March 9, 2011

You are Dirt

The familiar words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” returned to us today, the only time in the liturgical year when we hear this startling and compelling pronouncement. It’s Ash Wednesday, when we’re reminded of our creation and mortality. 

I’ve always loved these words. They speak directly to my soul and body, when so much Christian theology usually speaks to my head. The Ash Wednesday liturgy connects me to a deeper sense of existence, both spiritually and physically.

After living alongside farming nuns for two years, I take this liturgy even more literally. I’ve gained a new appreciation for “dust” – and not just the kind that accumulates in corners of an old farmhouse! I’ve begun to understand that our human existence is deeply linked to both soil and stardust. Soil is the root of our living on Earth and stardust is our universal ancestor. When I ponder Creation and our place within it, I’m awed by the mystery of our existence. We are, literally, part dirt and dust. 

Dirt! The Movie is one amazing way to remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return. The question is how we are going to return: we will perish or prosper based on our care of dirt. Watch the movie trailer here, and consider showing a screening of the film at your church or with family and friends.  

On Ash Wednesday we are invited into self-reflection and repentance, in preparation for forgiveness and resurrection. These spiritual practices take on a sharper focus for me, like a machete used to labor in a field, cutting back the weeds from the fruits. The more I pay attention to soil and stardust, the more need I have of repentance. We have pushed Earth and sky and each other to the brink of our ability to survive together. We’re in deep need of restoration and reconciliation. The words of the prophet Isaiah ring in my ears, challenging us to make a proper fast in our lives.

Will we be called the restorers of the breach, the repairers of streets to live in? (Isa. 58:12)