Man sitting and reading book

Considering Our Dust

By Matt Humphrey, Director of Theological Education

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, with the difficult words “remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” And the 40 days that follow before the Feast of Easter invite followers of Christ into the wilderness, to look seriously at our lives and at the ways we live in light of what God has done. Good Seed Sunday is two weeks after Easter Sunday and can be understood as a consequence of what God has done on Easter. But to understand that, we must first delve more deeply into the Lenten practice of considering our dust.

Just two chapters into the Hebrew Bible we discover the root of these Ash Wednesday words: “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7).

These might be familiar words for those of us with a Christian faith, certainly for us at A Rocha: God forms Adam from the Adamah. It is one of the most intimate pictures we have of God in all of Scripture – kneeling down close to breathe into our nostrils the very breath of God. Yet we know the story. Something in us rebels against our creaturely nature – we don’t want to be clay-footed dust-bound creatures, we want to be eternal archetypes of freedom and strength! But if we are honest, it takes no more than a day or two of Lenten fasting to discover we are weak, dusty creatures in need of rescue! Which makes the hope of Easter all the more poignant!

In Christ, the God who breathed into our dust becomes our dust.  The same God who created Adam of the dust, commissioning him to care for the garden comes into the world, as the human one, Jesus of Nazareth, and is mistaken for the gardener by Mary Magdalene at the resurrection story (John 20). It is this beautiful and wondrous story of the resurrection that is the distinctive Hope that marks a Christian environmental ethic. And what we find in the resurrection of Jesus is in fact the distinctive Hope that marks a Christian environmental ethic distinctively from its secular counterpart. You see we aren’t just living in a world that is moving from bad to worse, or that was once good and pristine and is falling to pieces (though it appears very much that way)! Rather, our faith proclaims that, “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed” (John 20:1).  And this makes all the difference! We are invited to live on this ‘first day of the week’ – in Jesus’ resurrection we have the dawning of a new age, the movement into a new world. As we read elsewhere, God was pleased through Christ “to reconcile to himself all things” (Col 1:17).

That means that as we engage our neighbourhoods and watersheds, as we pay attention to our neighbours – human and more than human, we are taking part in the good work of Easter. Good Seed Sunday is a time we set aside annually for our Churches to celebrate and to remember that, to recommit ourselves to some hands-on effort to embody this faith we have received, and to proclaim together the hope that in Christ, the dust of our earthly life has been reconciled, redeemed, and will be restored with all things.

Patrice, our Interim Internship Coordinator, engaging some of our neighbours.

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