Darkness falls over the earth. Weeping, wailing and bitter mourning. Acid tears streak down the faces of the repentant and the willful wicked alike. We are all of us made of earth, dust, ashes and the stars. Boil off the water, empty out the breath, and there are dry bones and dust.
Wars and rumor of wars … but we will not be alarmed. For such things must transpire … but this is not the end yet. These are birthpangs.
News or fake news — who can tell anymore? A story circled online last week that incinerators were delivered to China to cremate medical waste. Only those with firsthand knowledge really know what is happening with those incinerators.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. From earth were you made, and to earth you shall return.
This is a day of already and not yet. People wander grocery store aisles with charcoal grey smudges on their foreheads. They will go to lunch and come back to work with black crosses drawn. Mystically, they walk somewhere between still living but very much aware that they — we — will also be ash one day.
Psalm 51 pulls no punches with its poetry. The prophet confronts an adulterous king. The king — favored one of God — confesses. Break me. Purge me. Wash me. Blot me. Teach me. Cast me. Create me. Deliver me.
With a pleading, confident, trusting voice, the king begs for a reversal — from utter brokenness to a new kind of restoration. It is almost as if David is dying … dying from a past that must be left behind in order for him to become the new self God longs for him to be.
David didn’t lose big like most of us caught in such unfaithfulness. He was not ostracized publicly. He was not stoned. He did not lose his throne. Nathan called him out … and he turned.
All too often the religious and Pharisaical utilize methods more like that of the Code of Hammurabi rather than the Law of Love. Beat people into submission with rocks and rages and ugliness posing as grace. Works for them: cultural assimilation.
Black smudges on our heads aren’t about living our faith out loud in front of others. Rather, the humility of being marked with dust is shocking — in-the-mirror confrontation, over and over again: We are made … not of perfect stuff. Rather, we are made of failing, falling, breaking, dying stuff.
Yet we are also made of rebirthing stuff. We are made of stardust. It has always been here since God spoke it into being. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, birth to rebirth.