Genesis Selected Verses (NRSV)
Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.'
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 'As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.' God said, 'This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.' God said to Noah, 'This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.'
My first experience as a Christian was at age 10, when I met the God of my parents' traditions. Attending Ash Wednesday service was only that, a tradition, an experience of "what a Christian needed to accomplish that time of the year." Last year our church embarked in a reading and discussion about Ash Wednesday where we challenged our tradition, our parents' tradition and our desire to intentionally become consecrated to our God. We wanted to embrace this ritual and learned to fast, pray, and gift to others during the lent journey.
I can only imagine, that moment, that instance when God's hand created, shaped, and molded the human race from dust, from nothing special, only the dust that God has created in the first place. The Creator gifted Earth with a new form, the form God has desired. This creation was not an inanimate puppet; it was a living being, a moving, creative, and unique individual. But that was not all; God took this creature and breathed life, breathed the idea of "go and live, go and create, go and develop your character, go and develop yourself, go and use your strengths, abilities and weaknesses" to glorify God's name.
As we walk to be anointed with ashes in our foreheads, remember God has entrusted us with the ability to pray, fast, and gift, but also with the strength to overcome. Let us walk and celebrate, praise and honor the anointing of repentance, of newness, of discovery, of forgiveness, and holiness of that moment: the moment when God breathed on us. Let us ask that God continues this work during this season, this journey of Lent:
"Breath on me, breathe of me,
Holy Ghost Power, breathe of me.
Yesterday is gone. Today I'm in need.
Holy Ghost Power, breathe on me."
"Loving God, we understand that it does not take great [people] to do great things; can you help us to only be consecrated [people]?" (Phillip Brooks) You are the one that blew into our nostrils the breath of life, let us remember to break from our past by the ashes in our foreheads and help us expand your fire among your people so they can believe. Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Maritza Angulo de Gonzalez is pastor of Manantial de Gracia "Spring of Grace", UCC in New Britain, Connecticut