"Remember that you are dust, and to
dust you shall return."
Liturgy for Ash Wednesday
"All we are is dust in the wind."
repeated those words thousands of times-once a year, on Ash Wednesday, and
whenever that hook of song from Kansas gets stuck in personal playlist. It's the Ash Wednesday liturgy that really
sticks-that hooks itself into my heart and soul. We do this just once each year, and yet the
soul and sentiment of our words and actions carry so much necessary weight and
meaning. It's amazing to realize that at
Church, Wall Street, the wealthiest and most outreaching congregation in
the Episcopal Church, this is their "busiest" day. Not Christmas. Not Easter.
It's Ash Wednesday that draws thousands of people. They-the Wall Street neighborhood---stream
through the doors to receive that smudge of Ash on their foreheads and to hear
the words: "Remember that your are dust, and to dust you shall return."
I hear these
words-and say them, face to face, with many of you-as a kind of deep "good
news." Sure, we would never consider
greeting or comforting each other this way, but those 11 straightforward words
convey honest truth. We are dust. Earth.
Humus. Soil. We are one with creation and we are all made
of the same stuff. It is humbling, and
it is so good for us to be humbled. So very
good. A friend, a scientist, reminded me
one Ash Wednesday how good he felt to hear those words, and feel the grit on
his forehead. It felt good, he said,
because he knew that the Universe itself was floating dust, seemingly ageless
and limitless. And he was part of
it. So are we.
So we'll see
each other tomorrow-face to face. Dust
to dust. I hope to look you in the eyes
and tell you the truth, which will be heard as Good News. And if you are wondering about bringing
children, bring them. We have two
services (10:30 am and 7 pm), two opportunities to be humbled. The service isn't long, and it is
simple-while also starkly honest. And if
we have lots of kids, I'll make sure to direct part of the homily toward them.
that you are . . . "