ORDER OF SERVICE FOR WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2021

ASH WEDNESDAY

Due to copyright limitations, we are unable to print the words to the songs.  However, our musicians have chosen music to fit the scriptures.  We invite you to look up the words in your worship book and ponder them.  If you do not have a worship book, ponder the words to one of your favourite hymns and listen for God’s voice. Those who have internet may find the songs on YouTube.

 

BEFORE WE WORSHIP, WE REFLECT…

     As the season of Lent begins each year, God’s people are invited to take on three great disciplines: prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. You hear the invitation to prayer, fasting, and alms-giving in the reading from Joel. Jesus’ words in the gospel remind us that our acts of faithfulness always come as a response to God’s gifts. Remembering this gives a note of humility to all we do. Piety is not something to brag about. Piety is not something to be proud of. Piety is but acknowledgment of the One who first gave us everything.

     On Ash Wednesday we begin our forty-day journey toward Easter with a day of fasting and repentance. Marking our foreheads with ashes, we acknowledge that we die and return to the earth. At the same time, the ash traces the life-giving cross indelibly marked on our foreheads at baptism. While we journey through Lent to return to God, we have already been reconciled to God through Christ. We humbly pray for God to make our hearts clean while we rejoice that “now is the day of salvation.” Returning to our baptismal call, we more intentionally bear the fruits of mercy and justice in the world.

 

CONFESSION AND FORGIVENESS

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, the keeper of the covenant, the source of steadfast love, our rock and our redeemer.

Amen.

God hears us when we cry, and draws us close in Jesus Christ. Let us return to the One who is full of compassion.

Fountain of living water, pour out your mercy over us.  Our sin is heavy, and we long to be free.

Rebuild what we have ruined and mend what we have torn.  Wash us in your cleansing flood.  Make us alive in the Spirit to follow in the way of Jesus, as healers and restorers of the world you so love.  Amen.

Beloved, God’s word never fails.  The promise rests on grace:  by the saving love of Jesus Christ, the wisdom and power of God, your sins are ☩ forgiven, and God remembers them no more.  Journey in the way of Jesus.

Amen.

 

GATHERING SONG   WOV 660  I Want Jesus To Walk With Me

CENTERING PRAYER

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.  Amen.

 

 

 

Readings and Psalm

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 declares that God is gracious 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 darkness 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 God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in                                                                        steadfast love, and relents from punishing.
14Who knows whether God will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind the Lord, 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?’ ”

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 ever 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 purer 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 spirit within me.
11Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit. R
13Let me teach your ways to offenders, and sinners shall be restored to you.
14Rescue me from bloodshed, O God of my salvation,
  and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness.
15O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim 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 God 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 God 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.”

 

SERMON

Ash Wednesday begins the 40-day journey of Lent with a gathering of the community to confess our sins, to remind ourselves of our mortality and frailty, and to hear the call to repentance or turning around from our sinful ways.

It is a day for telling the hard truth about who we, deep down, really are. The themes of confession of sin and seeking repentance are often understood as quite personal and individual. Certainly, that is one dimension of Ash Wednesday.  However, this reading from Joel lifts our eyes as well to the broader communal, national and even global dimensions of our collective sin as congregations, communities, nations, and the world. A reminder that the word “sin” is here understood as a broken relationship with God, whatever form that takes in a person, congregation or community’s life.  

The book of Joel begins with an urgent call to pass on the story of the unprecedented disaster that has come upon the land so that the story and its lessons can be remembered from generation to generation. The disaster is an incredible swarm of locusts that have invaded the land and stripped it bare of all vegetation – vineyards, orchards, pasture lands – so that food is scarce, animals are suffering, and no grain is available to even make offerings to God at the temple 

The community discerns that the disaster is of such severity that it is a sign that the judgment of the day of the LORD is coming soon, and it will bring even greater destruction than what they have endured so far.  As a result, the community gathers for fasting and prayer.  Who knows?  Perhaps the LORD will be merciful and spare us!  That is the hope but there is no guarantee. 

It is important to note that no specific charge is laid against the people for which they need to repent. More importantly, they are not blamed for the catastrophe they have just experienced. Unlike some contemporary evangelists, the prophet does not blame the people for their own suffering, and does not claim that natural catastrophes are divine punishment. While turning to God, particularly turning back to God, often signals repentance, it may be understood here as rededication.

Before we turn to this important concept, the day of YHWH, we should note the opening line: “Blow the trumpet in Zion”.  This is a powerful image. The shofar (trumpet, ram’s horn) has long functioned as a warning for Israel. The shofar blast was sounded by sentries to warn the people of an imminent enemy invasion. What is remarkable about the use of the shofar here is the identity of Israel’s foe, for the One who is coming as enemy in judgment is Lord YHWH!

Let that sink in for a moment. The alarm that is sounded on God’s holy mountain is announcing the arrival of YHWH, Lord of the covenant, coming to judge God’s covenant partner. This is the announcement of the Day of the LORD. The coming of God is wonderful, if God is coming. But when God comes in judgment – that day is one of trembling, gloom, clouds – even thick darkness.

This is a hard truth in our world of cheap grace and shallow discipleship. Yet judgment is the work of God – and judgment begins with the people of God. The world, and people’s lives – including our own, if we are brutally honest – are not in tip top shape. Just reading the headlines of the news gives us a gauge as to the health of this planet.  Joel gives us the hope that in our turning back to God, perhaps God’s own mind will be changed in our favor.

The basis of this amazing, and often misunderstood, idea of God changing God’s mind, is rooted in the unchanging character of God.  We are invited and able to repent and turn to God precisely because of the nature of God. It is because God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing…” God is love, God’s every move, attitude, and decision toward us is rooted in God’s character. Here lies one of the most powerful statements of the character of God in all Scripture.

Joel extends the invitation to return to the LORD with “fasting, weeping, and mourning.” Once again, we hear the command to blow the trumpet – but no longer as a warning of enemy invasion. Instead, the shofar introduces a solemn communal fast in which all of God’s people turn to God and cry out in genuine repentance. Throughout the reading from Joel the focus is not on outward actions but inward attitudes of humility and obedience; rend your hearts, not your garments. How appropriate that this text is assigned to lead us into the season of Lent – a season of fasting, prayer, and repentance, in which God’s people are instructed to whole-heartedly seek the Lord.

The journey begins…

SONG  WOV 734  Softly and Tenderly

INVITATION TO LENT

Friends in Christ, today with the whole church we enter the time of remembering Jesus’ passover from death to life, and our life in Christ is renewed.

We begin this holy season by acknowledging our need for repentance and for God’s mercy. We are created to experience joy in communion with God, to love one another, and to live in harmony with creation. But our sinful rebellion separates us from God, our neighbors, and creation, so that we do not enjoy the life our creator intended.

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 to the great Three Days of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

IMPOSITION OF ASHES

If you so choose, burn a piece of paper and use the ashes to mark the sign of the cross on your forehead.  Otherwise, just make the sign of the cross with your finger.

Almighty God, you have 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.

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

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, our Savior,

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

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.

Prayers of Intercession

Relying on the promises of God, we pray boldly for the church, the world, and all in need.

O God, you call your church to be ministers of reconciliation throughout the world. Inspire your church in its proclamation of the gospel and guide its ministries to build up the body of Christ. Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

O God, you created the earth and all its inhabitants and you declared that it is good. Protect mountains and valleys, animals and plants, and direct us to be good stewards of all you have made. Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

O God, you desire peace. Direct governments and leaders to work for the well-being of all people and raise up advocates to speak and serve on behalf of the downtrodden. Lord, in your mercy.

hear our prayer.

O God, you are our hope in the midst of despair, our help in the midst of sorrow, and our consolation in the midst of affliction. Grant comfort to all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit especially Glenda Funk and family; David Anderson; Mike Froese, Brooke Alexiuk, Tracy Skoglund, Carolyn, Douglas, Debbie, Dwayne; Nicole; Sandy Lange, Matthew Grossman, Gordon Fulford, Jennifer & family; Lorraine & Walter Pokrant; Evelyn Watt; for all those infected with the corona virus, or whose loved ones have died because of it; that God console all who suffer and support caregivers who attend to all in need. Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

O God, you are love, and you call us to love one another. Accompany with your grace those journeying toward baptism and call us all to repentance as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection. Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

O God, you are our life and our salvation. We give you thanks for the righteous who have died in faith. Inspire us by their example to proclaim your steadfast love. Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

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, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Amen.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

BENEDICTION

You are what God made you to be:  created in Christ Jesus for good works, chosen as holy and beloved, freed to serve your neighbor.

God bless you ☩ that you may be a blessing, in the name of the holy and life-giving Trinity.

Amen.

SENDING SONG  MV 79  Spirit, Open My Heart

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