Because of my own bout with COVID (and still recovering), I was not able to have an Ash Wednesday service this year. But I’d like to share the service below, which was from 2015, when the service was snowed out. You can use it as a self-guided devotion to begin this period of Lent. (If it’s TLDR – too long, didn’t read – as the kids say, the video at the end pretty much captures the theme of the service and I commend it to you!) If nothing else, watch the video.
ASH WEDNESDAY SERVICE
This service will be mostly silence, scripture, and prayer. Use this time to shut off phones, turn away from text messages, lay aside schedules and work and projects. Try to slow down and enter quietly into the presence of God in order to consider “Who am I?” “Who is God?”
This service is a service of penitence. It is about coming before God in all our frailty, weakness, and sinfulness; it is about humbly asking, “Lord, have mercy.” Prepare your hearts and prepare your minds, for God is here.
Call to Worship: Read Isaiah 6:1-7 out loud to yourself
1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. 5 Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”
God’s Word to Us Who is God? Read Job 42:1-6
1 Then Job answered the Lord and said, 2 “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. 3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ “Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” 4 ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ 5 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; 6 Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.”
Prayer of Recognition – finish these sentences from Job 42 in your own words as you pray.
- God, I have heard of you, but now I see you…
- Therefore I retract and I repent…
God’s Word to Us Who is Jesus? Read Hebrews 5:5-10 out loud to yourself
5 Neither did Christ presume to set himself up as high priest, but was set apart by the One who said to him, “You’re my Son; today I celebrate you!” 6 In another place God declares, “You’re a priest forever in the royal order of Melchizedek.” 7 While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God. Because he honored God, God answered him. 8 Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do. 9 Then, having arrived at the full stature of his maturity and having been announced by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek, 10 he became the source of eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him. (The Message)
Prayer of Identification – pray and ponder quietly as you identify with Jesus
- Cried out in pain and wept in sorrow…
- What he suffered…
- Jesus’ trusting-obedience…
- My disobedience…
————-CONFESSION AND REPENTANCE————-
God’s Word to Us Who am I? Read Psalm 24:3-5; Romans 3:23 out loud to yourself
Psalm 24:3 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully. 5 He shall receive a blessing from the Lord And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
Prayer of Confession (pray out loud)
Most merciful God, to whom all hearts are open, to whom all desires known, from whom no secrets are hid, we confess and acknowledge our wickedness: we have robbed You of Your glory; we have not loved you with our whole being; and we have worshiped idols made with our own hands. Against you have we sinned. (pause for silent reflection)
We confess that we have not loved our neighbors; we have not served them; we have hidden the truth of your grace from them in our deeds, we have clung to things that bring us good, rather than sacrificing for our neighbor’s good. (pause for silent reflection)
Father, for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, forgive us and renew us. Strengthen our love and desire for you in these coming days, turn our hearts to You that we may delight in Your ways. Amen
————-IMPOSITION OF ASHES————-
Scripture A Sign of our Penitence Read Genesis 3:19 out loud to yourself
19 By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”
Imposition of Ashes
Print or draw a cross on a sheet of paper. Tape it to your bathroom mirror or fridge or some other place where you will see it and be reminded of your own mortality. (You can right-click the image below to save or print).
———THE GOOD NEWS OF GOD’S GRACE IN JESUS CHRIST———
Scripture One Like Us Who Saves Us Read Hebrews 4:14-16 and Psalm 113:5-7 out loud to yourself.
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
5 Who is like the Lord our God, Who is enthroned on high, 6 Who humbles Himself to behold The things that are in heaven and in the earth? 7 He raises the poor from the dust And lifts the needy from the ash heap…
Prayers of Thanks and Intercession – Take a moment to pray before concluding, giving thanks and lifting up the needs of others.
Benediction – In closing, watch the video below as a summary of tonight’s scriptures and God’s Word of hope to you.