Posted in memory of Angela Shier Jones, from her blog The Kneeler.
by Angela Shier Jones
Good morning God,
I cant help feeling that the traditional Ash Wednesday refrain ought to be more poignant this year - ‘Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return’, but it isn’t. No matter how hard I try to be dutifully penitent and conscious of my mortal existence - the whole idea of Ash Wednesday simply provokes the same abhorrence it always has at the way in which we humans have taken what you have called Good and twisted it in a vain attempt to make it small, dirty and less than it is.
Yes.. I remember that I am dust - and I celebrate the distinction. For when you created the heavens and the earth you spoke everything - except humanity into existence. Humanity was not spoken into being out of nothing, but was carefully, deliberately formed by you from what you had already made, examined and called GOOD. Humanity alone was held in your hands and given the kiss of life from you.. remember you are dust - Alleluia!
And to dust you will return.. Amen!
To know that I will return to your hands, to my most divinely created form, is, for me, still further cause for delight - especially in the light of the good news that you love all that you have made, that you have made nothing in vain and that life, like your love, is everlasting.
You see, its no good. I just cannot bring myself to buy into the human priestly cult of sin and death which has all but replaced the gospel you gave us of love and life.
Yes, humans sin - but we are also so much more than the sum of our sins, for YOU made us and breathed YOUR life into us. Yes, human bodies die - but we are so much more than the three-score years and ten (or less!) that we wear these mortal robes and which some mistakenly think define us. In Christ we live forever for your breath cannot be taken from us, we are as YOU have made us.
And the good news continues in that even before we were sinners, even before we who live now were formed in your image, you chose to give us life and to set us free (if we wish it) from all that diminishes us and makes us less than you desire us to be. You know our nature better than we, and you choose life for us. In Christ you proved beyond doubt or dispute that no matter what we think sin can do, no matter how powerful we make it, it cannot destroy the life you give; we can murder it, even bury it, but even then you can still resurrect it. Sin is just so much smaller than salvation - always was.
Which doesn’t mean that I enter Lent without regret, or without the need to repent - it just means that I prefer to perform my penance in the way that you suggested (according to Matthew 6) - in private.
So please, help me God to walk with you this Lent without sackcloth and ashes, not demeaning or dumbing down the journey that Christ took to the Cross, but nonetheless not losing sight of the joyous anticipation of the final victory the world so desperately needs over the cult of sin and death.