Wednesday, March 2, 2022 Ash Wednesday Service

March 2, 2022

7:00 p.m.

 

Time of Gathering

 

Invocation

God of the wanderers in the wilderness—From Hagar to Elijah, and Miriam to Jesus—

you have been with us in our hunger and our thirst, in our doubt and uncertainty. We come to you in this moment of invocation desiring your presence more deeply, yet we know that your presence needs no summoning; you need no invoking, for you are already and always with us. Emmanuel in the bleakness. Emmanuel in our iniquities.

So, invoke us, O God. Renew us as we begin this journey of transformation. Restore us as we strive to be our most compassionate selves. Revive us when we feel that all is lost. Help us to mend what has broken for the sake of justice and mercy as we walk humbly with you. Amen.

 

Call to Worship

L: From the shadows of isolation and shutdowns

P: We gather to be with our God, who brings us the light of hope.

L: From the silence of our homes or in socially distanced worship spaces,

P: We gather to be with Jesus, who will not let anything, now or ever, separate us.

L: From the hollowness of our hearts and the hunger for human touch,

P: We gather to be with the Spirit, who feeds us for the Lenten journey,

who marks us as God’s very own.

 

Old Testament Lesson  Joel 2:1-2, 12-18  NIV

1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill.

Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming.

It is close at hand—

2 A day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness.

Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes,

such as never was in ancient times nor ever will be in ages to come.

12 “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart,

with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 Rend your heart and not your garments.

Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate,

slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

14 Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing—

grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God.

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.

16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders,

gather the children, those nursing at the breast.

Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber.

17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar.

Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord.

Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations.

Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”

18 Then the Lord was jealous for his land and took pity on his people.

The Word of God….Thanks Be To God

 

Evening Prayer

Even if we had them from a year ago, God of our lives, we would not be able to burn the palm

branches, for they would be too soaked by the tears of loneliness, of emptiness, of these months of so much uncertainty.

But we do bring ashes in this moment, this day, this night, Companion on our journey, those ashes from an overwhelming year, the ashes from dreams turned to nightmares, the ashes of the jobs we lost, the anniversaries, the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, the funerals we dared not attend.

So, Spirit of the silence of our days, take these ashes of our lives and mingle them with the dust from our crumbled hearts and our shattered souls, to mark us with that hope which has never left us even though we may not have realized that it, like you, was as close as the very next breath we take.

As we gather wherever we are, as we hold out our empty hands and our emptier hearts and souls, we would offer that prayer we have been taught. (The Lord’s Prayer)

 

Psalter Reading Psalm 51:1-12  (NLT)

A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with

Bathsheba.

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;

according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;

so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.

5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

The word of God….Thanks Be To God

 

Call to Reconciliation

On this night which has seemed to last a year, we once again begin that pilgrimage toward the promise of Easter. But, fresh as this moment and as old as the dust of the earth, we must speak of how hard it has been for us to be the faithful people God calls.  Let us pray together, saying,

 

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness

We have tried, God who knows our intentions; we have tried so hard to be your people, especially in these times of confusion, fear, and worry. We did a good job, at first, caring for those worse off than us, but now it has become easy to care more for ourselves. We are uncomfortable seeing

ourselves as people of privilege.

Yet, while we know how badly we have tried, we know that from the ashes of our foolish choices and lives, you can create new life and hope, God of broken hearts. You mark us as your own, so we can turn from greed to generosity, so we can move from fear to faith, so we can stand with the oppressed and forgotten, to ensure that the justice we take for granted is shared with them. You mark us as your own so that we might follow Jesus, who models for us how to turn away from evil to live as people of hope and grace.  Amen.

 

Silent Prayer

 

Assurance of Pardon

L: Here is the good news: God does not socially distance from us, but comes close to hear our prayers, to

fill our emptiness, to walk through the ashes of uncertainty, to journey with us in this holiest of seasons.

P: In the midst of a pandemic of uncertainty, we can trust in the comforting, the forgiving, the

restoring heart of the God who loves us.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

 

Meditation   Rev. Debbie Scott

 

Invitation to the Lenten life

It was not with great confidence or that assurance which had no doubts, which were companions with Jesus as he journeyed to what awaited in Jerusalem. It was the uncertainty of what might happen; it was the loneliness of the pilgrimage as he experienced more and more isolation, especially from friends who stayed as far away as possible. So, after our years of uncertainty, loneliness, distancing, we may realize afresh what this season called Lent is truly all about.

For we have been in the wilderness tempted, like Jesus, to trust in those who told lies, who offered false hopes, who longed for us to embrace their broken promises. Not for the first time, yet fresh once more, we accompany Jesus to Jerusalem. We have known what it is like to have to fast from human

companionship, and to struggle to find the words to offer in prayer to our God.

We have struggled from endless days to weeks that seemed as long as months to keep the practices of faithful living which would strengthen us to work for justice, to offer hope, to not give up. So, in these moments and in the coming days, may we draw comfort and energy from those timeless acts passed down to us of silence, feasting on the word, and prayer. As we remember our baptism into faith, as we are marked as Christ’s own, we prepare ourselves to come to God, on this holy night.

 

Imposition of the ashes

Perhaps we remembered to save those palm branches from last year’s services. But if not, we have enough ashes, those which come from our shriveled souls, those which we gather up from dreams

deferred, those from the grief which is too painful to touch.

But, by the grace of our God who has been with us in every moment, we can take these ashes, both real as well as metaphorical mixing them with the oil of grace so that we can touch our heads, our hands, our hearts, our souls, our hopes with them, whether real or virtual reminding us that, from the dust of a year which has crumbled around us,

God touches us with those never-ending gifts of reconciliation and hope of justice and restoration of generosity and grace-filled hearts so that we might once again, and always, live as the people God longs for us to become. Whether we are touched by another or mark ourselves as God’s own, may we never forget that, though we are dust and will return to dust, God continues to create life and hope from the dust of the stars, as well as us.  Amen.

 

(In these uncertain moments, some will be able to be marked with the ashes physically, while others may be reminded of their mortality, as well as their place in God’s heart, by making the sign of the cross on their foreheads or the backs of their hands)

 

Ashes and Anointing

In David’s time, when a public confession was made, people would put on sackcloth, and smear ashes on their heads. This was a sign that they were truly sorry and that they were committed to following God’s way. Today we will do this by receiving the symbol of ashes in the shape of a cross on our

foreheads or our hands. The ashes, taken from the ashes of last year’s Palm Sunday palms, are a symbol of how sorry we are. They have been mixed with oil which is a symbol of God’s healing.

 

Thanksgiving Over the Ashes

L: The Lord be with you.

P: And also with you.

L: Let us pray: (unison)

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth; Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, so that we may remember that only by your gracious gift are we given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

“Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return”

 

Unison Prayer

Loving and merciful God, we have offered our confessions as a symbol of our desire to let go of our past mistakes and begin again. We have been anointed with ashes as a reminder of our mortality and our  dependence on you. Just as ashes fertilize the ground and help new plants grow, so may these

ashes  remind us of your Spirit, which gives us new life and helps us grow. We have been anointed with oil as a sign of your healing power in our lives. O God, thank you for the gifts of forgiveness and new life. Amen.

 

Benediction

L: Smudged this night with the ashes of penitence,

P: We will go out to share God’s forgiveness with those we have hurt, with those who are forgotten.

L: We will go out to bring healing to the broken,

P: To offer grace to those trampled by the powerful.

L: Called this night to journey through suffering to new life,

we will go out to stand with those experiencing injustice,

P: To share the Spirit’s peace and reconciliation with the world.

 

Our ancestors in the faith used ashes as a sign of our repentance,

a symbol of the uncertainty and fragility of human life.

Like them, we have tasted the ashes of hopelessness;

we have walked through the ashes of our loss and pain;

we have stood knee-deep in the ashes of our brokenness.

 

God of our lives, out of the dust of creation you have formed us and given us life.

May these ashes not only be a sign of our repentance and death,

but reminders that by your gift of grace in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer,

we are granted life forever with you. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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