This year, with the pandemic still present and active in this region, we are observing Ash Wednesday remotely. What a weird and ridiculous, exhausting and painful, lonely and isolating year it’s been. This time last year, we had no or very little idea how soon and drastic our lives would change. The Ash Wednesday service would be one of our final meals and services together as we would be three Sunday services and one potluck away from a rapid transition to worshipping remotely. (If you need time to allow that to sink it, it’s ok to sit with it for a while, I know I did).
While we gather over zoom tonight, we’ll be reflecting on the messiness of life and ashes…the impact that the messiness of sin in our lives has for us and even the lives of the people around us.
Hopefully, the ashes on the burlap square you received have remained that you’ll be able to smudge some on your forehead during the service. And you if you aren’t able to join us on zoom tonight, you are welcome to read Psalm 51 and carry it with you as you
The Psalmist in Psalm 51 writes,
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.
You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
then you will delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
If you are fortunate enough to have someone in the house with you, you might consider taking turns to place the ashes on the other persons forehead as you say the words Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return, and at Fair Street, we usually add the assurance and reminder that in our journey we do not journey alone, that God loves us and journey’s with us. There is something about another person looking into our eyes, seeing us and our vulnerability as we are reminded of our brokenness.
You also have the choice to simply place some ashes on your forehead and speak the words out loud for you to hear.
Remember that as you journey through your day and this Lenten journey that you not journey alone, that the covenant promise of God’s love and presence journey with you, and the community – the body of Christ that gathers at Fair Street also journey with you in these days.
Be sure to check back here tonight for some more reflections on Ash Wednesday and the meaning that we be able to live into over the next 40 days of Lent.
Tonight, we’ll be reflecting on the messiness of Lent and our lives … I will share how I plan to journey through this season of Lent.
May the peace of Christ be with you today and always …