"Dust Thou Art"

 

Ash Wednesday Sermon

Genesis 3: 16-24 "Dust Thou Art" March 6,2019

We all know the story of Garden of Eden. God places Adam and Eve in the Garden; he warns them to stay away from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Of course, they don’t listen. Not only are they disobedient, they lie about their disobedience. God tells them, now that they know Good and Evil, they will suffer. Let us listen for the Word of God…


16 To the woman he said,
“I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing;

in pain you shall bring forth children,
yet your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”
17 And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,

and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve,[a] because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

 

One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and we no longer needed God. So, they picked one scientist to go and tell God they really didn’t need Him anymore.

The scientist walked up to God and said, "God, we've decided that we no longer need You. Our scientific knowledge is so advanced, we can do fine without You. We're at the point we can even clone people, we don't need you here anymore, you can go your way "

God listened very patiently and kindly to the man. After the scientist was done talking, God said, "Very well, how about this? Let's say we have a man-making contest?"

To which the scientist replied, "Okay, great!"

But God added, "Now, we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam."

The scientist said, "Sure, no problem," and he bent down and grabbed a handful of dirt.

“Wait a minute,” said God, "You create your own dirt!"

“Dust thou art and to dust thou returnest.”

We may be just dirt, but we are God’s dirt.

 

Some 4.5 billon years ago, scientists tell us there was no life of any kind on earth. Not only that, there was no prospects for life either. There was nothing here which would allow life to grow. All the crucial elements which make life possible were missing.

Right about that time, the earth was pulverized with meteors. These meteors were crammed with what scientists called the building blocks of life: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. After those meteors hit, then life was possible.

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, all that was needed for life was sent from heaven above to land on earth. One scientist said, “We literally come from the stars. We are star dust.”

We are not just any dirt. We are God’s dirt. What makes us special, is that we are made from the same stuff which makes up the heavens.

Psalm 8 talks about the creation of humanity and the Psalm says,

“O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is thy name in all the earth!

Thou whose glory is above the heavens…

3 When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
the moon and the stars which thou hast formed;
4 what is man that thou art mindful of him,
and the son of man that thou dost care for him?

5 Yet thou hast made him little less than God,
and dost crown him with glory and honor.

The writer of Psalm 8 is honestly perplexed. Why would the God who put so much effort into the creating the galaxies, with all its beauty and perfection, why would this same God treat human beings in such high regard?

People are all nice and good, but you and I both know, we are not perfect like the Aurora Borealis on winter night is perfect. We are stubborn, selfish, and, as the story from Genesis makes clear, we are clearly flawed.

Even with people we love, we can be difficult. A planet isn’t difficult. A planet doesn’t argue about staying in its orbit. A moon doesn’t tell “white lies.” A butterfly nebula doesn’t fly off the handle.

Psalm 8 says that God thinks so much of us, that, “Thou hast made up a little less than God and has crowned us with glory.”

And, God doesn’t just give us glory, God actually takes it a step farther, God gives us authority over all this wonderful creation.

So, Psalm 8 tries to understand, why would the God who created this vast universe, place human beings so high up in the scheme of things?

"Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet,"
 

In the story from Genesis, God places Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God warns them not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. AND, God even tells them if they break this rule, they will die. After being caught, God lectures them on all the ways their lives will now be difficult. God ends his lecture by saying, “Dust thou art and to dust thou returnest.” It isn’t like God didn’t warn them. God did. We might predict how this could end, except it doesn’t really end like its predicted.

 

Do you see what happens? Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden. But, then what? God DOESN’T kill them. They don’t die. Now, you might say, “Well, God didn’t mean they would die immediately. God meant they would die eventually. Well, maybe. Except God was pretty explicit with his warning. God didn’t say if you eat from the Tree that some day you will die. God said, “On THAT day, you will die.” They didn’t.

In fact, not only does God not kill them, God actually makes provisions for them. God makes them clothing. God goes out of the way to provide for them.

Why is that? They were just dust after all, and not obedient dust at that! Why did God protect us, his stubborn dust?

Because we are more than just dust to God. We are God’s special and beautiful stardust. As flawed and frail as we are, as tempted as we are to go ff course and break our orbits, God still has a soft spot for us.

I think when God said, “Dust thou are and to dust thou returnist,” God was telling us two things. Yes, we are made from a bucket of dirt and someday our body will return to the earth. However, the fact of the matter is, that only amplifies the testimony of God’s love for us. A person doesn't just go through all that much effort to protect, preserve and provide for a bucket of dirt. However, a perseon would go through great lengths to protect, preserve, provide for something or someone who dear to us. Yes, our body may come from the earth and yes, our body may return to the earth, but our soul is from the stars.

“Dust thou art and to dust thou returnest,” It sounds like punishment. But, it is really a way of saying just how special we are to God. No one goes through that kind of effort just for dirt.

 

Like Adam and Eve, we will often have to pay the price for our sins, but this story reminds us God loves us too much to relegate us to some black hole or forever dispatch us to oblivion.

During this season of Lent, we confess we are like dust. We are common, imperfect, and flawed, but we are God’s dust. We may get off course, but let’s remember God is pulling for us. The gravity of God’s love is drawing us back to the Garden of Eden. We may not get there in this lifetime, but, we will get there in the next. I think Psalm 8 would agree with the lyrics of that the old Joni Mitchel song

“We are stardust, we are golden

And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

 

TO GOD BE THE GLORY FOREVER AND EVER. AMEN.