“What God Can Do With Dust”

Beloved Church Family:

Ash Wednesday is jarring enough, without the background holding the news of a tragedy. Yesterday, we gathered amidst the news from my home state of Florida of 17 people, many of them teenagers, killed in a shooting. “Remember you are dust…” we pastors said to you, as if any of us needed a reminder.

I reflected today on Ash Wednesday and Parkland, and what it was like taking my kids to school today in a post that has been published by Christian Century here. I’ve never wanted to be the one to say those words “Remember you are dust…” to my children, and yet any time we acquiesce to the violence and brokenness of this world, we are saying just as much. So let us commit to remember our bond to one another and to Christ, especially on this day, so that we can do what we have in us to do.

All of us, no doubt, are praying. And we should. We understand that a somewhat cynical or frustrated attitude has surrounded prayer from those who justifiably say to people of faith among us, “Thoughts and prayers are not enough on their own.” But we also know that there are many ways to pray. So the question might not be whether we should pray, but how.

I hope you’ll pray prayers for those whose lives are broken, beyond our imagination, asking that they will know the love of God that is even greater than that. Pray for all of those educators – especially those among our church family – who are working every day on behalf of children. Pray for our kids and teens, whose lives are already worn, and stressful, and exhausting, and strained, and now even more acutely aware of how fragile it all is.

And along with your words, pray with your bodies, too. The Old Testament scholar, Michael Coogan, has pointed out that often in the psalms, prayers end with a closing vow – commitment to live into the boldness and love of the one to whom we pray. In prayer, we are believing that things can be other than they are. We summon God, believing that without God nothing will happen. But we must also be careful not to pray as though without us, everything will still happen. So pray with your body, by contacting your elected officials and letting them hear your voice, whatever your voice may be. Or commit to mentor a child who is falling behind. Or reach out to a teenager who is on the edges, who perhaps comes to mind even now. Check in with teachers and educators you know, telling them you love them and are standing with them. And commit with your daily life to love your neighbor as yourself, as though it really makes a difference here and now.

If you’re looking for a place where your prayers can mingle with others, our friends at Temple Emmanuel will be hosting an Interfaith Community Prayer Vigil tonight at 7:30pm at their campus on Jefferson Road.

Even as we face this pain — I read that it’s the 18th school-related shooting this year — let us also vow that we will not grow numb, or treat as an inevitability the violence we have seen. This is not the world as God created it to be. Last night remembered we are dust, with far too jarring reminders. But none of us pastors could even get those words out if we did not also remember what God does with dust. So let us continue in hope in the One who sees even in our dust the materials that make for re-creation and resurrection.

A Pastor’s Love,