Ash Wednesday

The apocryphal story being told at breakfast this morning in my community is about Pat Buchanan. Apparently, so someone says, Bob Dole had been talking again about his humble origins in Kansas, how he started with nothing, and how he’s had to work hard for everything he has. On which Buchanan supposedly comments: “if he’s a self-made man it’s sad to see such shoddy workmanship.”

Today we come together to celebrate our humble origins—and to wear their mark. “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Dust, ash, dirt—earth. We are earthlings, creatures formed from the dust and the spittle of God. “Adam,” before it was the name of the first human, was a description—”H’adam”—earth creature, created from dust.

We are made of earth. We are made for earth. Earth is what joins us, what marks our common creation. The soil links us to each other, to every other creature of earth, to this very planet, and even to the stars—since every atom of our bodies is the from the dust and ashes of long dead suns. Even here on earth, every atom of our bodies has been used before, countless times, in other bodies; other humans, other creatures. There is something of Jesus in all of us—and something of the slime-mold!

This is humility: to be humus, to be human. To be human, to be humble, is to be someone made, someone well-made, someone made from the same stuff as all other things. Made from dirt, we are yet God’s work of art, made for a purpose we only half know. We are the soil singing a song of reconciliation for all creatures.

So today we begin our Lent, marked on our foreheads with the sign of our origins, which is the sign of our hope. We are made—we are not self-made—yet somehow our future, and the future of all things, is in our hands. And God is calling to us, pleading with us, to get back to the basics of our creation, to get back to our roots in the earth.

In this season we offer ourselves to God to be made again—to be converted—to be made into something new, yet something we have always desired to be.

To let God’s work of prayer and fasting and charity to be done in us and through us, for all things.

To get back to basics. The humility of our origins. The glory of our calling. To remember we are dust and to dust we will return.