My parents didn’t believe in giving me an allowance. So when I was little, what change I had – what money I had – I had to earn by doing small jobs around the house. And my mom, in particular, was really creative about this.
My favorite little job, actually – was dusting. We’ll get to why. On Saturday morning – before we all cleaned the house together – My mom would go around – leaving little coins on the things that I was supposed to dust. A penny here. A nickel there. Sometimes a couple of dimes. And if I was really lucky – and really careful – I’d find, tucked in the corner of a the bookcase – or behind something on the bureau – I’d find a quarter. And let me tell you – I loved finding quarters.
So I’d pick up these coins as I went – also picking up and moving the dust on the furniture – And because I didn’t know quite what I was going to find – The whole thing became a bit like a treasure hunt. And at the end of all of this dusty, sort of dirty work – I would survey the spoils. And usually, I was satisfied – both with the work that I had done – And with the coins I’d found. The reward for my work.
Today is about a different kind of dust. Today we use the dust of the ashes of last year’s palms- The dust left over from last year’s glory – last year’s celebration – And we put it on our heads – with the reminder that we, too – In all of who we are – That which is good – and glorious – the things we can celebrate about ourselves – And the things about us that are…less wonderful… In all of who we are, we are just dust. Dust that God has created something with. Dust that God will someday use to do something else.
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.
It is a serious statement for the beginning of a serious season. Lent, in many ways is about sorting through the dust of our lives. It’s about identifying that which is dust. That which will pass away and come to nothing. The less than worthy causes… The less than righteous thoughts… The less than holy desires…
Lent in many ways is about sorting through all these things in our lives. Sometimes, there is dust – in the corners of who we are. Hiding within us. Sometimes we have to shake the dust out of our relationships. Sometimes there is dust – clinging – even to the ways in which we think about and care for ourselves. When we sell ourselves short – or leave God out.
Lent is about re-examining the corners of our lives and the corners of our hearts. Lent is about sorting through the dust that collects there. It’s about finding – in the midst of the dust – The quarter in the corner – on the bookshelf. Finding God's treasure in the midst of our own very normal, dusty lives.
Lent is about pushing all of this dusty – temporal – finite stuff out of the way. It is about clearing a path to get to God – and letting God get to us. Sometimes we do that by giving up things. If you need help figuring out some ways you can clear out the dust – just take a look at our readings for today. There are lots of suggestions. There’s a whole list of things that you can do. Sometimes we clear out the dust by taking on something new – By finding a new way to serve our neighbors – Or by adding an extra cycle of prayer to our days. This clearing out of the dust – it’s intentional. No matter how you choose to do it – the clearing of the path – It’s about pushing the dust aside for now – And hoping that we can eventually push it out of our lives completely – So that we can see the things hiding underneath. So that we can see the things in ourselves and in our lives that aren’t dust at all – But that are eternal – and of God.
Inside this dust, from which we came – and do which our bodies will return – Inside this dust – waiting to be found again – to be cared for again – Is this eternal soul that God gives us – and that Jesus promises to save. But before we can get there – before we can get to that Easter joy – and the promise of salvation. We have to clear the dust away. We have to recognize that which is dust around us – and in us. We have to reach for the corners and clear them out. We have to make room so that we can see God – and come to know God more deeply. So that in the end we will serve God more faithfully.
On this day as you leave here with dust on your head – Dust that came from last year’s celebration – Let it be a reminder to you of the dust in your life that needs to be cleared out. Let it be an outward sign of something internal that needs to be dealt with – And let go. Begin this season with the intention of clearing the path. Clearing the way between you and God. Because it’s a two-way street between us and God – but it is always us – who allow the dust to accumulate. And so it is us who need to do the work to clear it.
Because dust – no matter how many times we wipe it away – always comes back.
There is always dust in our lives that needs to be cleared out. And so we mark this day every year – to remind ourselves that it’s time again to do some cleaning – and some clearing out.
In all of our lives there are things that will come to dust. That at the end of our lives will mean nothing to us – And will have added nothing to us or to the world. Ahead of you stretches a season when God and the church invite you to practice letting go of those things. So that you can focus on the things that are real. The things that will last.
The love that you share with God – and the love that you share with your neighbor.
And so – I invite you to make a holy start to this Lent. To determine what it is that you will do in these 40 days to clear out the dust of your life. Because it is only in doing this work that we find the treasure within the dust. Only by doing this work are we able to know and feel and find God’s presence within us.
So remember on this day that you are dust. But that within the dust – waiting to be discovered again – And reignited – And polished – and dragged back out into the sunlight – To be offered to the world – Is the divine spark of God that lives in you.
Choose on this day – to spend the next 40 days clearing out this dust – So that you will find within you – and all around you – the real treasure of God – Christ living with you – and within your neighbors.