Ash Wednesday Service


O God of our lives, as we gather on this Wednesday evening of fickle February, we invoke your presence as we begin a new leg of our pilgrimage. In the days to come, we will journey with Christ Jesus towards his death and our life. Be with us this evening as we remember our mortality. As our Lord turned to face Jerusalem, give us the grace to turn our faces to you. Hear us, forgive us, and assure us that you are with us; in Jesus’ Name. Amen.


PRAYER OF CONFESSION: from Psalm 51 (based on NLT)
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned.
I have done what is evil in your sight.
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean.
Wash me, and I will be brighter than new snow.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence.
Don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.


In the 1st Letter of John, we read that, if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. In the Name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.
Let us now complete our psalm of confession:
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.

Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you.
Let us all say, Amen.

SCRIPTURE READING: 2 Corinthians 5:20b–6:2
We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!

Tonight as we gather to admit our wrongdoing, receive a sign of our mortality, and—at the table—to be reconciled to God and to one another, we remember that we are not our own. Our very lives area gift of God. And in the scripture that we have heard, we hear a call to begin to see them in a different light. Even now, God is knocking at the door and rattling the latches of our slumbering hearts.

Here in this part of the world, we are aware that, even in the snow and cold of winter, God is at work, gently calling to life a beautiful spring. So may God be at work in us—even when we’re not aware of it.

Yes, God is at work in us during the Lenten season, awakening us to prayer and study, worship and recognition of God’s presence in our lives. It’s as though we are in a prison camp of our own failure, doubt, resentments, and wrongdoing—our narrow-mindedness, and our refusal to see God at work in the ordinariness of our lives.

But God can show us, as we make our way to the cross and the empty tomb how to take what we think of as average and mundane and fill those things with the miracle of love and deep gratitude for life. This is how God can guide us, step by step, word by word, prayer by prayer, to the joy of Easter, filled with the blooming flowers of springtime. Let us not waste our lives in what doesn’t matter. Let us make these Lenten days matter. We’ll begin with the sign of ashes, and a hearing once again that, for all our pretensions, we were created from the earth, and that we won’t live forever….
—inspired by Edward Hays  

As we turn our faces toward the cross and the empty tomb, be with us on our journey, O God. Bless us as we receive this sign of our mortality, and grant us the strength to follow our Lord Jesus, wherever our lives take us; in his Name. Amen.

Remember that from dust you came and to dust you shall return.

Bread of the world, in mercy broken,
wine of the soul, in mercy shed,
by whom the words of life were spoken,
and in whose death our sins are dead.

Look on the heart by sorrow broken,
look on the tears by sinners shed,
and be thy feast to us the token
that by thy grace are souls are fed.
—Reginald Heber

We are gathered as one this evening to admit our wrongdoing, to receive God’s forgiveness, and, in remembering our Lord’s sacrifice, to receive new life in his love. No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome at this Table. Christ invites us all to meet him here.

Bless us, O loving God, as we gather here to remember our Lord’s death on the cross. Send your Spirit upon these gifts and upon us. As we receive him in the bread and the cup, receive us as your children. May we share your love among each other and with the world around us. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.


CLOSING PRAYER: Song of Simeon
Lord, now dismiss your servant in peace according to your word, for my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all people: A light to shine on the Gentiles, and to be the glory of your people Israel.
—Luke 2:29-32

Marked as God’s people, go forth into the world and share God’s love with those you encounter. Knowing that our time is limited, make the most of each day: show kindness, work for justice, make peace. And as you journey toward Easter, know that God—Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit—is with you. Amen.
—inspired by Susannah DeBenedetto