Why ashes? On Ash Wednesday, our congregation practices the imposition of ashes. But why? The imposition of ashes can be a powerful, tactile reminder of both Law and Gospel in which worshipers of any age can take part. The words “dust you are, and to dust you shall return” are spoken as ashes are received on the forehead. These words remind us that as a result of sin and the Fall, death is a reality. Ashes also call to mind the practice in Scripture of wearing sackcloth and ashes as a sign of sorrow and repentance of sin. Typically, however, the ashes are marked in the shape of the cross, pointing us to the promise of forgiveness of sin through Jesus’ crucifixion for us. After worship, we will each eventually wash off the ashen cross. As we splash water on our foreheads, we remember our Baptism, where we were cleansed of sin through water and the Word. Whether literally marked with ashes or not, we all enter this penitential season of Lent praying that God Almighty would have mercy on us, forgive us all our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.
In keeping with the solemnity of this day, the people and the ministers assemble in silence.
The Opening Hymn is “O Lord, throughout These Forty Days“: (Those of you who are subscribers to my blog can see the YouTube videos of these hymns by clicking on the title of this blog.)
So that you can sing along, the words to this hymn are: 1) O Lord, throughout these forty days You prayed and kept the fast; inspire repentance for our sin and free us from our past. 2) You strove with Satan, and You won; Your faithfulness endured: lend us Your nerve, Your skill, and trust in God’s eternal Word. 3) Though parched and hungry, yet You prayed and fixed Your mind above: so teach us to deny ourselves that we may know God’s love. 4) Be with us through this season, Lord, and all our earthly days, that when the final Easter dawns, we join in heaven’s praise.
Following the Imposition of ashes, Confession and Absolution, Introit and Kyrie, we pray the Prayer of the Day: Almighty and everlasting God, You despise nothing You have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and contrite hearts that lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness we may receive from You full pardon and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
The Scriptures for Ash Wednesday are Joel 2:12-19; Psalm 51; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; and Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21.
The Hymn of the Day is “Savior, When In Dust to You.”
I should probably mention that throughout Lent, we SING the Lord’s Prayer for the same reason we veil the crosses: to call your attention to what we are highlighting. In the case of the Lord’s Prayer, we really want you to think about the meaning of the words of this more-than-tender-prayer. Consequently, we will sing the Lord’s Prayer during worship throughout Lent.
The Distribution Hymn is “Chief of Sinners”
The Recessional Hymn is “Glory Be to Jesus.”
Have a blessed Lent! Worship on Ash Wednesday helps start Lent right.