Rev. Melissa K. DeBono
Last night I knelt at the altar and my pastor marked my forehead with a smudge of ashes. Kneeling there was so familiar. Other times that I kneel at the altar, I am offered life, and bread, and hope, but last night was different. Last night I was told “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.” These words launched the days of Lent. I washed the ashes from my face, but today as my feet hit the floor I still have those words heavy on my heart.
The words to the people of Israel, recorded in Deuteronomy, also remind us of the place we find in the created order. Israel was the least of people, and yet chosen by God. We are each just people created from dust. We are frail and destined to die. Our days are limited. And because of this, how we use our days matters. These words, whispered over my head that I am just human, proclaimed to a nation of chosen people that they were not chosen because of any external superiority, these words warm our hearts to the other peoples of the world. I see myself as just ONE of the dust-like creatures of earth. I realize that through God my life is holy, as the people of Israel were holy, not because of something special about me, but holy through the grace of God, and holy for God's purposes. We are a holy people who are meant as a witness to a life of hope.
We are invited to spend these 40 days in remembrance of Jesus' temptation and sacrifice in the wilderness. When we enter into this observance, we are reminded that this self-sacrifice was an act of formation to prepare Jesus for his ministry to us, simple creatures of dust. We enter into a journey of remembrance of these days not just a s a time of personal formation, but on behalf of others, those who face the knowledge that they are dust, but without the hope of the God who rescues. It is a time to be holy with a purpose. So today, I stand up from that altar and look around with new eyes. When I am reminded that I am dust, the least of all people, I can love others as myself. And through the shared frailty of life I am reminded that the hope I cling to is not just for me alone.