top of page

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

On Ash Wednesday… on this day when we implore the people, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” (see Genesis 3:19), it seems oddly out of place, at least at first glance, to also issue a plea for reconciliation to God. Sure, there are immediate parallels that might be drawn. The creator God formed humanity out of dust and breathed God’s very own life and spirit into the lifeless form. The resurrecting God can re-gather that same dust and breathe again. Check . Let’s all go home. Unless, of course, there is something more to be heard here… something that happens in the liminal space between creation from dust and return to such… something all wrapped up in lament and silences and presence and salvation that require more time and attention than we often want to surrender. Acceptable time. Time that has now come (and lingers).

Paul doesn’t miss a beat in this letter to the Church at Corinth. Just as Christ became something he was not, for the sake of righteousness; Paul already claims to have taken a page from that book and to have “become all things to all people” (see I Corinthians 9). Since his own second chance at life and ministry, he has been careful not to cause others to stumble, but he doesn’t want the Corinthians to be unaware of the risks (which all too often have become the reality). To “commend” here (συνιστάνοντες; sunistanontes) might also mean to “consist.” When Paul lists as the life of God’s servants: great endurance, afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, and hunger; he does not qualify this with “maybe” or “sometimes.” These are not just occasional attributes: They define the essence of life itself, and a chosen life at that.

Think carefully. God is listening. God is helping and saving. But we are still dust.

Do we dare risk this kind of hazardous existence? It’s tenuous! As I read this list, I can almost feel my skin shedding. But that’s not really all that unusual. I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Donald Miller in his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: “The human body essentially recreates itself every six months. Near