Dust to Dust
by Burk Parsons
In this world, we face matters of life and death every day. The morning after Terry Schiavo died, I was informed that someone I knew attempted to commit suicide. The next day in Rome, Pope John Paul II died. The morning after, I was asked by a dear man in our congregation to participate in his memorial service upon his death, and the next evening, my friend who attempted to commit suicide died.
When I was sixteen years old, my father, a World War II veteran, died of cancer. As a young man, the reality of death weighed heavily upon my heart, and the hard reality of life motivated me to know and love my heavenly Father. As a pastor, I am confronted with the realities of life and death on a regular basis, and I am constantly reminded that it is the Lord who gives life and takes it away. Although we came from the dust of the earth, we are creatures made in the image of God. For that reason we possess the dignity of the divine. Consequently, twenty-first century Christians must recognize that the sanctity of life is not first and foremost a topic on our political platform; rather, the sanctity of life is the essential criterion for life itself — life that was carefully formed by our eternal Creator and Sustainer. We affirm the sanctity of life not because we possess some sort of inherent holiness, but because we were created in the image of a holy God.
During the Renaissance, humanism became the prevailing religion influencing culture and art to the extent that even the church in Rome became persuaded of its man-centered philosophy. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel in Rome. Although a magnificent artistic accomplishment, it is indeed a humanistic depiction of the creation of man from the perspective of finite man in which the transcendent God is reaching out to touch the finger of Adam.
In Genesis 2:7, we read, “the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life ….” In this beautiful account of the creation of man, God is not far off, seated in the clouds as imagined by Michelangelo. Rather, as a potter, who gently shapes a precious vase, the LORD God omnipotent is depicted as the Creator who carefully forms His creation, breathing into man’s nostrils His very own breath. Indeed, it is before the very face of God we were created, and it is before His face we live for His glory, coram Deo.