As we begin our Lenten journey we remember our earthiness as we say, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” For years I have been a part of this ancient act as those participating in the mystery come forward so I can mark the sign of the cross on foreheads with a little bit of ash and oil.  Like coming forward to receive communion, it’s seeing your face and the look in your eyes that is so powerful to me and I will miss this year. 

Some come forward confident, some nervous, some so much taller than me they have to stoop down, some bearing the grief of knowing all too well the mortality of those they love. Some come forward knowing that their cycle of life is leaning toward the “returning to dust” part sooner rather than later. 

Ash Wednesday is a single day, but for me it lasts much longer. By this point in the winter my fingers are split by the dry air and the ash seems like it might never wash away from the cracks in my skin. And that’s ok. I need the reminder: I’m human, dust, a part of creation as much as the mountains, streams, and chickadees. You are too. 

Friends, it has been a year like no other since we last were marked with sooty crosses and reminded that we are dust. In some ways this whole year has been a reminder of our mortality. Our lives are fleeting and yet held in eternal care. We are dusty and holy all at the same time. We are marked by a promise that can never be broken. Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. 

Enjoy this poem by Jan Richardson as part of your Ash Wednesday meditations. 

In Peace, Pastor Ruth

Blessing the Dust
All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners
or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—
Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?
This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.
This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.
This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.
So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are
but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made,
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.