A sermon given by The Right Reverend Chris McLeod, Dean
‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return’
- The heart of Lent
Being reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return may not be everyone’s idea of Good News. This Lenten reminder, however, has much to say to us. At the heart of this proclamation is that reminds us of our interconnectedness to God’s creation. We are of the earth, and to the earth we will ultimately return. This is speaking of our death, of course. Being of the earth is a theme well attested to by First Nation’s spirituality. We come from, as we say, mother earth. The earth gives birth to us. There is a connection which binds us all – all of us!
There is a temptation to see the Lenten proclamation that we are dust in negative terms, but I think it has more positive, yet challenging, consequences. Having accepted where we come from, and where we will return to, reminds us of our obligations and responsibilities. This is not making an idol of the earth by any means, but it grounds, earths us, in God’s creation. We are reminded that we are part of God’s creation, not above it, or certainly not conquerors of it, but we share with the earth createdness. The earth is not of our own creation, but it is God’s. We stand in awe of our own finiteness and limitations. We are also reminded that we brought nothing into this world, and we will take nothing out of it. Lent reminds us that we are not God!
2. Connected to each other
Being of dust also reminds us that we are all dust. We are all connected to each other. We share together in this humanity with all its frailties and utter humanness. It is this commonality that focuses our attention at Lent. Lent can often be seen as a private thing, a personal thing, an individual thing, my thing, but even if we focus on those things that separate us personally from God, we are so connected that my sin invariably impacts the other. Is there really any sin that is truly private? There is an awkwardness and embarrassment, or quite possibly serious consequences, if we reveal to each other our own individual sinfulness. It may be that it is a necessary thing to do, but even if we keep our sins to ourselves, we mustn’t lie to ourselves that they do not have some impact on others and, indeed, God’s creation itself. I think of those things such as greed, selfishness, pride, and more besides, that have consequences beyond themselves.
Lent provides us with an opportunity to face these things that we know get in the way of living in this connectedness with God and with each other. We are acknowledging our sin and invited to confess them. This is a call to confession. The clergy are here to assist with this. It may be that making a confession is the right thing for you to do. You can speak to one of us if you are thinking about doing that. The Anglican rule when it comes to confession is ‘all can, none must, some should’. As fellow human beings the clergy know all too well our own human frailty and sinfulness. We are dust too! It is from that basis and being aware of our own dependence on God’s grace, we can often offer you guidance and care. Think and pray about that.
Remembering that we are dust has far more positive implications than what it sounds. It is an opportunity to do some real work on the issues that connect us and the sin that so often separates us from our creator and each other. Amen