Beginning the Forty Days of Lent

“Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

These are the words of Ash Wednesday. They are the words said over us as we receive the ashes reminding us of our mortality. We are reminded that we are not eternal creatures. Shaped and molded by God’s hands from the dust of the ground, it is our Creator and Father who breathes into our lungs and fills us with life.

In the beginning, God did not intend for Adam and Eve to return to dust; God did not intend for humans to die. God placed Adam and Eve into his garden and gave them dominion over all he had created. Yet, it seems this was not enough, Adam and Eve faced the power of temptation and fell into death’s grasp by following the powers that defy God. Giving in to the power of temptation and evil, they ate from the forbidden tree and brought sin into the world. God’s words, that they shall not eat of this tree lest they die, became a reality and eventually to dust they did return.

Since this time in the garden, all humans are born into sin and we cannot escape the penalty of death on our own. We will return to the dust from which we were so wonderfully made. God, however, does not leave his people abandoned; he saves his children from the power of death through the sacrifice of his only begotten Son Jesus Christ. Yes, we shall return to dust, but through Christ God raises us to new and eternal life in his kingdom of glory.

The Lenten journey is one during which God’s people reflect on our need for a savior. We reflect upon the instances when we fall short of God’s calling in our lives, those times when we fail to love God with all our heart and love our neighbor as God loves us. The Lenten journey is a time to seek repentance, turn away from behaviors that distance us from God’s love. It is a time to draw closer to our heavenly Father, to confess our wrong doing and to live into the promise of eternal life.

This year, as I do each and every year, I strongly encourage the people of God to take seriously the journey of Lent. Establish the good habits of faith; weekly worship, daily prayer and reading of Holy Scripture, giving alms, fasting (giving up something), fellowship with God’s people and doing works of love. Remembering that you are dust and to dust you shall return, I invite you all to grow in faith, love, fear and trust in the Lord. And as we make our journeys end, we will witness the victory of our Lord Jesus upon the cross, and look beyond to the promise of the empty tomb at Easter.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!

Photo – Preparing the ashes in the midst of the saints.

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