Sermon: Ash Wednesday – “Sacred Dust”

The podcast can be found here.


horsedrawn-vacuum-machine

The 1901 Hubert Cecil Booth Vacuum Cleaner (bet they didn’t sell these door to door!)


Dust. People have always been trying to eliminate the problem of dust. The first vacuum cleaner was invented in 1901, and was so large that it had to be hauled on a horse drawn wagon and parked outside. It ran off of gasoline. Well, the vacuum may have gotten smaller but the problem of dust still exist and it always will.

If you are tired of dusting, consider these facts:
– The average household generates 40 pounds of dust each year.
– It is no surprise that you can dust the entire house and turn around and do it all over again. Why? A particle of dust can hang in the air for about five days. And they just keep raining down at that leisurely pace.
– Every year, 40,000 tons of dust falls from outer space.
– The largest source of dust is the Sahara Desert. It produces 770 million tons on an annual basis that then drifts as far as South America and fertilizes the Amazon Rain Forest.
– And, yes, we humans contribute to the problem. The average human creates about 1/3 of an ounce (about the weight of a key) of dust each week.

You can purchase all the new fangled dusting products you want, but no matter what the manufacturer claims, you are not winning the war on dust. You’re just keeping it at bay. As pesky as it is, there is still some dust that is holy. That is sacred. That God cares dearly for. You know the story:

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground—then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

God breathed into the dust and gave it life and from that day forward, He has loved His creation, but sometimes, when I hear those words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” I hear those words and they almost sound like a threat. Like God saying, “Don’t forget, you misbehave and I’ll send you right back where you came from.” But instead, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” is simply an undeniable fact. Today is Valentine’s day and I jokingly put up on Facebook that today’s sermon was going to begin, “Happy Valentine’s Day, you’re going to die.” But to say that we will return to the dust is simply saying the same thing—minus the Happy Valentine’s Day bit. We will return to the dust, but we are sacred dust. We are God’s dust.

Karl Rahner, a Jesuit priest who is considered to be one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century in his book, The Eternal Year, wrote, “When on Ash Wednesday we hear the words, ‘Remember, you are dust,’ we are also told that we are brothers and sisters of the incarnate Lord. In these words we are told everything that we are: nothingness that is filled with eternity; death that teems with life; futility that redeems; dust that is God’s life forever.”

We are dust. Yet, through the redeeming sacrifice of Christ we have eternal life. We are God’s life forever, because through Jesus, we become one with Him and one with the Father. And as the Psalmist wrote:

As a father cares for his children,
so does the Lord care for those who fear him.
For he himself knows whereof we are made;
he remembers that we are but dust.

During these days of Lent, remember that you are but dust, but also remember Whose dust you are. And remember the price that was paid so that you might return to Him.

 

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