Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday: here is the order for Ash Wednesday from The Book of Common Prayer. It is a time for confession of sin as we prepare ourselves for Good Friday and Easter, the days on which God removed sin and into which we live as we participate in Lent.

I encourage you to fast today, not to get something, but to participate in sinfulness of sin, to remind yourself of your own sin, and to enter into a season that reminds all over again of the good news of God’s gracious forgiveness. The idea of fasting as a response to something is from one of my books, Fasting: The Ancient Practices.

Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all
who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our
sins and acknowledging our wickedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect
remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the
Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Old Testament Joel 2:1-2, 12-17, orIsaiah 58:1-12

Psalm 103, or 103:8-14

Epistle 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Gospel Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

After the Sermon, all stand, and the Celebrant or Minister appointed
invites the people to the observance of a holy Lent, saying

Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s
passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a
season of penitence and fasting. This is season of Lent provided a time in which converts to
the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of
notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and
forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was
put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of
the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by
self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating
on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal
nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.

Silence is then kept for a time, all kneeling.

[[If ashes are to be imposed, the Celebrant says the following
prayer

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may
be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your
gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

The ashes are imposed with the following words

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

The following Psalm is then sung or said

Psalm 51 Miserere mei, Deus

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your /loving-kindness; *

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness *

and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, *

and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you only have I sinned *

and done what is evil in your sight.

5 And so you are justified when you speak *

and upright in your judgment

6 Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, *

a sinner from my mother’s womb.

7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me, *

and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

8 Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; *

wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

9 Make me hear of joy and gladness, *

that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10 Hide your face from my sins *

and blot out all my iniquities.

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God, *

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence *

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again *

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14 I shall teach your ways to the wicked, *

and sinners shall return to you.

15 Deliver me from death, O God, *

and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,

O God of my salvation.

16 Open my lips, O Lord, *

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

17 Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice; *

but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

18 The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; *

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Litany of Penitence

The Celebrant and People together, all kneeling

Most holy and merciful Father:

We confess to you and to one another,

and to the whole communion of saints

in heaven and on earth,

that we have sinned by our own fault

in thought, word, and deed;

by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

The Celebrant continues

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, Lord.

We have been deaf 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, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of
our lives,

We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,

We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,

We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and
work,

We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us,

We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need
and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,

Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice
and contempt toward those who differ from us,

Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come
after us,

Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;

Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,

That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,

Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

The Bishop, if present, or the Priest, stands and, facing the people,
says

Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desires not the death of sinners, but
rather that they may turn from their wickedness and live, has given power and commandment to
his ministers to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission
of their sins. He pardons and absolves all those who truly repent, and with sincere hearts believe
his holy Gospel.

Therefore we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that those things
may please him which we do on this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and
holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://mysticallimpet.blogspot.com Travis Greene

    This is as appropriate a place as any to post that I’m giving up recreational web-surfing for Lent. Which, sadly, includes Jesus Creed.
    I’ll see y’all after Easter.

  • Nora

    Thanks for posting this. I will not be able to make my church’s Ash Wednesday service tonight, so it was nice to read/pray through this as a next best way to start the Lenten Season.

  • http://catholicbibles.blogspot.com Timothy

    Thank you for the post. I really love the lectionary selection from 2 Corinthians. In particular, 2 Cor. 6:2 is truly perfect for this first day of Lent: “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” It begins!

  • Dana Ames

    Scot, your presentation on fasting at the NPC gave me much food for thought :)
    It’s been enriching my understanding of fasting in Orthodoxy; I find there are many connections.
    Looking forward to the book.
    Dana

  • Lori

    Thanks so much for your posting. Means so much to me as I cannot always get to my church service each Wed. “God Bless and have a great day!”

  • Linda

    This is very inspiring and i love it. I hope to observe lent in its entirety and to lead a fruitful and repentant life.

  • http://www.whateverisgood.blogspot.com Wes Ellis

    Scot,
    Thanks for this. Unfortunately I won’t be attending a traditional service tonight, so this will work as a devotional for me through the rest of my day.

  • Joseph

    A Blessing For Lent
    Merciful God, you called us forth from the dust of the earth;
    you claimed us for Christ in the waters of baptism.
    Look upon us as we enter these Forty Days bearing the mark of ashes,
    and bless our journey through the desert of Lent to the font of rebirth.
    May our fasting be hunger for justice;
    our alms, a making of peace;
    our prayer, the chant of humble and grateful hearts.
    All that we do and pray is in the name of Jesus.
    For in his cross you proclaim your love for ever and ever.
    (From Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers. Even though I’m not Catholic, I still find this very powerful.)


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