Ash wednesday introduction



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February 10, 2016

ASH WEDNESDAY
INTRODUCTION

Lent begins with a solemn call to fasting and repentance as we begin our journey to the baptismal waters of Easter. As we hear in today's readings, now is the acceptable time to return to the Lord. During Lent the people of God will reflect on the meaning of their baptism into Christ's death and resurrection. The sign of ashes suggests our human mortality and frailty. What seems like an ending is really an invitation to make each day a new beginning, in which we are washed in God's mercy and forgiveness. With the cross on our brow, we long for the spiritual renewal that flows from the springtime Easter feast to come.
PRAYER OF THE DAY

Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. 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.


OR

Gracious God, out of your love and mercy you breathed into dust the breath of life, creating us to serve you and our neighbors. Call forth our prayers and acts of kindness, and strengthen us to face our mortality with confidence in the mercy of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


GOSPEL ACCLAMATION

Return to the | LORD, your God,* who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in | steadfast love. (Joel 2:13)


READINGS AND PSALM

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Isaiah 58:1-12 (Alternate)

Psalm 51:1-17



Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love. (Ps. 51:1)

2 Corinthians 5:20b—6:10

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
FIRST READING: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Because of the coming Day of the Lord, the prophet Joel calls the people to a community lament. The repentant community reminds God of his gracious character and asks God to spare the people, lest the nations doubt God's power to save.
1Blow 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—



2a 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.
12Yet even now, says the LORD,

return to me with all your heart,

with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;

13rend 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.

14Who 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?


15Blow the trumpet in Zion;

sanctify a fast;

call a solemn assembly;

16gather 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.
17Between the vestibule and the altar

let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep.

Let them say, "Spare your people, O LORD,

and do not make your heritage a mockery,

a byword among the nations.

Why should it be said among the peoples,

'Where is their God?'"
FIRST READING (ALTERNATE): Isaiah 58:1-12

Shortly after the return of Israel from exile in Babylon, the people were troubled by the ineffectiveness of their fasts. God reminds them that outward observance is no substitute for genuine fasting that results in acts of justice, such as feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and clothing the naked. Sincere repentance will lead to a dramatic improvement of their condition.
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.


PSALM: Psalm 51:1-17

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love. (Ps. 51:1)
1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your | steadfast love;

in your great compassion blot out | my offenses.



2Wash me through and through | from my wickedness,

and cleanse me | from my sin.



3For I know | my offenses,

and my sin is ev- | er before me.



4Against 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. R



5Indeed, I was born | steeped in wickedness,

a sinner from my | mother's womb.



6Indeed, you delight in truth | deep within me,

and would have me know wisdom | deep within.



7Remove my sins with hyssop, and I | shall be clean;

wash me, and I shall be pur- | er than snow.



8Let me hear | joy and gladness,

that the body you have broken | may rejoice. R



9Hide your face | from my sins,

and blot out | all my wickedness.



10Create in me a clean | heart, O God,

and renew a right spir- | it within me.



11Cast me not away | from your presence,

and take not your Holy Spir- | it from me.



12Restore to me the joy of | your salvation

and sustain me with your boun- | tiful Spirit. R



13Let me teach your ways | to offenders,

and sinners shall be re- | stored to you.



14Rescue me from bloodshed, O God of | my salvation,

and my tongue shall sing | of your righteousness.



15O LORD, o- | pen my lips,

and my mouth shall pro- | claim your praise.



16For you take no delight in sacrifice, or | I would give it.

You are not pleased | with burnt offering.



17The sacrifice of God is a | troubled spirit;

a troubled and broken heart, O God, you will | not despise. R


SECOND READING: 2 Corinthians 5:20b—6:10

The ministry of the gospel endures many challenges and hardships. Through this ministry, God's reconciling activity in the death of Christ reaches into the depths of our lives to bring us into a right relationship with God. In this way, God accepts us into the reality of divine salvation.
20bWe entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
6:1As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2For 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! 3We are putting no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 7truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 10as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.


GOSPEL: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commends almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, but emphasizes that spiritual devotion must not be done for show.
[Jesus said to the disciples:] 1"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.

2"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. 3But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

5"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. 6But 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.

16"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. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so 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.

19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
CONFESSION OF SIN

The presiding minister leads the following or another confession.

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


The assembly kneels or sits. Silence is kept for reflection and self-examination.
Most holy and merciful God,

we confess to you and to one another,

and before the whole company of heaven,

that we have sinned by our fault,

by our own fault,

by our own most grievous fault,

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, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others as we have been forgiven.

Have mercy on us, O God.
We have shut our ears to your call to serve as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit.

Have mercy on us, O God.
Our past unfaithfulness, the pride, envy, hypocrisy, and apathy that have infected our lives, we confess to you.

Have mercy on us, O God.
Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people, we confess to you.

Have mercy on us, O God.
Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to share the faith that is in us, we confess to you.

Have mercy on us, O God.
Our neglect of human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty, we confess to you.

Have mercy on us, O God.
Our false judgments, our uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us, we confess to you.

Have mercy on us, O God.
Our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us, we confess to you.

Have mercy on us, O God.
Restore us, O God, and let your anger depart from us.

Hear us, O God, for your mercy is great.
OR

All may make the sign of the cross, the sign marked at baptism, as the presiding minister begins.

Blessed be the holy Trinity, + one God,

who brings us safely through the sea,

who gives us water from the rock,

who leads us into the land of milk and honey.

Amen.
Let us confess our sin in the presence of God and of one another.
Silence is kept for reflection.
Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal,

have mercy on us.
For self-centered living, and for failing to walk with humility and gentleness:

Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal,

have mercy on us.
For longing to have what is not ours, and for hearts that are not at rest with ourselves:

Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal,

have mercy on us.
For misuse of human relationships, and for unwillingness to see the image of God in others:

Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal,

have mercy on us.
For jealousies that divide families and nations, and for rivalries that create strife and warfare:

Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal,

have mercy on us.
For reluctance in sharing the gifts of God, and for carelessness with the fruits of creation:

Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal,

have mercy on us.
For hurtful words that condemn, and for angry deeds that harm:

Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal,

have mercy on us.
For idleness in witnessing to Jesus Christ, and for squandering the gifts of love and grace:

Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal,

have mercy on us.
IMPOSITION OF ASHES

People may come forward and kneel or stand to receive the ashes. Ministers mark the forehead of each person with a cross of ashes, saying:

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.


After those who desire ashes have received them, all may kneel or sit, and the minister continues.

Accomplish in us, O God, the work of your salvation,



that we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son, of Savior,



bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.
The presiding minister addresses the assembly.

Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us all our sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life.



Amen.
OR

In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for his sake God forgives us all our sins. Through the Holy Spirit God cleanses us and gives us the power to proclaim the mighty acts of the one who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. As a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ, and by his authority, I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.



Amen.
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION

The prayers are prepared locally for each occasion. The following examples may be adapted or used as appropriate.

Hearing the call to return to the Lord, let us join the whole people of God in prayer for all who cry out in pain and in hope.



A brief silence.

Merciful Lord, where people ask, "Where is their God?" send your church. Equip us with compassion and boldness to listen to our neighbors. Make our speech and actions witness to your eternal presence. Hear us, O God.



Your mercy is great.

Merciful Lord, where the soil cries for rain, send relief. Restore depleted water tables and cleanse waterways around the world. Teach us to treasure all creation as you do. Hear us, O God.



Your mercy is great.

Merciful Lord, where terror shouts, send peace. Deliver all from the threat of bloodshed and the trauma of violence. Reconcile nation with nation and neighbor with neighbor. Wash us in your peace. Hear us, O God.



Your mercy is great.

Merciful Lord, where bellies rumble, send food. Bless Lutheran World Relief and all who work to ensure no one goes to bed hungry. Provide for all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit (especially). Hear us, O God.



Your mercy is great.

Merciful Lord, when hearts and minds call for you, send faithful disciples. Walk with all who prepare for baptism. Uphold them with a community rooted in your word and nourished by bread and wine. Hear us, O God.



Your mercy is great.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

Merciful Lord, where death stings, send comfort. Be with all who mourn. In the midst of their sorrow and pain, sustain their trust in the eternal life you give. Hear us, O God.



Your mercy is great.

To you, gracious God, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your boundless mercy; through Jesus Christ, our Savior.



Amen.
OFFERING PRAYER

God our provider,

you have not fed us with bread alone,

but with words of grace and life.

Bless us and these your gifts,

which we receive from your bounty,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.
INVITATION TO COMMUNION

All who thirst, all who hunger,

come and be filled with the goodness of God.
PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION

O God, we thank you for gathering and feeding us

as a mother hen embraces her young.

Release us now to go on our way in these forty days,

ready to see our work as prayer,

ready to fast from complacency,

and ready to share with those in need;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.



Amen.
SENDING OF COMMUNION

Eternal God,

whose glory is revealed in the crucified and risen Lord,

bless those who go forth to share your word and sacrament

with our sisters and brothers

who are sick/homebound/imprisoned.

In your love and care, nourish and strengthen

those to whom we bring this communion

in the body and blood of your Son,

that we may all feast upon your abundant love

made known in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.
BLESSING

The blessing of God Almighty,

the wisdom and power of + Christ Jesus,

and the light of the Holy Spirit

be among you and remain with you always.

Amen.
DISMISSAL

Go forth into the world to serve God with gladness;

be of good courage;

hold fast to that which is good;

render to no one evil for evil;

strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak;

help the afflicted; honor all people;

love and serve God, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.



Amen.
OR

Go in peace. Remember the poor.



Thanks be to God.

Reprinted from Words for Worship, copyright 2015 Augsburg Fortress; Ash Wednesday liturgy from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, copyright 2006. Used by permission. Scripture quotations (except psalms) from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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