…for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:18b
Today many will gather and have the sign of the cross marked in ashes upon their forehead. This sign will also mark the beginning of the church season of Lent… a six week journey to Easter. Amidst our work and play, our rushing and accomplishing we are called to pause and consider our need and God’s response.
Tradition guides us to begin our journey by openly acknowledging our frailty and sinfulness. In a world that often expects us to be perfect, today we freely confess our imperfections. We can let down our pretenses and be truly honest with each other about who we are. Whether on our foreheads or not, we all bear the mark of sin, from the youngest to the oldest. We all stand guilty before a holy God. We all are mortal and will someday experience bodily death. We are all in need of a Saviour.
Considering our mortality is a vulnerable, yet wonderful place to start. We do not look death in the face out of morbid fascination, but because it is in our greatest need that we encounter God’s greater love. We are broken and needy. Our world is broken and needy. We see it in us and all around us. And God sees it too… and in love he reminds us that he is the one who meets our every need. In confidence and pride we can deceive ourselves into believing that we can live independent of God. But it is a lie. Only as we embrace our frailty are we free to embrace God’s strength. And in doing so, we discover ourselves safe in the arms of Jesus, and we discover that this physical life is just the beginning of eternity.
Only then are we free to be honest about what lies ahead for us. We can face death, and the little daily losses life brings, without fear or pretending, because we know the One who defeated death is the One who gives us life.
So we do not begin our Lenten journey with depression and gloom, but instead gratitude and new energy for living. As we realize how desperately we need God, and how God is faithful far beyond our desperation, we can’t help but offer our lives to him in fresh gratitude. And as we remember that life is fragile, we find new passion to delight in the gifts of each and every day, and to take none of them for granted.
Today, take time to reflect on these words…
As a father has compassion for his children, so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him; for he knows how we are made, he remembers that we are dust. As for mortals, their days are like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him. Psalm 103:13-17
Prayer: Father God, I thank you for your everlasting love and mercy. I admit that I often foolishly try to make life work on my own. Help me to remember that I need prove anything to you. You know who I am through and through . . . and you love me through and through. Help me to take time in this season to wait on you, to listen for your voice and to remember your great love demonstrated in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Contributed by Pastor Carla Olsen Draper
Photo: License Some rights reserved by Sarah Korf