It’s the Triune God who is the breath and heartbeat that gives life to our dusty bodies so that we may live, until we return.
Vicar Andrea Bonneville
Ash Wednesday, year C
Texts: Joel 2: 1-2, 12-17, Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21
Beloved in Christ, grace and peace to you in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Today we remember our mortality, the very reality that we live in bodies that aren’t perfect, bodies that will hurt and be hurt, bodies that will one day die and return to the earth. We remember that our bodies were created with the love of the Triune God out of the dust of the earth and filled with the Spirit, the same Spirit that flows through our shared life with all of creation.
We don’t necessarily need to be gathered here today to be reminded about the realities of death and sin and suffering. The past two years have been a constant confrontation of disease, injustice, grief, loneliness, and death. Our hearts are fatigued and heavy from daily reminders of these realities.
We have had to be on high alert, changing the actions of our day to day lives to make sure that we and our neighbors stay safe. We’ve read books, consumed media, and learned how we can adapt and change our actions and attitudes to better love our neighbors and creation.
We’ve been doing our part step by step and living in this way exposed the treasures of our hearts and the gift of our shared humanity. It opened our eyes to see the world in a different way. It opened our hands to want to act and serve and our minds to learn. We’ve been forced to act in the present and long for a hope filled future for all of God’s creation.
Living with the realities of sin and mortality taught us a lot about suffering and death, but even more so it taught us about our humanity—what in life gives our dusty bodies the breath, passion, love, and joy we needed to sustain us and give us hope.
In Lent, we journey with Jesus as he goes to the cross and the grave. And as we do this, we encounter his humanity, his dusty body that held the same Spirit that gives us life. The Triune God dwelled in our world radiating love, peace, forgiveness, and justice so that even in the cloudiness of our world our lives can reflect light and love.
Jesus reminds us that our bodies aren’t the empty vessels of sin and shame as the world tries to make us believe. Our bodies are treasure chests of grace and love, filled with the Spirit who dwells in each of us as we bear the image of God for all to see.
But what do we do on the days when we are feeling extra dusty, on days when the shadows of the world prevent us from seeing the Triune God active in our bodies and our world?
What happens when we sin against our neighbors and creation or when our bodies and spirits become ill and burdened?
What do we do when our hearts are saddened and grieved when the bodies we love experience pain or return to dust?
Where do we go when we can’t escape the pain, violence, injustice, and destruction in our world?
“Yet even now,” says the LORD, “return to me with all your heart.”
“Restore to me the joy,” sings the Psalmist.
“Be reconciled to God,” says Paul on behalf of Christ.
“Return,” says the prophet Joel, because “God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”
The promise of this return, returning to God and the fullness of who God has created us to be, is why we need to be gathered here today, why we need to be in community praying, singing, and feasting together.
So that we, together, can come before God in worship and praise with fasting, and weeping, and mourning. We can join our hearts together in prayer and voices together in song to lament the brokenness of our world and hope for God’s mercy and justice to rise. We come to know the love and peace that surpasses our understanding and cling to God who is love and peace.
Returning again and again to God with our full humanity asking God to transform our lives so that we can experience comfort, healing, and love. And so we can reflect God’s love, justice, and mercy into our world.
As ashes are marked on your forehead today, remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. And also remember that you are love and to love you shall return. That you are hope and to hope you shall return. That you are grace and to grace you shall return. That you are God’s beloved and to God you shall return.
In the returning to God, in remembering of our humanity among others and alongside all of creation, the love and grace of God dwells in our hearts, it flows through in our veins, it returns us to who we are and whose we are, called to follow Jesus in the midst of the pain and suffering, death and destruction so all know the power of the Triune God who gives life and hope to our lives and our world.
It’s the Triune God who is the breath and heartbeat that gives life to these dusty bodies so that we may live, until we return.