Ash Wednesday at Home

In the early days of Christianity, small groups of people met in homes to read Scripture, pray, and celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We invite you to remember Ash Wednesday in your homes, either in personal reflection or with your family.

Ash Wednesday is a time we reflect on our sinfulness and our need for connection with God. The 40 days of Lent mirror Jesus’ 40 day fast in the wilderness, culminating with Eater. Traditionally ashes are made from burning the previous year’s Palm Sunday leaves. The ashes are a sign of sin’s disfigurement and of our own mortality. You are invited to make the sign of the cross on your foreheads or hands, even without the use of ashes. The following is adapted from Chalice Worship and includes a meditation by Rev. Nathan Brown, the Senior Minister at First Christian Church of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. 


CALL TO WORSHIP
Leader: The day of the Lord is coming! The day of the Lord is near!
People: The time is fulfilled! The reign of God is at hand!
Leader: O people, repent! Believe in the gospel!
People: Come, let us turn and follow the Lord!

PRAYER
Almighty and Everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent.
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that,
lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness,
we may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect forgiveness and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
Friends in Christ, we begin a forty-day journey toward Easter.
We enter the Lenten season to prepare ourselves
to welcome the risen Christ with lives renewed by the breath of his spirit.
We assume a discipline of self-examination, confession, and penitence.
We dedicate ourselves to meditate upon the scriptures and to converse with God in prayer.
We seek to be more faithful Disciples of Christ whose lives are shaped
by the one whom we confess to be Lord and Savior of the world.
To this end let us worship God.

REFLECTION (Written by Reverend Nathan Brown)

Dust is everywhere. It is the residue of our lives. It is under the couch. It is on the television set. It lines the car dashboard. It coats the windowsill. It is evidence that life has existed somewhere. Ironically, it is evidence that death is very much present too. Isn’t that what we hear in the words, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…?

Which, I think, is the reason getting rid of dust is a multi-million dollar industry. As individuals, we spend hundreds of dollars every year to rid the dust of our lives, buying swiffers and brooms, vacuum machines and dust-busters. Dust is a nuisance. It gets in the way. Mostly because it reminds us of our finitude—that we are imperfect, molded from the earth. Thus, we would rather sweep it into dustpans, under the rug, and off the back porch. We don’t like this reminder. We prefer the lure of immortality.

However, each year, as we begin the Lenten Season on Ash Wednesday, Christians are asked to embrace the dust, at least for a period of timeto let it stay, to not disturb it, that it might serve as a reminder to us. Death should be very much present too. It is the only way to true life in Christ. This is the reason we receive ashes on our foreheads and hear the words, “From dust we have been made and to dust we shall return.”

What, then, in your life needs to return to dust, in order that you might live? Do you need to let die selfishness or greed? Are you being called to put to rest a prejudice or bias? Do you need to bury an anger or resentment? What about an addiction or an obsession that keeps you from living more faithfully?

The English word “dust” actually has its roots in the Hebrew word, “Adam,” which is what God calls the first human created in the garden. So, while we are made of dust physically, we are also made of dust theologically. Physical dust is what binds the molecules and atoms that make up life and theological dust is what holds together our faith. At least, this is what we will experience again in Jesus of Nazareth over the next six weeks: only in death can there be new life.

ACT OF PENITENCE AND RECONCILIATION

You are invited at this time to make the sign of the cross on your forehead as you say, “from dust we have been made and to dust we shall return,” then pray the following together:

In fear, but also in hope, we come together with ashes on our heads. The planet is dying in our hands; people turn to each other for food and strength only to be shoved away. Each day we deal in death, yet pretend that we are good. Let us take forty days to look hard at our so-called goodness and see what it covers up. Then, we will join together in taking up the cross of living in the world as it is, for there is only one earth, and, as far as we know, only one human race. Join together in prayer by responding to each spoken petition with the words, “Hear our prayer, O God.” Let us pray:

That as Disciples of Christ we might start
using our hands, feet, money, time, and energy for the good of the poor,
let us pray to the God of mercy.
Hear our prayer, O God.

That citizens everywhere may realize that care for their neighbor
consists of more than the mere giving of money,
let us pray to the God of mercy.
Hear our prayer, O God.

For the needy, that they may not have to remain despondent and alone,
let us pray to the God of mercy.
Hear our prayer, O God.

For all of us here that we may be honest enough to admit
what we are selfish about,
and what we can do to remedy our lack of love,
let us pray to the God of mercy.
Hear our prayer, O God.

For those who share Christ’s charity toward sinners,
let us pray to the God of mercy.
Hear our prayer, O God.

Merciful God, the ashes are our pledge to take up the cross of life.
We came from the earth and we will go back to it.
In the meantime, beginning these forty days,
we will try to live here and make it a better home for everybody.
Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

DECLARATION OF MERCY
Hear the good news of God’s reconciling love toward all, and believe:
through Christ God chose to reconcile the whole universe,
making peace through the shedding of Christ’s blood upon the cross –
to reconcile all things, whether on earth or in heaven, through Christ alone.

BENEDICTION
Holy God, through the discipline of these forty days,
make your spirit’s cleansing fire burn within us.
Lift us from the dying embers of our inattention.
Mark us with the sign of your holy passion.
Make us ready to respond to the call of Jesus Christ.
Amen.