Someone commented to me that they really did not think they were dust and did not like it. I get it, the words seem harsh and unremitting. “You are dust and to dust you shall return”, said solemnly as a goop of black stuff hits your forehead. Now, don’t think for a minute that I am suggesting that we revel in self-deprecation. Personally, I am far too good at that sort of introspection and it is a good indulgence to give up during Lent.
But we are made up from atoms and molecules. We are made of that same stuff of which everything is made – animate and inanimate, even dust. The ancient stories of the Creation have Adam being raised out of the dust. Perhaps not a literal story but not a bad understanding of either evolution or chemistry.
So whilst the language seems old-fashioned and difficult the deeper truth behind it is that when we believe ourselves to be gods we need reminding that we are creatures, wonderful and beloved, but, nevertheless, made from atoms and molecules. These atoms and molecules exist and move and breathe but, we would argue, do not come to fullness of life without God.
I am dust because as I am now I am a creature and, one day, this body will return to the earth, to primal elements. Somewhere in between this creature is lifted up and loved into eternity. Lent reminds us of this, we are not our own gods but we have a God to whom we need to return.