This is the written text of my message for our Service of the Ashes services.
Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, is a day when we remember how truly lost we would be without Jesus Christ. I have a phrase for you to ponder.
You are dust, and to dust you shall return.
This is my least favorite action as a pastor. I have to individually tell people whom I have come to know and care about that you are going to die. We know that we will all eventually die. We just don’t talk about it.
Except on this day, I tell you, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” And in case that was too subtle for you, I take ashes and mark your foreheads with a cross. It’s not just that you will die, but you are going to decompose as well.
But Ash Wednesday is also one of my favorite days to preach on.
Because I want to take that depressing proclamation, You are dust, and to dust you shall return,” and show you how this is a good thing because it all comes from God.
I’m going to die and decompose and that’s a GOOD THING? Thanks a lot, Pastor Brian. Yes it is.
Jesus was trying to get his disciples to understand this in his teaching about what it meant to be the Messiah. It meant that He would be betrayed, killed and then he would be raised. Death would be defeated.
But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
Instead, they argued over who was the greatest among them. When Jesus asked what they were discussing, they were to embarrassed and ashamed to say.
I think there are times that the attitude of his disciples reflects our attitude toward God, especially in prayer. We don’t understand what God wants of us, and we are afraid to ask. We are embarrassed by what we want and what we’ve done, and are ashamed to ask for forgiveness.
We are afraid to speak up, to open our hearts to God, to say and express what is truly on our minds and in our hearts. We are embarrassed by what we have done or left undone. We are in awe of all that God has done, and think that we are too insignificant to draw God’s attention to our lives.
We think we are dust. We are sure that to dust we shall return.
But God knows all about us. God knows the good we do and the good we miss out on doing. God knows the bad things we do, and the bad things we avoid doing. Despite knowing all of our faults and failures, God deeply and totally loves us.
We are dust. BUT, we are moving, walking, talking dust because of the creative efforts of God. God showed God’s love and power by taking dust, the dirt of the Earth and forming the first people from that dust and dirt. We are dust, breathed into by God and created in God’s image.
We are dust that God has breathed into. God has given us life. We are dust that God gave the ability to think, act, do and to talk to God. We are dust that God wants to have a relationship with. Not just collectively – all of humanity, each of us as individuals.
We are dust blessed by God to be a blessing to others. We are dust entrusted with authority over God’s creation. We are dust that God gave Jesus Christ over to us as a sign of how much we are loved.
We are dust that will return to dust when we die, but we will not stay as dust. We are dust that the Son of God suffered for. We are dust that Son of God died for. We are dust that will be raised from the dead because the Son of God was raised from the dead. We are dust that God wants to spend eternity with. We are dust that will be called from our resting places and resurrected as God raised Jesus, and we will be raised to be with God for all eternity.
You are dust, and to dust you shall return. But you won’t stay as dust. That is the Good News of Jesus Christ.
While the imposition of ashes is my least favorite pastoral duty, my favorite is coming up in a few minutes. I get to tell each of you that the body and blood of Christ is given for YOU. He gave his life for each of us, so that each clump of dust would have forgiveness and eternal life.
So knowing all of that, do not be afraid to share your thoughts and concerns, your worries and your wishes, your sins and your celebrations, your tears and your fears, your highs and your lows, your shouts and your whispers with God. God wants to hear them. Because God loves you and cares about you.
You are dust, and to dust you shall return. But because of Jesus Christ, because of his life, because of his death on the cross and because the tomb is empty, you will not remain dust.
During the season of Lent, ponder how much God loves you. Ponder how you can share that love with others. Ponder how you can better communicate with God. AMEN.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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