"You turn us back to dust, and say, 'Turn back, you mortals.'" - Psalm 90
In the 1662 version of the Book of Common Prayer, we are given words to speak over the body of the deceased at burial, commending the soul of the departed to Almighty God and committing the body to the ground:
" . . . earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust . . . ."
On this Ash Wednesday we are mindful of the ashes from which we were created. With egos in check, we are keenly cognizant of our weaknesses and frailties. And we are humbly grateful for the wondrous mixture of dust and divinity that God has formed in each of us.
The ashes beseech us never to lose sight of how temporal and how fleeting life really is. The writer of Psalm 90 says that human life is like grass that flourishes in the morning, but is dried and withered by evening. All in the span of one brief metaphorical day.
As we begin our observance of Lent on this Ash Wednesday, let us be mindful of our imminent mortality. Let us repent for being reckless, negligent and sometimes ungrateful for this precious gift of life. And from this day forward, let us never take another day for granted.
Dear God, we acknowledge our weaknesses and we rejoice in the strength that we have in you, now and forever. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.