Now is the acceptable time!


Now is the acceptable time


By Keith Spencer

Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return –
Words that echo back into the mists of memory
that threaten ever to rob them of meaning, meaningless,
even as we hear them and pause in a moment’s reflection,
we in time to be resolved into a mere allergen
for which a dozen over-the–counter medications
could confront our very presence with pharmacological defiance.
Dust. We are dust.

That we must all face our finitude
despite the seeming greatness within our grasp,
the dreamy potential of achievement,
to make a name, to leave our mark,
to acquire the prestige whereby others nod their heads
in our direction
and that our footfalls on this earth shall endure
despite the wind and rain and time that soften their impressions.
That our time has in aggregate meant something,
to someone, somewhere.

That our name, if not some portion of the best of who we are,
who we by then might have been,
may yet be,
would have survived and be whispered still,
our name.
But no, we are dust.
And to dust we shall return.
We must begin our conversation there
in complete humility. 

A word so much despised
in a time that labels all true humility false,
practiced for gain, sympathy, for the cameras,
to manipulate friends and random strangers.
And true humility, if indeed it could be found,
would be in our time declared a detriment
to achieving anything that matters in life,
a weakness that some months or years of therapy might remove,
something else to blame our parents for,
a word carried along in memory
by the incessant drone of pastors from pulpits,
pastors who lift their pants legs and carry their shoes
not wanting to risk ruin as they cross the threshold
from carpeted floors to the potholed roads of real life.

But now is the acceptable time!
To turn in humility and embrace the emptying of oneself,
the dying to oneself, being raised up from the dust,
being reconciled to God in Christ Jesus,
being nothing to become everything in Christ,
the ground of our being,
the heart of it all,
to be the righteousness of God and want for nothing more;
raised from death into life,
by the obedience of Christ, by the mercy of God,
by the power of grace.

Now is the acceptable time.
Now is the day of salvation.
And we being the righteousness of God,
should not these ashes mark our hearts instead,
to hold our hearts more steadfast in love for those
whom Christ holds most dear;
ashes to mark our own discomfort,
our own hesitation,
our own desire to place limits on our love,
as Christ himself prepares to pour himself out
for the sake of the world,
becoming everything for us by becoming nothing for himself?
Now is the acceptable time.
Now is the day of salvation.

Keith Spencer is the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Pembroke Pines, Fla.

You might also want to read:
Ash Wednesday: telling the truth
Dust to dust, ashes to ashes
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