We often oversimplify the human condition. It’s probably to help us sleep better at night. On one end of the spectrum, there is the idea that humans are inherently good. Of course, anyone that has witnessed broken relationships, crime, government atrocities, or reality television can tell you that’s not exactly true. Such an idea elevates us to a level that we do not deserve.
The other end of the spectrum says that we are evil, selfish creatures with hardly any redeeming value at all. That’s not entirely true either. Taken to its natural extension, such a humanity would not be worthy of any type of salvation.
Most of us realize that we are a lot more complicated than that. Within us all there is a great capacity for good and a horrible capacity for evil. From a theological perspective this makes a great deal of sense. Humanity is made in the image of God and thus there is goodness and value that lies within us. But we are also broken, frail, and sinful creatures and thus prone to evil. It is a tension and it is a tension that every human lives with.
That is an introduction for today, because today is a day that we remember that we are broken, frail, and sinful creatures. Today is Ash Wednesday, a day that pivots on two verses:
"…you are dust and to dust you shall return." - Genesis 3:19c
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news." - Mark 1:15
We are frail, not long for this world, and we live a life from which we need to turn. We are ashes and dust. Fortunately that is not the end of the story. There is a God that came to redeem us from our sin, our screw-ups, our shattered lives. Because that God looks at the world and loves it in spite of its broken nature.
We’ll get to that point of the story, but we need to start here. I am ash and dust, a mortal, sinful person. I need forgiveness. I need help. As do we all.