Death overcomes us all. Decay and suffering are our pathway to the doors of death. The posture of our reading carries a lot into our understanding of words. Today, when you reflect on the curse given to Adam as a result of sin, read these words from the crucified Jesus, who speaks truth to the reality of sin.
By the sweat of your face
You shall eat bread,
till you return to the
for out of it you were taken;
For you are dust,
and to dust you shall
There is a futility to life, a meaninglessness that strikes us when we are facing moments of honesty. Daily life and work are hard toil. It doesn’t matter what your occupation is; there is difficulty, and at times suffering. We groan and labor, experiencing the goodness of work and the eating of bread; and yet this goodness comes at the expense of our sweat. For some this is literal sweat, and for others different forms of stressors, but all of us experience and groan under sin’s curse.
And the payout that all of us receive under the reign of sin is death. Death overcomes us all.
Most of us do not want to think about this. We have developed techniques that work for us most of the time to avoid thinking about our impending death. If we can find engrossing work, or a pipe dream, anything that gives us something to live for, this pushes the nagging reality of death away. And yet, it’s times like this, Ash Wednesday, where many different church traditions put ashes on the forehead and pronounce the words, “Remember you are dust and to the dust you shall return.” Words of the curse. The curse of sin.
There is something in us that recoils at the pronouncement of the curse. “That’s not nice.” It doesn’t sound very Christian to say something that unpleasant. And yet, those are the words of our Lord, speaking of the reality that sin leads to death.
The very source of our life is God. God formed us from the dust and breathed in his life-giving Spirit that we might live. It is only by his continued lavish grace that these dying, and yet still living, corpses breathe, animated only by God’s life-giving breath.
We can read that with horror. To feel our fragility and need for God’s life-giving breath, to feel that moment-by-moment he upholds us by his Word. This is a vulnerable place to be. And yet it reveals our understanding of God’s love. To the extent that we feel our vulnerability is the extent that we experience the warmth of God’s love.
God’s love is such that he gave the Son. The Son took on and added to himself this fragile existence of the dust, that he might experience the pathway in front of us all. The pathway of suffering, decay, and death. Death overcomes us all. Join me in meditating this Lent on Death’s Overcoming.