This morning I woke up with dirt underneath my fingernails. Which is unusual, because I spend very little time with activities that would require me to get dirty. As it turns out, it wasn’t from dirt, it was from last night’s Ash Wednesday service where I had, in fact, gotten my hands dirty with the imposition of ashes. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”
During the service, we read several Scripture passages and sang songs that called us into a season of repentance, a season of spiritual preparation, and a season of self-reflection. This forty day period before Easter is the season of the church calendar that we call Lent, and it offers us a way to ready ourselves for the death and resurrection of Christ. The ashes remind us of our own mortal nature, and serve as a symbol of repentance.
One of the passages of Scripture that we read is from 2 Corinthians 5, which states, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19, NRSV). This passage serves as a reminder to us that even though we are made from dust, and will return to dust, we have much work to do. The ministry of reconciliation has been entrusted to us.
Which means that we are not entering into a season of withdrawal from the world, in fact quite the opposite. God has offered us forgiveness so that we might offer forgiveness to others. We have been reconciled to God so that we can now continue the work of reconciliation in the world. And this just might mean that we have to get our fingernails a little dirty.