Posted on February 14th, 2018
Memory is critical to survival. Remembering where you’ve been, how to navigate, which things are dangerous to eat – memory is very important.
Other memories are painful. Abuse, rejection, sins – the memories haunt us, and we want to suppress them or forget them.
But the memory of human origins is both the most painful and the most important memory to keep alive. It’s no surprise that creation and the nature of man are the most contentious issues of our day. If God made us, then there is a rule and purpose to our life that stands outside of us. If God made us, then He defines what is male and female, what is marriage, what is sin, what is life and death.
That’s a memory humans are forgetting. It’s not just that we’ve grown absent minded; the human race is actively deleting the memories, like a server being wiped of all the stored documents and emails.
Overwriting the true memory is a myth. We are not creatures created from the dust, but things evolved from slime, entirely by chance. Life is without meaning. The only meaning becomes what we control and experience. Talk of a Creator, an order to creation, a natural law, produces outrage.
Today, Ash Wednesday, names that myth for what it is: a lie. You need not be a slave to your desires. You are not the product of chance and circumstance. You are created, you have a Creator. God made you—and God hates nothing He has made.
The words of Ash Wednesday—Remember that you are dust—are terrifying. Yet there is comfort already in the dust. Because it reminds us that God made us from the dust. God shaped our first father Adam from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living being.
The sentence of death spoken over him is now smeared on our foreheads. Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
That puts life into perspective, doesn’t it? Everything you have and love—clothing and shoes, house and home, wife and children, and finally your own body—all of it must return to dust and ashes. The things you treasure are what moths and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal.
So why are you trusting in what does not last? Why do you hope in the things that decay? Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
The anger boiling within, the lust burning in your flesh, the hubris and selfishness – it all must die, it all must be destroyed in the fire of God’s judgment. Remember that.
But remember this also: God remembers you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He has not forgotten you.
I find these four verbs in Exodus 2 incredibly comforting. When the Jews were slaves in Egypt, and the Egyptians were murdering their baby boys, the Hebrews cried out to God for help. I’m sure it seemed that God was far away. And indeed, he wouldn’t act in a way that could be seen for some time. Things would get worse. But already God heard their cries: “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.” God heard, remembered, saw, and knew. This shows us what God’s remembering means: He sees, hears, and knows—and will act.
Isn’t that a beautiful thing? God remembers that He made us from the dust. God remembers us in death; Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Before you and I were yet made, He already remembered us and made a plan, to lift up the man of dust from the dust of death to resurrection.
And that’s why the ashes go on our heads in the sign of the cross. They point us to Jesus and how He overcame death, destroyed death for us.
He remembers us still. One of the men being executed along with Jesus turned to Him and said, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Do you know what Jesus said to Him? “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” That’s what happens when Jesus remembers us – death has no power over us.
Jesus remembers you at the Supper. Some Christians have made the Lord’s Supper just into a memorial meal, where we eat to remember Jesus. But we don’t remember Jesus the same way we remember George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. They are dead, and remembering them just gives us lessons from the past.
But Jesus says that when we eat His body and drink His blood, He is also remembering us; the words say This do into My remembrance. Just like the Jews in Egypt, who cried out and God remembered them, at this Supper Jesus is remembering you. He is saying, “Come, little child of dust, you belong to Me. I’ve been in the dust, I was laid in your grave. I live! And I remember you before the Father. You confess Me before the world, and I confess you before the Father!
Yes, remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Remember too, O man of dust, that Jesus remembers you in His kingdom.
Your sins He will remember no more.
You belong to Him. The ashes of death are not your end – resurrection is. +INJ+