Ash Wednesday 2021 Worship


Pastor: May the Lord be with you.

All: And also with you.

Prayer of the Day

Pastor: Let us pray.  Almighty God, you hate nothing you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who ask for your forgiveness.  Create in us new and honest hearts, so that, truly repenting of our sins, we may receive from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

First Reading:  Joel 2:1, 12-17

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—

Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;

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.

Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.
Let them say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord.”

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 51:1-12

 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;

            in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

 Wash me through and through from my wickedness,

            and cleanse me from my sin.

 For I know my offenses, and my sin is ever before me.

 Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;

            so you are justified when you speak and right in your judgment.

 Indeed, I was born steeped in wickedness,

            a sinner from my  mother’s womb.

 Indeed, you delight in truth deep within me,

            and would have me know wisdom deep within.

 Remove my sins with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

            wash me, and I shall be purer than snow.

 Let me hear joy and gladness;

            that the body you have broken may rejoice.

 Hide your face from my sins,

            and blot out all my wickedness.

 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

            and renew a right spirit within me.

 Cast me not away from your presence,

            and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

 Restore to me the joy of your salvation

            and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.  Amen.

Second Reading:  2 Corinthians 5:20-21

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.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.  So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Ash Wednesday is traditionally that one day in the Church year when we pause to think deeply about our own flaws – our own humanity – our brokenness – our very human humanness. 

Ash Wednesday is the day when we try to see ourselves for who we really are – the good – the not so great and the stuff we just don’t like to admit even to ourselves . . .

On Ash Wednesday we pause in the midst of our often busy – bustling lives to reflect on our desperate need for a Savior.  Because we know – we ALL so desperately need a Savior. 

Ash Wednesday is the day we mark our bodies with ashes.  These ashes are a sign of both lament and hope.

And oh – my sisters and brothers in Christ – how fitting that is for this year of all years.  These past 12 months have left our hearts filled to overflowing with lament.  Even the most hopeful and sunny or stoic among us are beginning to feel the ache and the grief and pain of the last 12 months.  Our hearts cry out.  We are exhausted.  We are grieving.  We are broken and sad.  We feel so much loss and pain and hurt.  And perhaps anger.  Anger and frustration are a part of lament too.  Sometimes anger and frustration are deeply a part of lament.

We have spent the last 12 months looking our humble – messy humanity in the eye.  And it has been hard.  So – so very – very hard!   Because what we have seen has often been such a messy mess.  We have seen our brokenness and our flaws and our sinfulness and our selfishness.  We have seen our fear and our very human humanness.

And this is HARD!

So yes – this year we understand the lament and the ashes.  Many of us understand them in a way we never have before. . .

And oh how we long for hope.  Oh – how we need hope.  Our hearts and souls cry out for even a glimmer of hope these days. 

Verse 1 of Psalm 42 has been running through my mind recently.  It seems so very fitting for times like these.  I think we can all relate to these words – “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.”  This verse seems to capture so much of what we are feeling these days.  We are all so filled with longing. 

We long for comfort and joy.  We long for better times.  We long for healing.  We long for spring and reunions and a return to what was.  We long for a brighter future.  Most of all – we long for hope!

And if we look in the mirror today – that is exactly what we see.  (Nope – I am not talking about finding hope in ourselves and in the eyes gazing back at us.)  Rather I am talking about turning your gaze just a bit further north to that black mark right in the middle of your forehead.  Because that black mark is not just a careless smudge.  It is not a slash or a line or merely a mark made of ash to declare:  “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”  No – that mark on your forehead is a cross.

There in the cross is the answer.  There in the cross is our hope!

Yes – the ashes do remind us of our brokenness and our sinfulness and our very human humanness.  But those ashes form the shape of the cross of Christ Jesus who is our Lord and Savior.  Who is our hope!

We are all so messed up aren’t we?  We are all broken and struggling and sinful and just so very human!  No matter how hard we try – none of us can save ourselves. 

And thank goodness we don’t have to.  Well actually – thank our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that we don’t have to save ourselves, because Jesus did that for us when he willingly chose to die on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. 

Jesus died in our place for us – so that we don’t have to die an eternal death for our sins.

Yes – on Ash Wednesday we are reminded of just how messed up and sinful and broken we all are.  And we are marked by our brokenness and our sinfulness because of the black – crumbling – falling apart – gritty – messy – ashes that we all wear on our foreheads. 

But we are also marked by our greatest hope because we wear crosses on our foreheads! 

These crosses are bold – beautiful reminders of God’s forgiveness and the promise of resurrection to  eternal life lived with God the Father in heaven. 

Know this – you are the beloved – cherished – forgiven – redeemed children of God – today – tomorrow and for all eternity.  And truly that is very Good News indeed.  Amen.

Invitation to Lent

Pastor:  Brothers and Sisters in Christ, today we enter the time of remembering Jesus’ journey from death to life.

We begin this holy season by acknowledging our need for repentance and our need for God’s mercy.

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to a discipline that contends against evil and resists whatever leads us away from love of God and neighbor. I invite you, therefore, to the discipline of Lent – self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving and works of love – strengthened by the gifts of Word and sacrament. Let us continue our journey through these forty days together with our Lord.

Confession of Sin

Pastor: Let us confess our sin in the presence of God and one another.

Silence is kept for reflection and self-examination.

Pastor: Most holy and merciful God,

All: we confess that we have sinned by our own most grievous fault, in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.

Pastor: We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength.  We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.  We have not forgiven others as we have been forgiven.

All: Have mercy on us, O God.

Pastor:  We have shut our ears to your call to serve as Christ served us.  We have grieved your Holy Spirit.

All:  Have mercy on us, O God.

Pastor:  Our past unfaithfulness, the pride, envy, hypocrisy, and apathy that have infected our lives, we confess to you.

All:  Have mercy on us, O God.

Pastor:  Our self-indulgent ways, and our exploitation of other people, we confess to you.

All:  Have mercy on us, O God.

Pastor:  Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to share the faith, we confess to you.

All:  Have mercy on us, O God.

Pastor:  Our neglect of human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty, we confess to you.

All:  Have mercy on us, O God.

Pastor:  Our false judgments, our uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us, we confess to you.

All:  Have mercy on us, O God.

Pastor:  Our lack of concern for those who come after us, we confess to you.

All:  Have mercy on us, O God.

Pastor:  Restore us, O God, and let your anger depart from us.

All:  Hear us, O God, for your mercy is great.

Imposition of Ashes

Pastor:  Almighty God, you created us out of the dust of the earth.  May these ashes be a sign of our mortality and penitence, reminding us that only by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ are we given eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Pastor:  Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.  (Genesis 3:19)

At this time you are encouraged to mark your foreheads with ash crosses.

Prayers of Intercession

Pastor:  Let us pray for the church, those in need, and all of God’s creation.

A brief silence.

Pastor:  Help us return to you with all our hearts.  God of mercy,
            All: hear our prayer.

Pastor: Now is the acceptable time for us to learn your way of peace. Plant peace in our hearts, in our homes, and in every nation, that it might sprout and flourish. God of mercy,
         All: hear our prayer.

Pastor:  Grant comfort and endurance to all those who suffer. Bring healing to the sick, and rest to the weary (especially). God of mercy,
            All: hear our prayer.

Pastor:  Center our lives in you Lord. Take away any obstacles standing in the way of serving our neighbor. God of mercy,
            All: hear our prayer.

Pastor:  As we remember the saints who have gone before us, fill us with hope.  God of mercy,
           All: hear our prayer.

Pastor:  Into your hands, God of abundant grace, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your mercy, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Holy Communion

The Words of Institution

Pastor: In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks; he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying:  Take and eat; this is my body, given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.

Again, after supper, Jesus took the cup, he gave thanks, and gave it for all to drink, saying: This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin.  Do this in remembrance of me.

Pastor:  Lord remember us in your kingdom and teach us to pray:

All: 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,

            and the power, and the glory,

            forever and ever. Amen.

Invitation to Holy Communion

You are welcome at the Lord’s Table.  We encourage you to gather wine and bread or grape juice and crackers and join us in celebrating Holy Communion.  Jesus used what he already had to celebrate Holy Communion at the Last Supper.  Jesus literally picked up the bread and the wine that were on the table right in front of him and used those.  Jesus did not order anything special.  Jesus used what was available to him.  We can do the exact same thing.  We can use what we have in our homes. 

Prayer after Communion

Pastor:  Merciful God, accompany our journey through these forty days.  Renew us in the gift of baptism, that we may provide for those who are poor, pray for those in need, fast from self-indulgence, and above all that we may find our treasure in the life of your Son,  Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.


Pastor:  May Almighty God, Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit, bless you now and forever.


Pastor:  Go in peace. Remember the poor.

All: Thanks be to God.

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