“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” This phrase is common at funeral services as well at Ash Wednesday services. This last week, on Ash Wednesday, my siblings and parents heard it at both. My sister-in-law’s mother died and her funeral was on Ash Wednesday. My parents and sister attended the funeral to support my brother’s family. Although Tom and I did not attend, I prayed for Kathy and Steve and their family all through the service.
It seems appropriate to have a funeral on Ash Wednesday. After all, we observe this day to remember that we are mortal. Our bodies are dust and ashes. In Genesis 3:19, God invokes this sentence on Adam and Eve “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” During the years of my ministry, these are the words I would say as I put ashes on the foreheads of congregants.
During Lent we repent. The word “repent” means “feel or express sincere regret, remorse, or penitence about one’s wrongdoing or sin.” It comes from the Latin word “paenitere” with the addition of the re, meaning something that must be done again. Because we never sin just once, we must repent over and over again. Each year the season of Lent offers us a chance to think about penitence. To repent again. To remember that we are not gods who will live forever – we are dust. Job 42:6 says, “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Every year Lent is a funeral. A way to bury our selfishness, our pride, our imperfections, our humanity. During Lent we have a chance to repent in dust and ashes. To remember who made us and whose we are. To turn once again to the God who loves us so much that he never turns away.
What sins do you need to bury this year during Lent? How will you repent in dust and ashes?