Back to Dust

Back to Dust.mov from St Stephen’s & St Wulstan’s on Vimeo.

1 April 2021

While Barack Obama was President of the United States, he was given a tour of the Pyramids in Egypt. There, in one of the lesser temples, he was shown the dark image of a man’s face. Nobody seemed to know who this man was. Was he a member of the royal court, a slave, a foreman, or even a vandal sketching his own likeness?

Obama reflected on the issues that once faced this unknown man, and those that soon faced him on his return to Washington. He says, “All of it was forgotten now, none of it mattered, the pharaoh, the slave, and the vandal all long turned to dust. Just as every speech I’d delivered, every law I passed and decision I made, would soon be forgotten. Just as I and all those I loved would someday turn to dust.”

It is not a bad thing for world leaders to know such humility, to realise that they are passing and will soon be history. It is not a bad thing for each of us to know the same. Except that it is not the whole truth.

It was not God’s original intention that we should turn to dust, and nothing more. True, we came from dust. In the beginning, we are told in Genesis chapter 2, “the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” We are more than dust. We are dust and breath: the dust of the ground and the breath of life, from God himself.

It was God’s judgment on sinful humanity, in Genesis chapter 3, that led him to say: “dust you are and to dust you will return.” And those words are repeated in every Church of England funeral, when the body is committed to the grave: “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

But how does that committal go on? “In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.” How can we move so swiftly from “dust” to “resurrection”? How dare we? The next words tell us: “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Only through him, but definitely through him.

For those who trust in Christ, and only those who trust in him, our final destiny is not dust but glory. 1 Corinthians chapter 15 would well repay any time spent reading it this Easter. There we learn that, “The first man (Adam) was of the dust of the earth.” We all by nature bear his likeness, born in him, formed from dust and turning to dust. But, “the second man (Christ) is of heaven.” And by grace we can bear his likeness, born again in him, raised from dust to glory, bearing “the image of the heavenly man” – sinless and deathless, and forever.

God our Father, we thank you for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, for raising us in him from dust to glory. Amen.

Chris Hobbs, Senior Minister