Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and
from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we
begin this Lenten season with contemplation on the Gospel reading.
It is good to visit those who are dying. They have a
perspective on this life. For those who are struggling with death, be it cancer
or be it living out their last days in a nursing home, it is good because it is
a great balancer to what matters in this life. It is the same overseas in a
combat zone when everyday you face death and you begin to realize the things
that really matter, but the temptation, just like here, is to become numb to
such thought. For to contemplate such a thought for any extended period of time
is overwhelming, and finally, you end up saying, “Lord, I am in Your hands. May
it be done according to Your will.”
“Dust you are and to dust you shall return.” How strong
those words must have struck Adam when he heard them spoken from his God: “Dust
you are and to dust you shall return.” But as soon as those words were out of
God’s mouth, you know who was right beside Adam.
“It’ll never happen to you, Adam. Not in your time. You’ve
got lots of time to enjoy life, do the things you want to do, pursue the things
you wish to pursue, be the person you wish to be. That’ll come all in time.
Leave it not to this day’s worry. For didn’t your Lord say today has enough
worries of its own? Don’t worry about tomorrow. Live today.” And that is how
your and my mind works with Satan’s prodding. We’re bent that way to begin
In this life, we come to terms at various stages in our life
of the things that have meaning and matter in this life, and the things that
matter not, and it is often a shock to us. We spend so much energy to become
something, to have a name given, to achieve some goal. And then there’s health
and then there’s retirement, and then there’s how others view you who don’t
know what you have done and accomplished. The things of God and the things of
man are very much at opposite ends.
Dust you are and to dust you shall return.
I wish with all my heart that I could tell you I’m a strong
man. I’m a frail and fragile person. I wish I could tell you that I’ve
accomplished so much in my short amount of time. I haven’t done enough. I wish
I could point out things that have meaning in this life and say I had a part in
that. I can’t. And neither can you, for it is God who accomplishes things
through us; isn’t it, as we spoke about Sunday. And it is God who gives and God
who takes away.
The book of Job, when Job is confronted with such things of
God, things of men, things of this world, things not of this world, Satan said,
“The only reason that your servant praises you is because you have given him
these things, good health, a beautiful family, and so on. Take them away and
see if he praises you,” Satan said. God allowed such things to come upon His
servant Job, as God allows those things to come upon you and upon me of which
we did not desire and of which is in God’s hands. And having come upon us in
such a manner, we are left wondering.
Dust you are and to dust you shall return.
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” our
Lord Jesus said. And it’s those things in this life that we have to ask: Where
is our treasure? What is it that matters so much to us? Where is our pride, so
full that we cannot admit we are weak and incapable? What is that which is so
important to us? Satan loves to bring that up to the forefront of our mind, and
because we are already enjoying and encouraging someone to notice those things
that we have done, we fall right along line with his promptings.
To lay up treasures for ourselves in heaven is not to
accomplish anything in this world. To lay up things or treasures in heaven is
to sit and receive from God His service. When the disciples struggled with Him
washing their feet, they laid up treasures for themselves in heaven because it
was they who were being served. When you receive the very body and blood of
Christ with the bread and wine, it is laying up for yourselves treasures in
heaven, because it is receiving His treasure.
Paul described it in another way. God made Him who knew no
sin to be sin for you. He became dust for you that you may inherit eternal life
and flesh. He became broken and crushed and ridiculed that you may have none of
those, and they are not achieved or attained or accomplished by your hand or by
your sweat. They are received. He is the giver; we are the receiver. He is the
actor; we are the one being acted upon. That’s laying up for yourselves
treasures in heaven. It is coming to terms with our “dustness” that we enter this
season of Lent and the things that matter.
There was a beautiful example in Mary and Martha, wasn’t
there. Martha was busy at work, accomplishing many things, feeding and caring
and cleaning and doing all those things that are lauded in this life and
praised in this life, and it was the one who looked lazy that was praised by
Remember you are but dust and to dust you shall return.
Receive again the treasure that you can lay up for
yourselves in heaven, that Christ has taken upon himself your weakness and your
shame, your guilt and your fragility, your pride and vanity, and has given you a
humble and contrite heart to receive such blessings. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to life everlasting.