Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"Remember that you are dust" -- A sermon for Ash Wednesday

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Ash Wednesday, 2016.

We are tired.
We are hungry
And we can’t remember the last time we had a good night’s sleep.

We didn’t get the job.
We didn’t get the girl.
And we really, really want that cigarette

Our clothes don’t fit.
Our kids won’t talk.
And we’re putting off getting that lump on our breast checked out because we really don’t want to know.

We are scared.
We are lonely.
We feel utterly inconsequential.

We barely got up this morning, and by 10 am it was all we could do not to crawl back into bed.

People stopped asking us what we want to be when we grow up a long time ago and those dreams of what we could be died about that same time.

We try not to wonder what it’s all about … because most of the time we haven’t got a clue.

And we smile.
We pretend.
We say “OK” when people say “How’s it going?” not because we want to lie but because that’s the reflex, that’s what people want to hear.

Because this is what OK has become.

Because the real truth will just make us more different.
More vulnerable.
More alone.

Remember that you are dust.

How can we forget?

Today is the day we tell our secrets.
Today is the day we take off our masks.
Today is the day we wear our imperfection, our weakness, our mortality, our neediness for all to see.

Today we wear a sign that not only will these bodies return to the dust someday but indeed we already are. Strangely, wonderfully, problematically, troublingly shaped piles of dust making our way through the world.

Without all or even any of the answers.
Knowing our days are numbered but not knowing how many.
Utterly powerless against the forces of time, and decay and death.

Today we stand up and proclaim what we already know but  hardly ever say.
That we are dust.
That we feel like crap.
That we’re really not OK.
And that we don’t know what to do.

Today we remember that we are dust.
As if we could ever forget.

Today we remember one thing more.

That God is dust as well.

Today we remember that these strangely, wonderfully, problematically, troublingly shaped piles of dust that we are, are the very image of God.

That we being ashamed of our dustiness was something that we learned and not how we were made.

That hating our dustiness was something that we learned and not how we were made.

That God so loved our dustiness that God became dust once more in Jesus, to remind us of what we had forgotten. That we are not only W-H-O-L-L-Y wholly dust but that we are also H-O-L-Y holy dust.

And that no amount of fatigue or hunger, not getting the job or not getting the boy. No amount of rejection or castigation, fear or loneliness, pain or disease, uncertainty or despair can ever change that.

Remember that we are dust.

And that is how God made you.

That is how God continues to make you.

And God looks on you, yes you, in all your dustiness.

Different from everyone else’s dustiness and yet all in God’s image.

A dustiness that defies categorization despite so many efforts to try to make you fit into someone else’s idea of what that image should be.

God looks on you, yes, you in all your dustiness

And God smiles.

And dances.

And sings

And delights.

And rejoices.

And gazes on your dustiness and says, “This is very, very, very good.”

Remember that you are dust.

Dust not bound by others’ standards of beauty

Or success.

Or gender.

Or excellence.

Remember that you are dust.

Wholly and holy.

One with creation.

Never separate.

Never alone.

Remember that you are dust.



Never needing to be ashamed.

Remember that you are dust.

In pleasure and in pain.

In joy and in sorrow.

In soundest sleep and through the sleepless night.

In highest ecstasy of dust bodies being rejoiced in and in deepest agony of dust bodies being despised.

Remember that you are dust.

Strangely, wonderfully, problematically, troublingly shaped piles of dust.

Dust that is the image of God.





Remember that you are dust.

Your pain is exquisite.

Your hunger is ravenous.

Your doubt is devastating.

Your fear is paralyzing

Yet you need not hide.

You need not be ashamed.

For your dustiness is your divinity.

For your dustiness is your salvation.

Your dustiness is God’s delight.

Remember that you are dust.

Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.

Ever beautiful.

Ever worthy.

Ever the dancing light in the eye of God.


  1. This is the most beautiful post I've ever read. Thank you for this wonderful way to start Lenten. I'm going to read it every day!

  2. I dance every moment that I can. Now I know why. God is dancing also.

  3. God is also dust, of course! Thank you for a wonderful, new way of understanding our belovedness.

  4. This post expresses the beauty, love, authenticity and connection of us ALL. You wrote this on my birthday and on this day I visited Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles to impose ashes and be a presence for inmates and staff as a volunteer with PRISM (Episcopal Diocese). I so look forward to meeting you at All Saints Church. I'm going to save this post!