by Ken Rolheiser
Dust, Divinity and Our Destiny

Dust thou art and into dust thou shall return
Which is why I don't dust - it could be someone I know.

“This is the bread come down from heaven, not like the bread our ancestors ate: they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:58).

Could it be that simple? If you believe in Jesus, IT IS. Jesus promises us over and over again: “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in him.” (John 6:55-56).

But what if we are estranged from God. Maybe we have not been to church for years. How do we get back? I am reminded of a fictional confession that goes something like this:
Well, what is it?
You know.
So we got it then?

God’s forgiveness is as simple as that. A conscious choice on our part. We just have to show up. He is waiting and watching the road for us, like the Father in the Prodigal son story. We show up! God does the rest and provides the feast.

Death, physical death, will visit us all. Our bodies are dying. When you get to be my age, you know this. But death has lost its sting. Thanks to Jesus rising from the grave, we have the hope and promise that the Jesus who abides in us will save us from the dust.

Everything is dust in the wind. 
All we are is dust in the wind. (Song by Livgren, Kerry A.)

And so it was for millenniums, until Bethlehem. Jesus was the exclamation mark of history. And nothing is the same.

The traditional Ash Wednesday message “Remember man that dust thou art and into dust thou shalt return” tended to warn us that we will all die someday. “Turn away from your sins and be faithful to the Gospel” is the message of the church.

“Turn away” suggests an act, as do the charitable works of the Gospel such as feeding the hungry. “Be faithful to the Gospel” demands action, and it can fire our soul’s energy in a positive direction.

A little girl asked a boy what that smudge was on his forehead after an Ash Wednesday service. He replied, “It’s Ash Wednesday.” “What’s Ash Wednesday?” she asked. “Oh, it’s when Christians begin their diet,” he replied.

Many do not believe in the whole supernatural direction of our lives. “An unspiritual person is one who does not accept anything of the Spirit of God: he sees it all as nonsense; it is beyond his understanding because it can only be understood by means of Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

To start their High Holy Day services the Jews blow a shofar or ram’s horn. This sound may startle or scare the listener. A psalm is read every day. It’s a “softening up” time. It reminds us that God is “my light and salvation”. Then what is really important in life becomes clear. 

The words of the Spirit in scripture have the very breath of God in them. They inspire us and infuse us with life and wisdom. We acquire the power of God when we approach scripture with open hearts. If we eat of this bread we will live forever!

(560 words)