“until you return to the fertile land, since from it you were taken; you are soil, to the soil you will return.” Genesis 3:19b
“the Lord God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils. The human came to life” Genesis 2:7
Then the Lord said, “Don’t come any closer! Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground.” Exodus 3:5
As we approach Ash Wednesday, I asked pastors what they are planning for Ash Wednesday in our Covid burdened world. Several said that they are having on line services where they are asking people to bring in dirt from their gardens to use for ashes this year. That started me thinking about dirt.
Where I come from in the south, we have a saying, “they treated me like dirt!” This means someone treated me like something they would like to sweep out the door or hide under the rug. The problem is that the more you feel like people are treating you “like dirt” the more you feel like you are dirt! You feel like you should hide under the rug instead of sitting at the table with everyone else.
But Ash Wednesday reminds us that God can bring life and beauty from anything, even dirt!
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to be on the big island of Hawaii. The area near the volcano made me feel like I was on another planet. There was nothing but hardened black ash everywhere. At first glance it was desolate and lifeless. Then you would see a small flower growing out of a crack. Where there was even a small amount of fertile dirt, there was life and beauty.
Ash Wednesday is an amazingly equalizing liturgy. As we receive our ashes and hear the words, “from dust (dirt) you have come to dust (dirt) you will return,” we humbly remember that regardless of age, gender identity, economic opportunities, education, race, language, abilities, political party, or sexual orientation we all come from the same dirt. And we remember that God doesn’t sweep the dirt out the door or under the rug but makes it holy and uses it to create life and beauty.
As we begin this holy Lent, may you remember that no matter who you are through Jesus Christ you can become holy, beautiful, life giving dirt!