Modern Ash Wednesday Service

AshWednesday1PRELUDE
People are encouraged to enter in silence. Lights are dim.
As people gather, words appropriate to the day appear and disappear on the screen.
You can create your own presentation or find one here.

INVITATION TO THE OBSERVANCE OF LENTEN DISCIPLINE
The Pastor reminds the congregation of the origins of Lent and Ash Wednesday, following it with an invitation to observe a holy Lent through various Lenten disciplines. An excellent invitation to use or model your invitation after may be found in the United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 322.

SCRIPTURE AND SONG
At the end of the invitation, an acoustic guitar and djembe begin to play the introduction to the first song. We are indebted to Taylor Burton-Edwards, compiler of an excellent Contemporary Service for Ash Wednesday, for the idea of alternating the reading of scripture with the haunting song O-So-So from The Faith We Sing, #2232.

ALL SINGING: O-So-So (The Faith We Sing, #2232, Verse 1 twice)
Following the singing, a shofar blows.
A recording will work if you are unable to locate and play one live.
A person stands in the midst of the congregation and reads.
Do not project the words to the scripture as it is read.
The instruments continue during the reading.

ONE VOICE Joel 2:1-2, 12-17a (NRSV)
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near— a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come.

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 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. 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? Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; 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. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.

ALL SINGING: O-So-So (The Faith We Sing, #2232, Verse 2 twice)
Following the singing, a person stands in the midst of the congregation and reads.
Do not project the words to the scripture as it is read.
The instruments continue during the reading.

ONE VOICE 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:2 (NRSV)
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!

ALL SINGING: O-So-So (The Faith We Sing, #2232, Verse 3 twice)
Following the singing, a person stands in the midst of the congregation and reads.
Do not project the words to the scripture as it is read.
The instruments continue during the reading.
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 may be substituted for the verses from Psalm 103.

ONE VOICE Psalm 103:8-14 (Adapted from the New Jerusalem Bible)
The Lord is tenderness and pity, slow to anger and rich in faithful love;
His indignation does not last forever, nor his resentment remain for all time;
He does not treat us as our sins deserve, nor repay us as befits our offenses.
As the height of heaven above earth,
so strong is his faithful love for those who revere him.
As the distance of east from west, so far from us does he put our faults.
As tenderly as a father treats his children, so the Lord treats those who revere him;
He knows of what we are made, he remembers that we are dust.

ALL SINGING: O-So-So (The Faith We Sing, #2232, Verse 4 twice)
Instruments and singing end before the next prayer

THANKSGIVING OVER THE ASHES
The Pastor offers a prayer of thanksgiving, calling to mind the many meanings associated with ashes: our creation out of dust, mourning our sin (sackcloth and ashes), and our mortality (eventual return to dust). An excellent prayer to use or model your prayer after may be found in the United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 323.

IMPOSITION OF ASHES
Persons are invited forward to receive ashes on their forehead, place their offering on the altar table, and pray at the altar rail. The words projected as persons gathered are again projected. The guitar plays softly.

The following words are traditionally spoken by those applying the ashes as the ashes are received:
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Gen. 3:19)
Repent, and believe the gospel.

CONFESSION AFTER THE IMPOSITION OF ASHES
Show the video Confession Starter from Shift Worship.

TIME OF SILENT CONFESSION
After a few minutes of silent confession, project the words to the following scripture.

ALL SPEAKING: Psalm 51:1-3, 7, 10-17 (NIV)
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.
Save me from blood-guilt, O God, the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

WORD OF GRACE AND PARDON

SONG: Come Thou Fount (United Methodist Hymnal, #400)
Or another song of your choosing

BENEDICTION

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First Offered at Community United Methodist Church, DeBary FL
Modern Ash Wednesday Service Compilation
© 2012 Nicole Sallee and Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Nicole and Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The United Methodist Book of Worship
(The United Methodist Publishing House, Nashville. 1992)

Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NRSV are taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

John Day 9: No Condemnation

Breakout by Barry Boobis. “This Jesus Christ painting was inspired by Mikhail Baryshnikov. It is about transcending boundaries. Done on multi-panels to represent different energy fields, all lines are being crossed – symbolizing spiritual elevation!”

Gospel of John Reading Plan
Day 9 Reading:
John 5:16-47

Bringing the Word to Life
Make a list of the places and situations where you see the Father “at work.” Where is the Father inviting you to join in?

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. – John 5:24 (KJV)

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.- John 5:24 (NIV)

Observation
After Jesus heals on the Sabbath, the Jewish leadership question Jesus. Jesus responds with a testimony that he is God’s son. The leaders’ response is to “try all the harder to kill Jesus.” Why? Because they see him as doubly blasphemous – 1) for breaking the Sabbath laws (healing = working on the Sabbath) and 2) claiming to be equal to God (God’s son = equal to God). I had forgotten how dangerous Jesus’ life was throughout his life, not just the last few weeks of it.

There will always be people in church who prefer an argument to a healing.
– Bishop Peter Storey

A reading of the writings of the early desert fathers and mothers reveals their outright refusal to condemn another person.  They did not do this because they felt sin did not matter, but rather because they did not feel someone else’s sin was worse than their own. To them, condemnation was a form of self-righteousness, that is, a conclusion that they were superior to the other person.  They could not bring themselves to do this when their starting point was, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Instead of condemnation, they offered compassion, and encouragement toward confession, so that the fallen brother or sister could find the healing grace of God.  The sinning friend felt “lifted up” rather than “beaten up” by this approach. – Steve Harper

Application
I was struck by the word condemnation/condemned. “Shall not come into condemnation” and “Will not be condemned” (Some translations use the word judge or judgment instead condemned.) By the grace of God in Christ Jesus we are not condemned in the last judgment. Yet there is so much more. That gift of no condemnation is also given in the here and now. Amazing! How often do we struggle with condemnation, thinking God condemns us. How often do we condemn others in an effort to affirm ourselves? How often do we condemn ourselves! We are often harder on ourselves than God is.

Prayer
Merciful One, Liberating One, you break the chains. You open the prison doors. You pardon instead of condemn. Yet we keep ourselves locked away from your love and light and joy. Emancipate us once and for all from condemnation. Silence the inner critics. They are liars. Open our eyes to see we are free and open our hearts to accept it in full. Take away everything that keeps us from the wholeness we can enjoy today and everyday thanks to your healing and forgiveness. Glory and honor be to you Jesus, our Rescuer and Redeemer, our Freedom Fighter. Amen.

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For more information on the Gospel of John Reading Plan, click here

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