By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.
~ Genesis 3:19
It might seem a little morose, a little depressing, that we begin this church season with a reminder of our mortality. But in all honesty, if you think of the season of Lent, if you picture Ash Wednesday and the weeks following, and all you think about is mortality and frailty, then maybe we’re missing the entire picture of this season.
Because it is true, we begin this season with a reminder – but the reminder we receive in the ashes on our foreheads is not only a reminder that we will one day return to dust, but it is also a reminder of the promises we are given in Jesus.
Namely – the promise of resurrection.
So when we come forward to receive the cross of ashes on our forehead, yes we are recognizing that we are but mere mortals, we are frail, and I think very importantly – we are just part of this creation. We begin this season remembering who God is to us, and who we are as humanity. We spend this time in Lent contemplating, meditating, praying, and for some even fasting or giving up things that might turn us from God. And most importantly, we spend this season in the church looking forward with Jesus, following Jesus with hope as he makes his journey to the cross, and thanking God for what Jesus will do on that cross at Golgotha.
So as we begin this season, as you find yourself giving up chocolate or taking on a new daily devotional, or if you find this entire season a bit too depressing to pay much attention to, it might be helpful to remember what the words of hope that are left unsaid on Ash Wednesday – “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19) “and just as Jesus rose, so Jesus shall raise you also” (paraphrased from 1 Thessalonians 4:14, Romans 8:11, and a bunch of other places). Thanks be to God.