Friday, February 25, 2005

human nature

On Ash Wednesday I spoke these words to a number of people, of all ages, and I also heard them spoken to me: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3. 19). We are finite, limited, earthly, humble (from the latin humilis, low). Lent reminds us of our limitations, of our mortality. The earliest followers of Jesus saw these 40 days as a time to repent (change), to simplify, to become more grounded. They thought about the temptations of Jesus (Matthew 4, Luke 4), and how these temptations---to be powerful, to be spectacular, to be relevant---were their own temptations. They identified with the struggles that Jesus must have known in dealing with temptations, and saw these 40 days as a wilderness of time, if not place.

Of course the Bible also speaks of human nature in other ways---our capacity to love others, to become more like Christ, to be light in the world, to share in the glory of God (Psalm 8). These two understandings are always in tension. We are dust and we created in God's image. We can do remarkable good in the world and we can also do tremendous harm. We can create and we can destroy.

Lent is a time to reflect on our human nature, in light of who God is, and where God might be leading us. This reflection may lead us to shed our pride, our self-importance, our arrogance. We are dust, molecules assembled together, earthen vessels of chemicals and water, into which God breathes life and spirit. It is all the more amazing that Jesus takes our form, our humanity (Philippians 2), that he "stoops to our weakness", and it is all the more essential that we follow him, for only then will we make our way from the wilderness into the promised land.


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6:58 PM  

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