Ashes and oil are smeared onto the forehead and the phrase, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” is often said. They are a mark, a sign, or our mortality. But they also dig deeper into a primordial sense of who we are, creatures connected to the earth. We are intimately connected to the earth and land, as part of a greater whole that we are all made from. The earthen quality of our bodies do not denigrate us, but should remind us of the preciousness of who we are as embodied beings. We were created to be in harmony with all things, living and not living. Their molecules and atoms are the same as ours. In the first creation story (Gen 1:1-2:4a) all living things have “breath of life” (ruach) or spirit (1:30). This is the story in general. On a more personal, intimate level, the second creation story (2:4b-2:25) goes on to say:
then the Lord God formed the human (adam) from the dust of the ground (adama), and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (ruach); and the man became a living being (2:7).
Event hough the Biblical text is in no way a scientific text, what the writers wanted their readers and listeners to perceive about the world was that God’s creation is connected. The wordplay between adam and adama is unmistakable. People are formed from the ground and given life though the animation of the divine breath. This same breath is in all living creature and connects all things together. If anything, to see ourselves in any other way is a sin against God and others.
We live in an era tainted by divisiveness and divisions, by strife against each other because of political, religious, and racial differences. These differences, whether perceived or real, many times been used to undermine the reality of our connectedness. To be mark by the ashes of Lent, real or figuratively, means to enter into the desert of our humanity. It means to be stripped of all things that make us less than human and encounter what makes us living creatures. Jesus entered into the drama of human history not with the title of Christ or Messiah, but calling himself the “son of humanity” (ben adam). He identified with those on the margins, the despised, and the sinned against. In was at the periphery that Jesus found his humanity, as if the core of who were are is not about the powerful and rich, but the broken and sick. It was not to glorify sickness and poverty, but those most who are most dependent on others, who need the most care. These are the widows and orphans, the sick and destitute.
At our being we are dependent on each other just as we are dependent on earth and water, the sun and the air. The invitation this Lent is to return to the humanity through tending to the soil of our creation, to examine the core of who we are in relationship to land, plants, animals, and others. May we find that connections are we have, all that are truly real in this world. So that when we truly arrive at the end of our journeys we will find that we did not take for granted this precious breath, this beautiful life, that we were all given.
The following are the meditations in the order as a reflection of the liturgical calendar:
Earthen Vessels - An Ash Wednesday Meditation (Isaiah 58:1-12) HERE
Lent 1 - Entering the Wilderness (Luke 4:1-13) HERE
Lent 2 - Gathering Her Brood (Luke 13:31-35) HERE
Lent 3 - Bearing Fruit (Luke 13:1-9) HERE
Lent 4 - Returning to Life (Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32) HERE
Lent 5 - Tending for the Body (John 12:1-8) HERE
Leaves Fallen Underfoot - A Palm Sunday Meditation (Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29) HERE
Water to Wash Feet - A Maundy Thursday Meditation (John 13:1-17, 31b-35) HERE
Hung on A Tree - A "Good" Friday Meditation (Isaiah 52:13-53:12) HERE
New Earth Flourishing - A Resurrection Sunday Meditation (Isaiah 65:17-25) HERE
Download meditation PDF files. HERE