February 2020 Letter

 

 

 

February Blessings! To Dust You Shall Return

 

A new practice gaining popularity in Lutheranism is the Service of the Imposition of Ashes on Ash Wednesday, which we celebrate this month on February 26th. The ashes are usually created out of the burned palm branches from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. The ashes are then smeared upon the forehead in the sign of the cross while the words of Genesis 3:19 are repeated: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

 

This ancient act is a gesture of repentance and a powerful reminder about the meaning of the day. Ashes can symbolize dust-to-dustness and remind worshipers of the need for cleansing, scrubbing and purifying. If they are applied during an act of kneeling, the very posture of defeat and submission expresses humility before God.

 

One of the consequences of Adam & Eve’s rebellion against God was they would “19b return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The day they ate the forbidden fruit—at that very moment—they died spiritually. But God immediately promised to send them a Savior, Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross would pay for their sins. God promised Adam & Eve the devil’s work would not succeed and that his head would be crushed by the Seed of the woman.

 

Like Adam & Eve, the penalty for our sins has been paid by Jesus’ death on the cross.

Through our Baptism, the old Adam we inherited at birth has been drowned and died. Through daily contrition and repentance, the old Adam is killed and buried, and we are free from him. The dust to which God will return our lowly bodies is something like a refiner’s fire, something the old Adam cannot survive, because “20 our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21).

 

 

 

Pastor David A. Feddern