Ash Wednesday Prayer Experience: Station 2

At the cross. photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Ash Wednesday Prayer Experience
Station 2: Reflect and Rejoice

The Setting
A medium sized room with low lighting. Chairs and a kneeler face an empty cross. (We painted ours black.) We then painted the following words for reflection on a canvas drop cloth, hung it behind the cross, and illumined it with a spotlight: unconditional love, power, mercy, life, compassion, guidance, obedience, strength, sacrifice, healing, atonement, grace, Holy Spirit, forgiveness, and comfort.

The Experience
1. As persons enter the room, they read the following: Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57 NRSV) The unconditional love of God brought Jesus to earth to die so that you may live. Reflect upon His sacrifice. Thank God for the gift of forgiveness and the gift of new life available to you through Christ.

2. Persons may sit or kneel for their time of reflection and prayer. Have tissues available as well as pen and paper for journaling.

A small group leader prepares a group of teens for their reflection time. photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia.

My Experience
As I knelt before the cross, I slowly read the words. All were important in their own way, yet the word I returned to again and again was guidance. I remembered a story where the word guidance was broken apart to mean “God ‘u’ and ‘i’ dance.” I imagine gliding and spinning and leaping, all moves which require lightness of foot and freedom of movement.

What has me earthbound in this season of shedding- shedding false understandings, shedding sin sick ways, shedding illusions of God and self, shedding  stumbling blocks and inhibitions? What must be nailed to the cross so that the grace of God might flow freely in me and through me?

Leap of Faith
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

There are times when I feel in perfect rhythm with you
Other times I feel out of step
Confused and unnerved like a child on her first day of class

You offer me your hand again, that I may follow your lead
I want to fly in your arms, trusting you are always there to catch me
but I hold back
I have been dropped before by other partners

You understand
You are a patient teacher

You train me in the discipline of your ways
I become flexible and strong
Quicker to respond to your touch
You show me step after step
I begin to understand your timing
I want to trust it, even when you are beyond my sight
You move again and again and again in my life
My confidence in you grows
I take the leap of faith

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This station is the second of four prayer stations designed for use on Ash Wednesday. They could of course be used anytime when the themes for self reflection and prayer include our mortality, our sorrow for our sin, and re-commitment to living in alignment with God’s holy will.

prayer station © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia and Nicole Sallee. You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Leap of Faith © 2011 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia. You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the scripture translation, photos and the use of this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Ash Wednesday Prayer Experience: Station 1

Walking the Labyrinth. photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Ash Wednesday Prayer Experience
Station 1: Repent and Release

The Setting
A large room with low lighting. In the middle of the room is a canvas prayer labyrinth. Prayer labyrinths help people to take a spiritual journey. They have been around for a thousand years. The theme for this walk is confession and forgiveness.

One of our preschool classes, holding their rocks with both hands, walked carefully in a line like little ducklings between their teachers. (or should I say little lambs between their shepherds) photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

The Experience
1. As participants enter the room, they are invited to sign in.

2. They read Rend Your Hearts, a Blessing for Ash Wednesday by Jan L. Richardson.

3. They receive ashes applied to their forehead in the shape of a cross. The host speaks the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe the Gospel,” as the ashes are applied.

4. The participants remove their shoes.

5. The participants read the following: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23 NRSV). If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NRSV) Take a rock to symbolize the weight of guilt that we hold when we carry sin in our lives. As you walk through the labyrinth towards the center, walk with Christ and use that time to ask for forgiveness for these sins. When you reach the center, leave your rock there and know that when you release your burdens to the Lord, you can walk away free and without shame. In Christ, God has forgiven you and taken the load you bear.

6. The participants choose a rock from a basket of rocks and walk/pray the prayer labyrinth as instructed, walking to the center and following the same path back out.

7. The participants put their shoes back on and move to the next prayer station.

A toddler making her way straight across the paths to the center of the labyrinth Once there, she layed down on her tummy to look at the rocks. She then picked up a few to bring them back to us, delighted in accomplishing the task. Back and forth she went. She reminded me that “as far as the east is from the west, so far God removes our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

My Experience
Watching persons walk the labyrinth can be as moving an experience as walking it yourself. Much of Ash Wednesday, I had the joy of welcoming persons and explaining the meaning of this type of spiritual journey. Here’s just a few of the stories.

A small group leader said her rock felt lighter and lighter as she approached the center of the labyrinth.

A mom who came earlier in the day later brought back her whole family and a few of the neighborhood children. She walked the path again, this time carrying her infant son. Her husband carried him on the way back out of the labyrinth. The children stopped and prayed with each other when they reached the center, a sacred circle of siblings and friends.

A 93 year young seasoned saint who smiled and giggled. “I finished the whole thing.” So many of us are inspired by her faithfulness, grace, and enthusiasm for all that is Godly. She reminded me of the joy found in staying the course and finishing well with Christ. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

An elderly gentleman who confessed, “I tend to wander from the path.” He said this experience was the most profound Ash Wednesday experience he had ever had.

A three year old shuffling his feet quickly along the path who would now and then leap the purple divider between paths like an Olympic long jumper. He finished several journeys while his family completed their one journey. Each time he finished he would come over to me and shout, “I win!” His words rang with the victory over sin and death we find in Jesus. (Consider 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, 1 John 5:3-4 or Zephaniah 3:17)

A group of tweens speed-walking the path, their steps reflecting the lightning pace of their lives. One stopped and said, “I’ve messed up.” Her friend said, “Come with me, I’ll help you.” photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

In the quiet of the afternoon, I had a chance to walk the labyrinth myself. Each time I walk one, the experience is different. During my walk, I was joined by a frail women who had just come from a cancer treatment. As we made our way, her struggle was evident. This could be her last Lenten journey. It could be mine. The ashes on her head spoke of her reality, a mortality we all share, “From dust you were born and to dust you shall return.” She chose to shorten her journey to the center. There she prayed and released her rock and her other burdens.

In watching her, I was so very grateful for God’s grace and forgiveness in that moment. There is no need to to follow a path made with human hands, no need to navigate rituals or rules, no need wait for God’s presence and pardon. “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

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A huge THANK YOU to our friends at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando, Florida for lending us their canvas prayer labyrinth.

This station is the first of four prayer stations designed for use on Ash Wednesday. They could of course be used anytime when the themes for self reflection and prayer include our mortality, our sorrow for our sin, and recommitment to living in alignment with God’s holy will.

© 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia and Nicole Sallee. You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the scripture translation, photos and the use of this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Reader's Theater: Jesus Prays

The Prayer of Jesus by Jacek Andrzej Rossakiewicz. Public Domain.

Reader’s Theater: Jesus Prays

Based on John 17 (NRSV) 

In this setting, you have the option of incorporating the haunting Korean song O-So-So (Come Now, O Prince of Peace) throughout the reading. (The Faith We Sing, #2232) If you do incorporate the song, consider having the instrumentalists play softly as the reading begins and continue throughout the reading. This song is especially effective when accompanied by acoustic guitar and djembe.  

ONE VOICE
At the end of the Last Supper, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

ALL SINGING
O-So-So, Verse 1 twice

ONE VOICE
I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.

ALL SINGING
O-So-So, Verse 2 twice

ONE VOICE
And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.

But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

ALL SINGING
O-So-So, Verse 3 twice

ONE VOICE
I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.

ALL SINGING
O-So-So, Verse 4 twice

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Click here, for a devotion and another worship resource based on this scripture passage

compilation © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the music, scripture translation, art and the use of this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Reader's Theater: Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet

Byzantine mosaic of Christ washing the disciples’ feet at the Monreale Cathedral. Public Domain.

Reader’s Theatre: Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

Based on
John 13:1-17, 34-35 (NIV)

In this setting, you have the option of incorporating the first verse of The Servant Song throughout the reading. (The Faith We Sing #2222; CCLI # 72673) If you do incorporate the song, consider having the instrumentalists continue to play softly during the readings.

SOLOIST OR ALL SINGING:
Brother, sister, let me serve you
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

NARRATOR
It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.

SOLOIST OR ALL SINGING:
Brother, sister, let me serve you
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

NARRATOR
Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,

SIMON PETER
Lord, are you going to wash my feet?

JESUS
You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.

SIMON PETER
No! You shall never wash my feet.

JESUS
Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.

SIMON PETER
Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!

JESUS
A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.

NARRATOR
For Jesus knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place.

SOLOIST OR ALL SINGING:
Brother, sister, let me serve you
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

JESUS
Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

SOLOIST OR ALL SINGING:
Brother, sister, let me serve you
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

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Click here, for a devotion and poem based on this scripture passage
Click here, for another worship resource based on this scripture passage

Click here, for an incredibly powerful reflection by Steve Garnaas-Holmes on the steadfast and sacrificial love of God through Jesus’ death and resurrection entitled Victory.

compilation © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the music, scripture translation, art and the use of this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Resisting Temptation

Temptation of Jesus in the Desert by William Hole. Public Domain

Matthew 4:1 (NRSV)
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

James 1:12-16 (NRSV)
Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved.

Let the enemy rage at the gate,
let him knock, let him push, let him cry, let him howl, let him do worse;
we know for certain that he cannot enter save by the door of our consent.
– Francis de Sales

Temptation is the devil looking through the keyhole.
Yielding is opening the door and inviting him in.
– Billy Sunday

Everybody is tempted. It is a myth that says you’re going to get to a point in your spiritual life where you’re not tempted. In fact, the more mature you become, the more Satan is going to put you on his “most wanted” list. If we were more consistent in confessing our temptations, we wouldn’t have to confess our sins. Rick Warren

It is a mark of the evil spirit to take on the appearance of an angel of light. He begins by whispering thoughts that are suited to a devout soul, and ends by suggesting his own.
-Ignatius Loyola

Every life is a march from innocence, through temptation, to virtue or vice.
-Lyman Abbott

Every conquering temptation represents a new fund of moral energy. Every trial endured and weathered in the right spirit makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before. -William Butler Yeats

Temptation is like a knife, that may either cut the meat or the throat of a man;
it may be his food or his poison, his exercise or his destruction. – John Owen

There is no greater victory of evil than the reaction of guilt and despair which it arouses in those who have committed a sin, or of fear, anger and hate in those who have been wronged. Conversely, there is no greater victory over evil than to refuse to give in to these feelings, to refuse to act on them, to harbour them or justify them. We defeat evil – in ourselves, in others or in the world – when we refuse to react to it with more evil, but respond to it with repentance, forgiveness and love.
-Irma Zaleski, The Way of Repentance

We usually know what we can do,
but temptation shows us who we are.
-Thomas Kempis

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)
But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.

1 Peter 5:8-10 (NRSV)
Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.

Jesus went to the wilderness – a place of wild beasts and demons; of roaming, tormented spirits; the dangerous meeting place of God and frail human beings; the strange abode of ministering angels. Here the devil prowls like a roaring lion seeking souls to devour. In Lent, Christians are called again to the soul’s desert, but without John the Baptist for an advent guide. Rather, as John of the Cross wrote, we go forth with no other light or guide than the one burning in my heart.
Suzanne Guthrie, Until an Opportune Time

I saw all the devil’s traps set upon the earth,
and I groaned and said, “Who do you think can pass through them?”
And I heard a voice saying, “Humility.” -Anthony the Great

Psalm 31:1-5 (NRSV)
In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me. Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me. You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

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For more information on the art, scripture translations and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

2012 Ash Wednesday Service

Remember You are Dust by John Pobojewski

We are going all out for Ash Wednesday this year. Worship services will be held in the sanctuary at 6:30am (wear your ashes all day!), 11:30am, and 7pm. These informal yet powerful services are driven by Scripture and a haunting Korean song entitled O-So-So from The Faith We Sing, #2232. It was our hope that by eliminating the sermon, the service would encourage everyone to recognize the importance of worship as “the work of the people.” (If you use the service you could of course add a sermon if you wanted.)

For a PDF version of the service, click here
Ash Wednesday Service – CUMC 2012

We are also offering a continuous Ash Wednesday Prayer Experience from 10am-9pm in the church cafe. The Ash Wednesday Prayer experience includes an opportunity to walk a prayer labyrinth, contemplative prayer stations, and commitment stations. The Prayer Experience and Services welcome persons of all ages.

Consider this is your official invitation to join us at Community United Methodist Church in DeBary for our many Lenten services and events, including our Passion Week Experience during Holy Week. On Sunday mornings during Lent, our sermon series will be Final Words, Final Meal: what Jesus taught at the Last Supper (Gospel of John, chapters 13-17).

I look forward to seeing you and to worshipping with you. – Lisa <><

Julie's Prayer

I took this picture on the campus of Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida during a morning devotional walk. The joyful colors reflect Julie's joyful heart and the spirit of her prayer.

Dear God,
For the all the ways You heal, for the open doors, and the ones You so lovingly close, for the protection from the evil one who wants us to forget You and Your mission in our community, for Your Spirit who lets us both rest and be disssatisfied with complacency, we give You thanks and trust You. Amen

A huge thank you to my friend Julie Riddle for permission to share her prayer. – Lisa <><

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For more information on the use of this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.