He says this to each man, woman, and child in the congregation.
I bring him my children. Our children. He says it again.
“From dust you are and to dust you shall return.”
Does it prick his heart at all as he says these things to our baby?
Does any part of him object, rebel, when it looks on the dark mark on his own son or daughter?
My heart rebels, argues. Why death?
But I already know why, and the hard truth of it squeezes my heart.
How many of these, on whom he places ashes, will he bury?
How many will hear these words again at a graveside? How soon?
Our time is short.
The hand that holds mine as husband now touches my forehead as pastor. I receive what I’d rather ignore, and from such a hand.
Is there a part of him that trembles at the thought of my body’s death, even as I do at his?
Or has the faithful confidence of office soaked through his vestments and saturated his inner man?
Bodies file forward, receiving outwardly this mark of mortality. It fits, a little, with the aching joints, the graying hair, the weariness. It does not seem to fit on the children, and yet I remember. Tiny limbs can turn to dust, too.
I remember our hospital-fresh babies, resting in their father's gentle hands.
I see tiny limbs in pastor’s hands,
dressed in white for Baptism.
I see pastor’s hands touching the soft foreheads,
saying with the authority of God Himself:
“ Receive the sign of the holy cross †
on your forehead and † your heart
to mark you as one redeemed
by Christ the crucified”
I marvel at his steady hands, delivering Law and Gospel to weak-kneed saints.
His words, his hands tell us again that we are needy, crumbling.
His words, his hands make the sign of the cross in blessing, passing on solid peace to needy souls.
His hands. His words, passing on His Words.
Reminding dust that-- in Jesus-- dust lives.