First Lutheran Church
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19)
These are the stark words that many Christians heard this week at worship on Ash Wednesday, when the sign of the cross was made on our foreheads in black. They are the same words used by God to remind the first man and woman that the lives of all mortals will end in death, which is ironic in a couple of ways.
This sentence of death is ironic because the serpent had just suggested the opposite in tempting Adam and Eve to rebel against God and eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The serpent said to them, You will not die (Genesis 3:4) which, I'm pretty sure, they heard as a promise that they would never die. God corrects that misconception.
The second ironic twist is that God has to remind them at all. The serpent also assured them: when you eat of (the fruit), your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5). My guess is that they stopped listening after the words you will be like God. And as we know all too well from our own struggles in life, that serpent-promised knowledge falls far short of the sales pitch.
Sometimes we are reminded in painfully concrete terms of these two terrible truths. The death of a loved one or a glance at the news of the world reminds us that we are anything but immortal. Similarly, the foibles of others and our own foolish failings remind us that we are anything but perfect vessels of God's true wisdom.
So it is that we begin our journey through the season of Lent by taking a good, hard look at the reality of those forces that oppose God: the devil, the world and our sinful selves (Martin Luther, Small Catechism, The Lord's Prayer, 3rd Petition).
Yet the good news is that we don't stand alone when we look into the truth of that brutal mirror. And the great news is that, through the gift of Jesus Christ, the image we see staring back at us is, wonder of wonders, the new Adam, the new Eve, the forgiven child of God in each of us - reborn every day of our lives to live and love and serve as God has always intended.
I hope that your journey through Lent is filled with the good news of God's great gifts of faith, hope and love. May we all truly live in the true knowledge of the Lord.