You Are His Dust


Text: Joel 2:12-19

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

Some day, when your dead body is laid 6 feet under the ground, the pastor will say, 

“We now commit the body of our dear brother to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

Indeed, from dust you came, O Man, to dust you shall return!  This is the inheritance given to you by your first parents, Adam and Eve.  As a member of the human race, your fate is to be laid in the ground where worms will destroy your body.  

This is how it is in this life.  We live in a world where moth and rust destroy; where thieves break in and steal; where cancer eats our flesh; where bones grow brittle and frail; where wives betray the lying fools they pledged to love; where fathers forget the little children they are pledged to protect; where perversions are embraced; where hatred is the law of the land;  where prejudice rules in the courts; where sex is more valued than conversation or intellect. Such is this life under the sun.  This is the veil of tears we find ourselves in.    

And against this, what complaint can we dare to make?  Have we not participated in all of this?  Have we not lied?  Have we not looked the other way?  Which of us can stand upon our good works and demand justice without asking for damnation?  And so, to dust, we shall gladly go, for it is truly better than we deserve.  God owes you and me nothing.

Now, deep down, we all know this to be true; however, we try to deny it.  And so, we seek out relief in the mountains, in the rivers, and in the woods. However, the weeds and thorns of creation are harsh to you and me.  They have no sympathy.  Furthermore, the rivers and the mountains do not care for us.  Their majesty is too harsh for our tiny and weak bodies.  We are small, vulnerable, and insignificant.  We are nothing to this world except fertilizer.

Since we can’t find relief in the mountains, rivers, and woods, we try to settle our fears by thinking that we can conquer nature.  Furthermore, we try to arrange this planet in an orderly fashion to match up with our thinking.  We damn up rivers, we tunnel through mountains, we lay out sewer grids and electrical grids, and we change the temperature of rooms that we live in. But then, get this: something as simple as a bird or water freezing as ice can mess up our electricity lines and cause complete chaos – showing us just how powerless we are.  Indeed, buildings fall like a house of cards with earthquakes.  Storms blow things over with a simple puff of air.  Rivers break through dams with a simple push.  Tunnels and pipes collapse, streets crumble, oceans erode, and termites destroy.  

Now, since we cannot hide ourselves in nature or overcome nature, we do the next best thing: we try to hide in our minds and in our bodies.  And so, we have made up all sorts of religions,  philosophies, political ideologies, dreams, and imaginary planes.  We have actually deceived ourselves into believing that light sabers and “the force” seem more real than Jesus. We run to places like Middle Earth and Narnia, thinking that they are more appealing than our world.  We hid ourselves with Bhudda and the Great Spirit in the Sky as options for comfort as well.  And if all fails, we bury our heads in the world of Marvel, finding comfort in the superpowers of comic heroes.  

But all of these attempts evaporate in the daylight as well.  Reality comes crashing down when the mailman brings the bills, when the principal calls about problems at school, when the doctor tells you you have cancer, and when the sheriff knocks on the door with divorce papers.  We are dust.

But we don’t like being dust, so we double down and try to lose ourselves in our sins.  We run to the bottle to drink reality away.  We fornicate to feel comfort for a moment.  We cheat and lie to escape the pressures for a time.  We are negligent and inattentive in our duties.  We are disrespectful and disobedient.  We plot and scheme, brag, and boast.  We openly rebel.  We seize what we think God is denying us with the hope that we can feel wise, happy, and calm.  It is better to eat, drink, and be merry than lie in the dust. 

But my friends – it all fails.  All of it fails.  Nothing works.  Our sins leave hang-overs that Advil cannot soothe.  Furthermore, all the games we play only complicate our lives. If not careful, bitterness can set into our lives, making our already dark hearts black and petrified. Our ears can become totally plugged.  Our minds can slip into sluggish decay.  

Ah, but it need not be this way, O man of dust.  Indeed, this Ash Wednesday, repent.  Turn away from the road that leads to death and destruction, to dust and ashes. There is another way. Yes, there is another way!  

Dear friend, return to God with all your broken hearts, with weeping, and with mourning.  Return to the Lord your God, for there is no other place of comfort, no other shelter, no other One who is truly kind, gracious, and merciful as He is.   All things betray you except Him. The reason being, your Lord is not like His creation.  He is not like sin.  He is slow to anger and full of great kindness.  He relents from doing harm to you and instead harms His Son in order to spare and love you.  

Listen carefully, o man of dust, you are His beloved in whom He is well-pleased for the sake of Christ.  You will only find peace and joy and hope and comfort in His embrace trhough the Word and Sacraments.

Consider, for a moment, the implications of Jesus.  He was made to be sin in your stead.  That means that at the cross, all of the sin, pain, chaos, suffering, and death of the world collapsed into the death of Christ on Calvary’s cross.  And there, at that cross, your Jesus made a payment equal to all the sins of the world – for you.  

And so, all of history, all ideas, all good, all evil, all chaos, all kindness – everything belongs to Christ, which means that everything in this world will be used to work together for you - to keep you in His grace and eternal salvation.  Indeed, in the midst of this big and bad and chaotic world, You belong to Christ and His furious love.  You are not mere dust abandoned to a grave of worms but objects of His rich mercy and abounding generosity.  You, O Christian, are the reason why He bled and died to make all things right for you.  

And thus, the Lord has not marked you with ashes on your head but marked you with water and the Word.  He has not left you to fend for yourself in this brutal world but invited you to His table where He serves you - not with poison but with immortal life.  Even though you and I will suffer through this life, He has promised you by a blood stained cross and an empty tomb that you are forgiven, and will stand at the great eschaton forever.  

Baptized Saints, for forty more days, we will abstain from our Alleluia’s and some of the liturgy’s angelic songs as we descend to the darkness of Good Friday through this Season of Lent.   That is, until we arrive at that great Easter Day, when we commemorate the defeat of death and the victory of life.  Indeed, you are dust; but you are not left in the dust, for Christ has you and you have Him. 

In Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

Major portions of this sermon are indebted to an Ash Wednesday Sermon by Rev. W. Weedon. 

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