By Joel Luckemeyer
As you go about your day today, you may notice a few people walking around with crosses of ash on their forehead. Maybe you are even among that group of people. Maybe you are waiting to go get your ashes at a worship service tonight. Today is Ash Wednesday. This evening I will place ashes on my thumb to draw crosses on the foreheads of those coming to worship. As I do this, I will quote Genesis 3:19 and Ecclesiastes 3:20, “From dust you came, and to dust you will return.” Because of this I spend every Ash Wednesday with the chorus of the old Kansas song, “Dust in the Wind” playing through my head. “Dust in the wind. . . All we are is dust in the wind.” While I would never have my congregation sing this song in a worship service (there is no hope offered in it), it cuts to the core truth that our lives will end one day. Whether our remains are buried, cremated, or cast into the sea, the fact is we are mortal. Kansas’ song hits on that truth. It gives a sense that life is vain.
The ashes on Ash Wednesday reminds us of that truth that we are mortal, but also reminds us that there is hope. When a loved one dies, someone often tries to bring comfort by saying, “Death is a part of life.” Think about that statement. That’s a contradiction of words, even though they are well intended. What is probably meant is that, “Death is natural.” Actually, if you understand the Biblical narrative, you understand that death isn’t natural at all. The fact that we suffer in this world, the fact that we die is a result of rejecting God. The world is broken, you are broken, and I am broken. We have all done something to hurt someone else. We have all done something to hurt ourselves. In those moments we are committing an act that goes against what God wanted for us as His creation. He created us to love us. He created us to love Him. He created us to love one another. Death is a result of that failure.
That is why we receive the ashes in the shape of the cross. Jesus, God’s Son, died for us on a cross to take our place of eternal death. He never did anything to be ashamed of. He spoke the truth. He was compassionate to those in need. He helped people in need. He was a friend to the outcast. Jesus revealed that God is loving, forgiving, and doesn’t rejoice in our suffering. He wants to give us life, purpose, and reason. After Jesus died, He rose again, proving that He came from God, He is God, and that nothing can come between us and the love of God. “All who say, Jesus is Lord, and believe that He rose on the third day, will have eternal life.” So, are we “Dust in the Wind”? Sure, but because of Jesus Christ we don’t have to stay that. Having faith in Jesus gives our life meaning.
Joel Luckemeyer is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church. He may be reached by calling 559-592-4070.
Prays Together is a rotating column between the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.