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Ash Wednesday Worship - 17th February 2021



A different kind of Ash Wednesday - From Penny Snowden


Ash Wednesday is the day we mark the beginning of our Lenten journey with the realisation that this year our situation continues to be challenging. In previous years we would go to church and would literally bear the mark on our foreheads with ash created from the burning of our palm crosses from last year, the ashes symbolising both death and repentance.

Those of you who are not intrepid enough to follow Rhian’s example and make your own ash, with all the appropriate health and safety advice, could perhaps trace the shape of the cross on your forehead with your finger, remembering your baptism.


What else CAN we do this Lent? We can continue to do the little things and open our eyes to see God’s presence around us. We can keep the faith and be joyful. Perhaps we can be more in tune with our path towards Easter this year?



Ash Wednesday

Liturgy of the Ashes


Opening Hymn: Forty days and forty nights



Let us begin our prayer together . . .

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

Amen.


The Collect for Ash Wednesday

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have made and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may receive from you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.


Today we gather,

with Christians across the world,

to mark the beginning of the holy season of Lent.

Today is Ash Wednesday.

God calls us to repentance,

to bring our sins and burdens before him

and ask his healing

and forgiveness.

What have you to bring?

What do you ask forgiveness for?

What in you needs the healing of Jesus Christ?

In stillness, we come into the presence of the God

who is always forgiving,

always merciful,

always compassionate,

always loving.


SILENCE




The Collect for Ash Wednesday

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have made and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may receive from you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. AMEN


Lord,

as we begin this holy season of Lent,

may we turn back to you with all our hearts,

in prayer,

in fasting,

and in giving alms to the poor;

that our sins be forgiven

and our hearts mended.

Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.



Scripture Reading

Joel 2:12-17NRSV


A reading from the prophet Joel.

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. 14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God? 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; 16 gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy. 17 Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep. Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”
This is the word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.






Psalm

Psalm 51:1-17 NRSV Psalm 51 1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. 5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. 6 You desire truth in the inward being;[a] therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right[b] spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing[c] spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 14 Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. 17 The sacrifice acceptable to God[d] is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.


The Gospel

St John 8 1-11 NRSV


Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!

A pure heart create for me, O God,

and give me again the joy of your help.

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!


A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John


1 While Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.[a] 9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, sir.”[b] And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

The gospel of the Lord.

Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.




Blessing and Distribution of Ashes



Let us ask God our Father

to bless these ashes

which we will use

as the mark of our repentance.


Silent Prayer


Father, we gather in your presence on this Ash Wednesday, to seek your forgiveness and to ask your help in living our lives better. For the times when we have failed to love: have mercy, Lord. For the times when we have not noticed the needs of others: have mercy, Lord. For the times when we have refused to forgive: have mercy, Lord. These ashes are a sign of our repentance.


Bless them, Lord,

and make them a sign to the world of our desire to change, and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus your Son. Amen.


Using your thumb dipped into the cotton wool with olive oil upon it, then place in the ashes and mark your forehead either with a cross or with a mark if it is easier. Wipe your ashy finger on a handkerchief or paper towel.


"Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return."


Words given to me from Companions by Thom Shuman:


I never know what to expect at an Ash Wednesday service, but over the years I have learned simply to wait on God to show up and take my breath away.


Last night I knew we would't have a big crowd. We Presbyterians rarely do, and with the cold and snow yesterday, it would be a few less than normal. Those faithful folk who attend all such special services came, one couple brought their grandparents, with whom they share the joy of a new grandchild, a couple of old friends came because they saw the sign out in the front; and, almost at the last moment, a father arrived with his six year old daughter as they went to sit down she whispered to him, I'm going to go, sit with Thom," and she did. IU smiled at her and asked if she would like to be my assistant. With a big smile she announced, "Dad, I'm Thom's assistant!"


At the point in the service for the placing of the ashes, I went around the, the circle and came to her last , and with her wide eyes and wider hope, I was blessed to anoint her. And then, on the spur of the Spirit, I whispered to her, "Will you put them on my forehead?"And with a wide smile, and joyful spirit, she did. And I said a prayer to myself, hoping they woudl never come off. Later, during Communion, I asked her to carry the loaf of bread around to folk, while I followed behind her with the cup. And by the end of the service, I was nearly breathless.


As I begin this sometimes lonely journey of discipleship during this season, I am reminded of all the companions I have had over the years. From Mrs Galt who took seriously my childhood yearning to sing, to Ms Helen who wrote poetry until her last day on earth, from the professor who was the only one who didn't laugh at my questions, to the security guard who stopped by my room on Christmas Eve to invite me to his house when I was staying on campus that holiday; from the friends I made on sabbatical time all those years ago in Scotland, France and Ireland, and whom I may never see again, to those "virtual" friends who encourage me in ways they will never know - I have been surrounded by an incredible crowd of witnesses.


But it is the children I remember most. The little girl at church Bonnie and I attended when we first got married and called me "Magic Man" because I would pull a coin out of her ear; my nieces and nephews who have grown up into people who continue to amaze me; John, Margaret, Helen and Francis who challenge me with their questions and inspire me with the lives they lead as adults; the preschoolers who will be waiting in a couple of hours for Dusty the church dog and me to come read to them and to feed Dusty carrots and broccoli.


By God's goodness, so many of my companions on this journey have been children, and my God's grace, I hope I will continue to be blessed.




Intercessions and Lord's Prayer


As we begin this season of Lent, let us pray for ourselves and for the whole world that all people may come back to God, repenting their sins, and seeking his forgiveness.


Let us pray that we may hear God’s call this Lent to come back to him, asking his mercy and forgiveness. Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.


Let us pray that, when we lose confidence in ourselves, in others, and in God, we may be blessed with the gift of faith. Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.


Let us pray that, when we are tempted to despair, we may find hope. Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.


Let us pray that, when our hearts are filled with anger and resentment, we may find compassion and love. Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.



As we forgive those who sin against us,

let us ask for God’s mercy

in the words that Jesus taught us:


Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name;

thy kingdom come;

thy will be done;

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation;

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

the power and the glory,

for ever and ever.

Amen.




Let us pray.


Father,

through our observance of Lent,

help us to understand the meaning

of your Son’s death and resurrection,

and teach us to reflect it in our lives.

Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.


Go out marked with the ashes of repentance.

Go out marked by faith in God’s mercy.

Go out marked by hope in God’s forgiveness.

Go out marked by love for all God’s people.

Thanks be to God





- From Penny Snowden

Today's service for Ash Wednesday has involved Rick Grattan, Penny Snowden and Rhian in its preparation.

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