Baptized Dust

Heritage Presbyterian Church

Ash Wednesday
February 22, 2022

Scripture readings: Genesis 3: 19; Joel 2: 1-2,12-14; Ezekiel 36: 25-27; Psalm 103

Genesis reminds us that we are merely dust…and that we will return to that state some day after we are dead.

The prophet Joel says the Day of the Lord is coming…and there will be no hiding from it.

Everybody knows that the book of Ezekiel describes a valley full of the dry bones of all the people of Israel…dead, dried up, and worthless.

Yet in Psalm 103, we are finally given words that reveal the Lord’s loving care for his people – and his people are encouraged to remember his grace and praise Him.

It’s something of a mixed message, especially for the beginning of the season of Lent, when we prepare for the eventual crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

We don’t need a mixed message.  We need some clarity.  We need focus.  This season is too important for us to miss a thing.

So, let’s go back and review these four readings more closely.

First, before we get too full of ourselves, before pride takes over and changes us into something obnoxious and hard to endure, let’s remember exactly how we were first made.  In the creation story from Genesis, the Lord God formed the first human out of the dust of the earth and blew life into that first human.  Therefore, we are reminded that we are only dust; that is our very important first step this evening.  We will even remind you of this reality when you come forward to receive ashes on your forehead or on the back of your hand.

Next, the prophet Ezekiel tells us that despite all the disasters, despite all the wrongs God’s people have committed, despite the lack of faith – and more painfully, the lack of consistent love for the Lord – He still welcomes us back and forgives us.  That alone is a great and gracious thing, but Ezekiel tells us more; we will be cleansed, we will be given a new heart for loving and a new spirit for service.  In other words, we will NOT be the same.  

Not a bad deal for a bunch of dust.

The prophet Joel begins his message with some pretty frightening words describing that great and terrible Day of the Lord; but keep reading, Christians…the Lord goes on to say that “even now…even now He waits for us to return to Him because He is full of grace and love and forgiveness for each of us.  

Joel’s message is a two-parter: one part a warning, and the other part an invitation to return to the Lord, return to his protection, return to his love.

Not a bad deal for a bunch of people who are just dust…

Finally, we are given the beautiful psalm 103 – which is a love song from David to his Lord.  As we hear it, as we read it, as we sing it, each of us is reminded over and over and over again just how magnificent the Lord is; just how much the Lord has done for His people; just how much the Lord is deserving of our loud, constant, consistent praise.

Because He love us so much…even though we are just dust.

But we are special dust, it would seem.

The Lord loves us and marks us as His own.

He constantly returns again and again and again to us…and invites us to return again and again and again to Him

We are marked in our baptism with water.

We are marked this evening with dust to remember our status, which we must never forget.

But we must always remember just how beloved we are.