A Final Word…“My Dust Is Safe”

May 24th, 2018 | Category: A Final Word, Columns
By Rev. Daniel Gard

As I write this the Lenten season has begun. Here at Concordia University Chicago, our community gathered for Ash Wednesday just as we do every year. And once again I placed ashes upon the foreheads of young people who are filled with promise and hope for the future. But then I spoke these words to each of them, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you must return.” I have to admit that I had to fight back a tear or two as I spoke these very true words. Wherever God leads them in their vocations they, like every generation, will someday return to dust. Of course, that is not the end of the story.

This has caused me to reflect upon the vital mission of Lutheran education. This edition of Lutheran Education Journal speaks to multiple aspects of our vocation of bringing Lutheran faith-based education to a world in need. That need has always existed but it seems to me to be more acutely obvious in this strife-filled world of 2018. As I reflect back on my own 34 years of ministry, the context of Lutheran education has changed radically. But I know that you already are more than aware of this. You live it daily.

I do not know what the future holds for any of us, at least in terms of our existence on this side of heaven. When I began my ministry in 1984, I would never have imagined the dangerous world of students in 2018. None of us saw 9/11 coming and the on-going war on terrorism both overseas and in threats to our own land. Who would have foreseen the violence of mass murder even in schools where children are supposed to be safe to learn and grow? Or who would have known that today’s students would be positioned to hear of God’s beautiful plan for marriage as a life-long union of one man and one woman being contradicted and undermined by the culture’s promotion of sexual expressions that reject what it means to be a human created by God?

I could name other changes, as could you. But each of them is both a challenge and an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the mission we serve. There is a reality far greater than that which fills the daily news and the worries we might all have. Each student is a unique creation of God who is so loved by their Creator that He gave His only Son that he or she would be His forever. Yes, they are dust just as my generation is dust and as were earlier generations who have already returned to dust. Adam was formed from dust and we, the children of Adam, share his mortality that came with sin.

Even the most ardent secularist cannot deny human mortality. And this is precisely where Lutheran education separates itself from all others. Ours is not an education that leads to hopelessness, fear and separation from God and our fellow human beings. Ours is an education that is rooted in, and breathes out the greatest reality— God was in Christ Jesus reconciling the world to Himself. Lent takes us on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. But Lent does not finally leave us at a place of death. It leads us to Easter and the great news that Jesus is not among the dead but alive.

And so we are centered in a reality that promises more than returning to the dust. In Baptism, Jesus’ death and Resurrection becomes ours. The dust to which we must return is not the end of the story. He has already brought us from death to life eternal. And no fear, no worry and no power of sin, death or Satan can take that away. An 18th century ancestor of mine is buried in New Jersey. A lengthy inscription on his tombstone concludes with this beautiful confession:

My dust is safe

My soul at home

To meet with joy

When Christ shall come.

May our Lord bless our work in proclaiming the blessed Savior. LEJ