EARTH TO EARTH, ASHES TO ASHES, DUST TO DUST
Exactly ten years ago, when I was living near Stamford in Lincolnshire, during the night of Wednesday 27 February 2008, I remember having a strange dream about a strong wind blowing through my bedroom. I woke up and heard the sound of what I thought was a distant rumble of thunder. I went back to sleep, only to discover in the morning I had slept through a 5.2 earthquake.
Earthquakes remind us that we live on a dynamic planet. This fragile earth, floating in space, is our home. Or as Christians believe, it is our ‘temporary home’, with heaven as our true home where we will live with God forever.
In the middle of this month, Christians begin the solemn season of Lent. In a special service in church on Ash Wednesday (14 February), we mark the start of the season by being signed with a cross on our foreheads with the ash of burnt palm crosses. Everyone receives the cross with the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
It’s quite sobering to remember that we came from dust, and return to the dust of the earth. No matter how much money we’ve got, or how clever we are, or beautiful or handsome we look, or strong or famous we may be – we can’t avoid death – we all return to the dust of the earth. Not good news, I’m afraid.
But there is Good News. By being born one of us, Jesus Christ, the one who created us from dust, shared in the life of his creation, including the experience of death, and burial in the earth. In his rising from the dead, we share his risen life.
We remember this during Lent, Holy Week and Easter. We remember it when someone’s mortal remains are laid to rest in the ground, and the priest says the words of committal, “we commit . . . to the ground: earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust: in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.”
May that sure and certain hope sustain us till we return to dust.
God Bless – Father Richard