Ash Wednesday Prayer Service

Today has been great. We had a really great meeting with the Camas-Washougal Homelessness Task Force this afternoon. A visitor from New Life Friends Church came and talked to us about a variety of ministries they are doing and some of the nuts and bolts of how to go about helping those in our community. I also planned our Ash Wednesday service, which I think was the first one (ever?) at Camas Friends (though it certainly wasn’t new for all people). I was really looking forward to hosting the worship time and introducing our church to Ash Wednesday because it has played a meaningful role in my own spirituality. The service was simple, with some prayers, scripture reading by different folks, silence, and of course ashes. Instead of marking people’s foreheads with the ashes I decided to have the ashes in a bowl and invited people to run their fingers through them that way while I said “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

I know some of you will be interested to see what we did so I thought I’d post the service here:

Ash Wednesday Camas Friends Church February 17, 2010

Gathering Prayer (Sing the Journey):

God of love,
light a flame of love in our hearts to you,
a flame of love to our families and friends,
a flame of love to our neighbors,
a flame of love to our enemies.

Light a flame of love in our hearts to all,
from the lowliest thing that lives,
to the Name that is highest of all.

Let this flame of love enlighten our eyes this lenten season,
help us to have eyes to see, and ears to hear you in the world around us.

May we slow our lives down so that we can listen and respond to the Light of Christ within us.
AMEN

A Reading: Psalm 51:1-17

Reader A) 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.

Reader B) 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.

Reader C) 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.”

Why Ash Wednesday? Wess – I gave a little background to Ash Wednesday, framed it in terms of three movements: prayer, self-denial (or what I said was spiritual detox) and almsgiving. Then I talked about taking on a practice, discipline, or rhythm. Rather than simply giving up the obligatory vice, take on a practice that will help you form yourself in a particular way. I also discusses some of the themes of Lent, mortality, vulnerability, and forgiveness.

A Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10

“So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he 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! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
Query and Open Worship

Query: Consider one practice (discipline, a rhythm or rule of life) you can participate in during the Lenten season to help grow in the discipline of being fully awake, being prepared for Christ?

Distribution of Ashes: Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Be fully awake, listening and responding to the Light of Christ.

Closing Prayer: Ashes to the Living Fount by St. Flavian (p.59 Sing the Story)

From ashes to the living fount your church must journey,
Lord, baptized in grace, in grace renewed by your most holy word.

Through fasting, praying, and charity your voice speaks deep within,
returning us to ways of truth and turning us from sin.

From desert to the mountaintop in Christ our way we see,
so, tempered by temptation’s might we might transfigured be.

From ashes to the living fount, your church must journey still,
through cross and tomb to Easter joy, in Spirit-fire fulfilled.

Resources:

Here’s a link to view this as it’s own document if you’d like.

I also handed out the Lenten prayer guide the Evergreen community in Portland put out.

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

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