The Smudge We Bear

posted Mar 8, 2019, 2:48 PM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace to you in this season of Lent!

It was with a quiet joy on Wednesday I said the following blessing by Jan Richardson from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons before imposing ashes on beloved church members:


All those days you felt like dust, like dirt, as if all you had to do was turn your face toward the wind and be scattered to the four corners

or swept away by the smallest breath as insubstantial—

did you not know what the Holy One can do with dust?

This is the day we freely say we are scorched.

This is the hour we are marked by what has made it through the burning.

This is the moment we ask for the blessing that lives within the ancient ashes, that makes its home inside the soil of this sacred earth.

So let us be marked not for sorrow. And let us be marked not for shame. Let us be marked not for false humility or for thinking we are less than we are

but for claiming what God can do within the dust, within the dirt, within the stuff of which the world is made and the stars that blaze in our bones and the galaxies that spiral inside the smudge we bear.

What a humbling privilege it was to smudge the sign of the cross on foreheads, look people directly in the eyes, and say, “From dust you came, and to dust you shall return. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” For in that holy moment, we both were connected by the Spirit as we remembered our mortality, our fragility, our weaknesses; and yet, we also were assured that we're fearfully and wonderfully made of God’s star dust. As each person returned to their seat, my hope was that we claimed “what God can do within the dust” and that is to bring resurrection to places we thought death lived. But before we can experience this new life, God calls us to let go and release what hinders us from a more intimate journey with God. As I prayed on Wednesday, I continue to pray for us during our journey toward the cross and resurrection: Our minds and our spirits are cluttered with many thoughts and feelings that threaten to pull our attention away from God. Let us unclench our fists and release these things: We release all that we have done today–whether for good or for ill. We release all that we feel like we should have done today, but did not do. We release all that we need to do tomorrow. We release our fear. We release our anxiety. We release our impatience. We release our pride. All of the thoughts, all of the feelings that pull us away from you, O God, we release (Spacious Faith). 

You, beloved, are made of God’s star dust. Look and see what the Holy One can do with dust.

In gratitude for the joy of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish