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
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. These words I say quietly to myself as I shovel three times and toss earth over the coffin of my father in law in the grave prepared for him in the remote Jewish cemetery. He, a Jew, and I, a Gentile. Prayers have been uttered over him in a language I don’t speak, yet the familiar words of Christian blessing speak themselves to him through me in this moment. His earthly body would be returned to the ground, human to humus. Even his coffin, made with dove-tailed wood joints, would disintegrate with time. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.
Yet, dust does not have the final word. This man was not sure what lay beyond the grave, but he knew there was something more. He had spent a lifetime meticulously hand-crafting bonsai of such beauty they were celebrated across the globe. So wondrous and so treasured, they would be entrusted to others to care for after their creator had passed. This Jewish man had spent a lifetime creating what he knew would long outlast him. That they would have life beyond his death, he made certain.
As we enter Lent, we invest ourselves in this same certainty. Because Christ died, we, though human, repent in dust and ashes to embark on a life that will outlast this one, a life that is truly life.
- If you are able, attend an Ash Wednesday service and receive the imposition of ashes on your forehead which is the sign of repentance we receive as we embark on our Lenten journey. Touch this place on your forehead gently with the fingers of your hand and trace the sign of the cross. Feel the sensation that is left there, the lasting pressure on your flesh.
- Take a moment to consider who has invested in you. A parent, teacher, pastor or friend? Think of this mentor and remember him or her in thanks. If they are still living, perhaps you can share your thanks with them. If they have passed, share your thanks for them with God.
- Give thanks for the power that lives in you because of others.
- Have you ever engaged in a project or created something you hoped would bear fruit beyond your lifetime? Give this to God’s future.
- How has God invested in you?
Father, you have made us temporal beings, yet you are forever God. We long to participate in your forever, but we have only one lifetime to do this. On this day, as we come before you, repenting our shortfall, lift us up to see the brightness before us and your confidence in us as the mark of your eternal love. Amen.