Dust: A Love Story [Lenten Reflection]

By: Rev. Eric Doolittle, College Chaplain


ash-wednesday

Thousands of millions of years ago, God spoke and everything came into being. In the first micro seconds, the infinite energy released started moving from chaos to order. For a few brief moments, while particles and anti-particles collided, the universe almost winked out. Within seconds, most of the laws of physics were in place and the stuff of the universe started to become matter.

For a while, everything was just photons: it was a universe made entirely of light. Over time, God’s hand through gravity started to pull things together. Atoms bind together as hydrogen and helium.  The dust – atoms and molecules that make everything – begins to form.

A thousand million years after the start of time, the fiery furnaces of stars light up. In their hearts, nuclear forges fuse the dust together hydrogen and helium as smashed together to form larger elements. Over generations of stars, larger and larger atoms are made. Somewhere is that vast expanse, one star fuses together oxygen and another nitrogen. Somewhere in the creation one star fuses just the right amount of carbon that on its brilliant death a billion tons of diamonds blast out into the sky. As the stars blaze into life and fizzle into dust the hand of God in gravity begins to mix and form the dust into galaxies and groups and clusters, continuing to sift the chaos into order.

Nine thousand million years ago, God brings together just the right amount of dust in just the right amount of space to do something new. A new star forms and the dust around it clumps together as a system of planets. Lumps of rock and gas and water sorted by gravity squished together like balls of multihued Play-doh with just the right gravitation balance to spin. Over thousands of millions of years, God has put into place the right mix of ingredients, the stardust of generations of stars – carbon and oxygen, nitrogen and water molecules – to create a masterpiece.

Over another thousand million years, God stirs these ingredients carefully and slowly, binding together larger and larger building blocks. The dust becomes chains of complex chemicals. And ever so carefully, life begins: a unique gift in the vastness of the universe. This is the beginning of the most beautiful piece of creation. The simple creatures are divinely molded and over a thousand million years, the simple building blocks of DNA and RNA, are carefully molded into bacteria, and fungi, and plants, and animals: Slime and ooze, mushrooms and microbes, trilobites and T. Rexes, redwoods and roses, warblers and whales. The myriad of life. Each individual as complex internally as the stars that twinkle above, and yet, the masterpiece is not yet done.

Over a thousand million years, God shapes humanity from the same dust, the same chemistry, the same lineage, the same process. But this life is something new, something special. These earthlings formed from the dust of the Earth, the dust forged from the stars itself, are nurtured and molded by the patient and loving Creator. These creatures are beloved and blessed because they are created to understand, and to comprehend the presence of the Divine. They are mirrors and images of God made real. And into these most special beings, God breathes the divine breath, the Holy Spirit.

Over a thousand thousand years, God molds the dust into generations of humans. Some seek God. Others turn away. Still God loves and creates. Amidst the rebellion and refusal, the infinite Creator of all time and space, in compassion and loves pours the fullness of the divine into a human body and is born, lives, and dies amongst the dust. Still we are too stubborn and refuse to believe, to follow, and to repent.

Then, one day, a few hundreds of thousands of seconds ago, God formed together the dust of creation – from atoms forged in stars, from DNA knitted together over a billion years – a being nurtured in the water bonded in the heavens themselves and gathered in the life sustaining miracle of a mother’s womb. On that special day, a new masterpiece of creation was created. On that day, God breathed the Holy Spirit into a new person formed by the divine hand of God over thousands million years. On that day, God made mercy and grace available to a creature so special and unique, that the creator of all was willing to be born, to live, and die for them. On that day, you were formed of the dust of creation out of the stardust of the universe. Part and pinnacle of the miracle of life.

And now, right now, we are surrounded by the handiwork of the Divine. The product of thousands of millions of years. Forged in the stars. Clumped together into a lump of earth. Woven together from the dirt and muck. Still desperate to find meaning and purpose. Still wondering if life is a random accident. Still doubting God’s love and presence. All the while ignoring the miracles of creation in our very life. In our every breath, the divine intermingled with the mundane, a tapestry of beauty and wonder. Each one of us a masterpiece of God’s own hand.

Today and every day, O mortal, remember this day. Thou art dust. And God hath done might deeds to make you so.

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