A Lenten Message from Rev. Shelley

God’s Beloved Dust

The season of Lent begins with a necessary but unpleasant reminder: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” As a pastor, I feel deep empathy for the people who approach me, awaiting this reminder along with the imposition of ashes on their foreheads. Sometimes the words catch in my throat as I say them, because the people who receive these ancient words are congregants whom I have been called to love.

Most of us who will hear this reminder of our mortality at the beginning of Lent are ordinary human beings living ordinary lives. And yet we believe that all people are treasured and held by the God who has created all things from the dust — galaxies strewn with stars, a biosphere of plant life, the fish of the sea, the birds of air, the beasts of the field, and us.

During the forty days of Lent, we prepare for the coming Easter season by taking time to reflect. We consider our lives and our relationships, our connection to all of creation, and our responsibility for a planet entrusted to our care. Some Christians choose to give up a creature comfort or two in order to be intentional about focusing on their relationship with God during this time. Others choose to take up a practice instead — giving weekly to a food bank or shelter, setting aside a specific time to pray or read Scripture, volunteering time at a school, or donating blood.

Lent is an invitation to be increasingly mindful of the commandments to love God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Join us in person or online at Shadyside Presbyterian Church as we journey through this season which mirrors the forty days Jesus spent fasting and praying in the wilderness. Because, while it is true that we are dust and to dust we shall return, the lives we live in between matter — and we believe that you and I and all of us together are God’s beloved dust.

The Reverend Austin Crenshaw Shelley
Senior Pastor and Head of Staff

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