Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust February 9, 2016

This guest post is by Jill Crainshaw.

Photo by Jill Crainshaw.
I scatter them. They slip away from cold-numbed fingers.
It is winter. Nothing grows in winter—
does it?

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

But a dancing fire warms my hands
and its ashes cultivate growth.

We are ashes;
our lives slip through our fingers
sometimes. Or so it seems.

We are also formed from the earth.
We are dust.
Scattered in God’s garden
“to till it and to keep it.”

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

The seasons of Lent and Easter in Christian traditions call us to reflect on rhythms of feasting and fasting and feasting in our world, our churches, and our spiritual lives. But the traditional Lenten fast is complicated this year because fasting in our world today is a complicated concept. Too many people’s bodies and souls ache because of fasts imposed on them by unjust life realities. Too many people’s tables are too empty because they lack adequate access to food.

So we wonder. To what fasts can we commit ourselves during this season that will teach us how to fashion redemptive and life-giving relationships with each other and this earth that is our home? What can we plant in the ashes and dust of Lent’s great fast that will bring forth a resurrecting great feast for our world’s hurting people?

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. On Ash Wednesday, our foreheads smudged with charcoaled Palm branches from last year’s now-cold feast, we are reminded:

By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Until you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
You are dust, and to dust you shall return.
–Genesis 3:19

Life is fleeting and fragile. And because life is fleeting and fragile, Lent calls us to work–by the sweat of our brows–to embody the Gospel’s Easter promises of abundant feasts for all people. Lent calls us to give up apathetic notions that we are powerless to do anything about injustice and instead to believe with our hearts and bodies—with fierce and fearless everyday actions—that God’s promises of good things for all people can become realities.

This is perhaps the most palpable outcome of a holy Lent: people of faith considering what it means to live lives of meaningful sacrifice and redemptive service in the name of Jesus and then taking steps to do just that.


Jill CrainshawAbout Jill Crainshaw
Jill Crainshaw is a PCUSA minister and Blackburn Professor of Worship and Liturgical Theology at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. She is the author of several books on worship and ministry.

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