Remember, from dust you came, to dust you will return.
I went to school early today. When I saw my new friend Jake had the cross of ashes on his forhead, I made the comment that I saw he had already been to an Ash Wednesday service? For a moment he looked slightly puzzled as to why I knew this, then the recollection of his mark came back to him. No doubt this happened many times today all over the globe.
And this, I think, is an irony of Ash Wednesday. On most days I walk the earth very conscious of my sin, of the ways I have fallen out of step with God's rhythm, of the fact that I am nothing more than the dirt I once was and the dirt I will someday return to. But I can carry myself in such a way to make others oblivious to this fact.
On this day, however, Christians make a public declaration. In having the black stuff on our forhead as a sign of repentance, we are telling the world that on the times we forget who we are, we want you to at least be able to see it. Living in community does not provide for private acknowledgement of our sin. It requires that it is out in the open.
So know that I am so much more than the way I make you laugh or can find a book for you or can make a poignant, witty statement. I came from dust, and to dust I will return.