Creative bits of Liturgy for Ash Wednesday 2013

Ash and Palm Cross
Ash and Palm Cross

The Ash Wednesday service for the EDGY group (Eversley, Derby Green and Yateley) had a focus on how Lent might prompt us not just to give up things, but give them away. The preacher focused in part on our newly launched satellite of the Hart Food Bank under the umbrella of the Trussell Trust. To this end, it had been decided that we would depart from the lectionary readings and use instead Isaiah 58:1-9 and Matthew 25:31-46.

My task as the service leader was therefore to tie this theme together with the wider theme of penitence, and a looking forward to the victory of the cross at Easter, symbolised in the use of ash made by burning old palm crosses.

In doing so I used or slightly adapted the bulk of the liturgy from Common Worship’s Liturgy for Ash Wednesday but with the Liturgy of Penitence based on the Beatitudes from Common Worship’s Christian Initiation texts for Reconciliation and Restoration: Recovering Baptism (p242).

Several of our local congregations are used to less formal liturgy, so some things I adapted to subtly include the appropriate focus without (I hope) making the overall service feel too heavy. Here therefore are some of my prayerful links, with thanks for additional inspiration to the Digital Nun at iBenedictines, Malcolm Guite’s Sonnet for Ash Wednesday, and Jeremy Clines’s redubbed collect which I used part of.

Opening Prayer:

Holy God, holy and strong, holy and immortal, have mercy upon us
as we accept your invitation to rest this night in your presence, just as we are.
We do so, knowing that through his death on the cross,
Jesus Christ has already won for us the victory of life over death
which offers forgiveness for sin,
and recognising that we fail to keep his way of life and truth.
Take down this night,
any barriers to our understanding and expression of your love,
that we might go from this place into an observance of Lent
that proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord,
to the glory of his name.

Collect: (adapted from two!)

Creator God
you love all that you have made.
Your gift of life is visible all around.
We ask that, by your Spirit,
you would comfort the afflicted,
and unsettle the comfortable.

Holy God,
our lives are laid open before you:
rescue us from the chaos of sin
and through the death of your Son
bring us healing and make us whole.

Living God,
inspire us to be the change
you want to see in the world,
and particularly in this community
which you have called us
to make your home.

We ask these things
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Reflective Prayer before closing responses:

We have gathered together
under the promise of Christ’s victory on the cross.
As we journey towards that promise,
let us shine the light of Christ
into our hearts through our Lenten disciplines
and outward into the community he makes our home,
that his light will break forth like the dawn,
and his healing will quickly appear.
Then will we see God’s righteousness go before us,
and witness the glory of the Lord.
(based loosely on Isaiah 58:8-9)


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