“Ash Wednesday” (Isaiah 58:1-12) February 17 2021
17 February 2021
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we begin a forty-day journey toward Easter. From ancient times Christians have on this day searched their hearts and sought to be cleansed from sin. They have sought reconciliation with God and with one another. They have received ashes marked on their foreheads as a sign of sin’s disfigurement and of their own mortality. With them, we seek to draw nearer to God through prayer, Scripture reading, and fasting. We seek to draw nearer to neighbors through acts of mercy. Please join me for our opening prayer.
Almighty God, you despise nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and contrite hearts, that truly repenting of our sins, and acknowledging our brokenness, we may obtain from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Please join in singing “Lord, Who Throughout these Forty Days” Ch. 180 vss. 1-3, to tune of “O God our Help in Ages Past” Chalice 67.
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 58:1-12
Our reading comes from the prophet Isaiah. Listen for God’s word.
1Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. 2Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.
3“Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. 4Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. 5Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? 6Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. 12Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
Here ends our reading. May God bless our hearing, understanding, and living of these words.
L: The first letter of John tells us, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Trusting in God’s great mercy, let us confess our sins before God. We’ll follow that confession with the Lord’s Prayer.
U: Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
L: Remembering the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, let us pray together in one voice saying,
U: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
Song of Preparation
“Savior, When in Tears & Dust” (already tune of “Come Christians Join to Sing”) New Century Hymnal #185 vss. 1-2
*Imposition of Ashes
For those who received or have ashes nearby, please get them now. For those who do not have ashes, you may use olive oil or another cooking oil instead. As ashes are a sign of our mortality, so oil is a sign of our life poured out in offering to God.
We begin our journey through Lent to Easter with the sign of ashes. This ancient symbol speaks of the frailty and uncertainty of human life, and marks the penitence of this community. I invite you to lift those ashes as I lead us in prayer. Let us pray.
Almighty God, you have created us from the dust of the earth. May these ashes be for us a sign of our mortality and penitence, and a reminder that only by your gracious gift are we given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
At this time I’d invite you to open the bag of ashes. If you’re by yourself, please dip your finger into the ashes and mark the sign of the cross on your forehead saying, “I am dust, and to dust I shall return.” If you’re with another person or persons, use their name saying, “Name, you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Have that other person make the sign of the cross on your forehead at the end.
Trusting in God’s mercy, know that all who turn away from their sins will be forgiven and find life. Let us follow our Lord to Jerusalem. Amen.