As I sat in the rows of an Anglican Church on Ash Wednesday, I was struck by an idea- those who are in Christ are marked and sealed as a community of the cross. Those in churches who observe Lent and Ash Wednesday receive ash on the forehead as a sign of repentance and our mortality. As I wrote last week,
We are reminded that we are dust, and to dust we shall all one day return (Gen 3:19). Nevertheless, in the bad news of our condition, we are given a glimpse of hope. The ash placed on the forehead is in the form of a cross, and it is the reminder of the good news that, though we might be crushed by our enemies (as the psalmists often reminds us), we can look to the “founder and perfecter of the faith” for ultimate preservation.
For those who are in Christ, we are sealed as a community of the cross. The ash on our foreheads points us to the reminder that we are shaped by the cross of Christ. Others in the congregation also are marked in the same manner, which leads to the recognition that we are all in life together. We are rooted in Christ and in the community of the Church. We are a people who are shaped by the cross- the reality that Christ was crucified, is risen, and will come again.
Indeed, we are but dust and to dust we shall return. While we have contemplated the ultimate destiny of all humanity on Ash Wednesday, let us also find comfort for being in Christ. For those who are in Christ, returning to dust is but an end to the beginning of the story. As I was reminded in a post by Jordan Ballor at Acton, death will put an end to sinning (Luther once said that while we are here on earth all we can do is sin!). We shall find rest as well, as eternal life transcends the false assumptions of one big harp-playing concert. Life after life after death will be glorious. So take heart, for God shall raise you up in glory from the mortal dust of our bodies!
But for now we wait, and serve the King of Kings, for Christ shall come again. Amen.