My son showed me another video a couple days ago that was a reflection on the fact that we are actually made of stardust. That our very atoms come from the stars and will return to the stars. That just as we are made of the universe, the universe is also made of us. It was an incredible reminder that even though dirt seems dull, ordinary, dirty, that that dirt is made up of the very stuff of life and of the stars and of the universe.
The clip I showed you tonight says something even more profound, however. On the surface it is just a reminder that we need to look more closely because in the dark places, those places that we don’t often look into with any depth, there is often much more to be seen than we can imagine. There is richness, there is light, there is unimaginable beauty and life. But I also think this clip says something about how God sees us. Because we have those dark places within us as well. We all have dark times and empty places and times of despair. And what this clip says to me is that it is often within that darkness, within the shadow, within the doubt and despair and the places that feel most empty that in fact there are amazing lights, possibilities of beauty, galaxies beyond our imaginings…all within ourselves. God sees them. As the psalm we read said today, “God, you have examined me and you know me.” God can see all those beautiful hidden stars and lights within you, but it takes us a little longer to look sometimes, to probe the depths of darkness and to see what stars are hidden within. It also takes effort and commitment. Just like in the video I showed, the scientists needed to decide to commit the time and resources to dig deep. We have to make that decision as well.
Lent is a time of reflection. It is exactly the right time to look at the dark places, the shadowy places, the hidden places within each of us, and within us as a group, as a whole, to search for the lights that cannot be seen without intention and commitment. With Ash Wednesday we begin the season of lent by remembering that physically we are dust. It is only with God and God’s love and God’s vision and God’s encouragement that we find the light within that dust, the life within that dust, the beauty within. That journey to look at that, to remember our dependence on God and to be willing to look at the dark places, this is not a comfortable journey. It calls us to look hard at our relationship with God and at our lives, to take the time to stare into what appears dark and evaluate what needs some attention. What in our life is a block to our relationship with God? What in our life needs more focus? What in ourselves are we afraid to face, afraid to confront, afraid to look at. God’s desire for life and community has imagined us into being. It is God’s breath that has breathed us into being. And it goes throughout us, even into those places that look to be dark and without light. What a wonderful metaphor: look into the shadows, into that darkness to see the galaxies hidden there within you, to experience the breath of God that is not experienced without intentional opening to it. Without that imagining, without God’s breathing, what are we? We are dust. Without God what do we become? Again, dust.
For today, I want these ashes, and if you choose, the glitter that looks like star dust, to serve two purposes. As you feel the ash on your face, I invite you to remember: to remember that the ash and starlight: this is this stuff of which you are made: that the dirt of the earth, the atoms of the stars have given you form. And then as you see the ashes and glitter on one another’s face, I invite you to remember that you are so much more than dirt. You are made of starlight. And within the dirties depths of your soul there are still galaxies of light waiting to be discovered. God made you this way. For it is God’s breath that has given you breath and it is throughout your being. God’s love has filled you with love, and that too is throughout your being. God’s spirit has blown into you, and has infused the dust and stars that are within you... into the spirit that is you. Amen.