Anita Crews, R.I.P.

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The theme of every Christian memorial service is this: from dust to glory. But in order to understand this properly,we need to grasp the deep reality of our fall into sin and all that it entailed.

God fashioned the first man out of the dust of the ground, and because man is the image and glory of God,this is the first iteration of dust to glory.

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7).

After our fall into sin, God included dust in His formulation of the curse. Dust had been our point of departure; it was also to be our future destination.

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3:19).

Note that phrase dust thou art. We came from dust, we are going to dust, and we are dust in between. Dust thou art.

The memorable phrase earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust is taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1662).

“Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes,dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life,through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.”

That idea of ashes also comes from the book of Genesis, but from a different place.

“And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27).

This theme of dust is a common mode of thought throughout all the Scriptures. I don’t want to belabor the point, but the Word of God reminds constantly of something that we work pretty hard to forget.

Here is a small string of such passages:

“All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust” (Job 34:15).

“For he knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14).

“Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust” (Ps. 104:29).

“All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (Ecc. 3:20).

“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecc.12:7)

The picture is a grim one.The descent into death seems like an inexorable descent. Nothing whatever can be done about it. That reality has such an iron grip on our minds that it seems like a natural law.

I recently had an interesting clash with a number of non-believers when I said this: “The cornerstone of natural law is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” I said that because Jesus rose from the dead in this world, and the death He rose up from was the dust of death. His resurrection was as much a phenomenon in the natural world as anything else we might see around us.

As the psalm that prophesied His death put it:

“My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death” (Ps. 22:15).

Just as the dust of the ancient world provided God with His raw material for Adam, so also the dust of death provides the raw material for the general resurrection from the dead. The dust of death provided God with exactly what He needed to remake all things in the image of His Son.

Everyone, Christian and secularist alike, believes that life can arise out of that which is not alive.Christians are simply distinguished by their belief that what happened once can certainly happen twice. You can tell me that the second time might be unlikely, but you cannot tell me it is a violation of natural law if you already believe that it has happened once. The evolutionist believes that life crawled out of that which was not alive. Was that a violation of natural law?

Of course not, and Scripture gives us a strong consolation in Isaiah.

Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust:For thy dew is as the dew of herbs, And the earth shall cast out the dead”(Is. 26:19).

It was the Word of God that brought us out of the dust of the ground in our first father Adam. It was the Word of God that relegated us to the dust of the ground because of our complicity in his sin. And finally it was the Word of God that predestined us to the glory that we will inherit in the resurrected and glorified Christ. It is a common saying that nothing is more certain than death and taxes.

But Christians need to add another certainty. Nothing is more certain than the resurrection. We must not make the mistake of saying that death is certain while resurrection is iffy. No. The resurrection is built on the same first foundation

On that basis, we absolutely know what the future holds for Anita Crews—the same thing that it holds for all of us—the “sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life”

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.