It certainly was not dusty yesterday – much more of a rain to snow day than a dust to dust, if you are talking about the weather. On the other hand, if you were discussing the calendar, ashes to ashes may well have been the topic. And, if you have had as many conversations as I have had this week with families who have recently lost loved ones, then dust to dust is appropriate.
As I got up Wednesday morning, I wondered why so many schools had announced they were closed – the only thing in the air was a light rain. At 1:00 p.m. I was still wondering the same. However, by the time school children were being dismissed to go home, it made perfect sense – the roads were a mess. And by the time I got home last night I was thinking they might be closed again on Thursday.
I started putting ashes on foreheads about 7:40 a.m. The last couple received them nearly thirteen hours later. In between there were two church services, two home visits, and two hospital visits. Prior to the ashes I sent out a video devotion (did you tune in?) and participated in a lively conversation on 1 John 2. This is really what Lent is all about … God at work in a myriad of ways.
Yes, he’s even at work in death. A phone call Wednesday made it three this week – and that’s just among the people in my immediate ministry realm. I spoke with someone who is grieving the loss of 5 family members and another with three. I am praying for two or three additional families as well. My how things have changed from last week!
Gone are the sunny, 40-degree days. Gone are the lights of Christmas and those words of praise we boxed up on Sunday. Gone are three people I have known for 8, 25 and 40 years. Gone, I say, for now, but not forever … Did you see the forecast for Sunday? Do you have April 12 marked on your calendar?
And, most importantly, do you know what Jesus has to say in John 11? “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11.25-26) Gone for now, but not forever … because our Savior, Jesus, continues to be at work in a myriad of ways.
He is at work as we are reminded that, on the day of our baptism (when he was also at work), we received the sign of the cross on our forehead (and heart), marking us as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. He is as work as the rain turns into snow, and even when they both turn into an icy glaze. And, yes, he is at work when loved ones die … taking them from this veil of tears … comforting us in our sorrows … and generally providing innumerable (and often unseen) additional blessings … “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is his faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3.22-23)
Ashes to ashes, rain to snow, dust to dust … our living Redeemer, Jesus, is constantly at work in countless ways. I will give you one more example, and then ask you to report your own observations. Today my life-long companion, hero and friend – the one I have known longer than anyone else alive – turns 70. The story of his life alone is an illustration of God at work in unimaginable ways. Now, tell me, please, how you are observing today that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.” His mercies, you know, never cease!