tired of seeing decayed bodies while trying to eat supper or relax for a few moments. The cold reality of this world is just as depressing as Solomon's words if it is just a physical world and there is no spiritual life by God's grace. But a different reality greets us during the Lenten Season.

How different is the reality that Christians celebrate during this Lenten Season, even as we mourn our sinful and corrupt natures. The fact remains that all of your complex DNA, cell structure, the intricacies and wonders of your immune system and brain activity is a miraculous transformation of dirt. God created and God altered the properties of clay and mud to become soft tissue and hard bones. You are, in a most literal way, a clay figure that moves and thinks and feels. Genesis 2:7 "The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." All this by the undeserved love of the God who created the universe in a few words, in 6 days of creating with His voice.

To these truths we can move forward to a much more joyful understanding of our existence, an existence that has come from the Creator God forming us from the dust of the ground. Isaiah 64:8. "O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." We are not the accident of a bolt of lightening in some primordial goop, but treasured vessels created by the Father of Light - the Creator of the Universe.

As we live daily through the coming weeks, may we be constantly reminded, not of the folly of life without meaning, but in the reality of the blood-bought righteousness we have in Christ. A season that begins in a repentant service of Ash Wednesday where we are reminded of our physical bodies, to the splendor of Easter and the Empty Tomb. From a focus on ashes to a focus on our Heavenly Mansion, all by the gift of life received by God's grace when He breathed into us the breath of life through Christ's Blood and righteousness!

Lent is quite a contrast! From decay and ashes in our sin, to the joyous cry: "Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!" What is our part in this? Our part is the simple "Amen!" The "Amen" of faith that trusts in God's faithfulness that takes us from the awareness of our sinfulness to the reality that God has declared us "The Crown of His creation." (Psalm 8:3-6 3. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, that is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands)

A blessed Lenten Season,

Pastor Boyce, St. John's, Reinbeck



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