Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the season of preparation that leads up to Easter. Scores of Christians will get get the mark of the Cross on their foreheads with ashes. The ashes remind us that we are mortal, that we are dust and to dust we will return. They also are a sign of repentance, a symbol of a change of heart and life (as the Common English Bible puts it).
The ashes that mark the beginning of Lent bring this word to mind: Genesis.
As is the case with much of our religious expression, that word, Genesis, is lost on us. It’s a book of the Bible. The first one. It’s just a name, a word that we’ve spoken so many times (like sin, grace, repentance and salvation) that it’s beauty is lost on us.
Genesis means “beginning.” Genesis is an unveiling. It’s an explosion of not yet into right now. It’s vulnerability. It’s exposure. It’s danger. It’s immediately what might be. It’s God’s great risk and God’s daring pursuit to be with us.
Our genesis has become known for the fall and the curse that came after it. After our great fall, God said: You are dust, and to dust you shall return.
When paradise was lost and the first genesis with it, it seemed that God had ordered our fateful end just as soon as God had orchestrated our improbable beginning. Just as soon as God saw that it was good, God saw that we had chosen bad. And it seemed that God indicted, tried and sentenced us. But then God showed who God is.
Geneses. God is the God of beginnings.
When it seemed that God had written out the end, God was just drawing out a new beginning. Just when God exposed betrayal, God clothed the traitors. And just as soon as God pronounced death, God named Life (Eve).
This is not just the predominant theme of the first book of the Bible. It’s the theme of scripture. It’s the theme we hope God will help us to (re)discover during the Easter Season.
It’s who Jesus is.
So on this Wednesday, be marked by ashes. Embrace that you are dust and to dust you shall return, that you are fallen and mortal. Turn your gaze to Jesus and His Cross. Name the ways you’ve separated yourself from God and others, and ask God to release and reconnect you. Look towards the end of your false self and the beginning of your true self.
But also turn your gaze to what’s beyond the Cross: Genesis. During this season, and always, celebrate the God of geneses. Walk with that God who has become known to us in Jesus Christ, who gives us the brightest of new beginnings everyday and for eternity.
Image: Edi Wibowo via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Salib_abu_1.jpg.