ASH WEDNESDAY SERVICE

17TH FEBRUARY 2021

OPENING SENTENCE OF SCRIPTURE

‘The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart you will not despise.’

Lord, have mercy

WELCOME

Brothers and sisters in Christ: since early days Christians have observed with great devotion the time of our Lord’s passion and resurrection. It became the custom of the Church to prepare for this by a season of penitence and fasting.

At first this season of Lent was observed by those who were preparing for baptism at Easter and by those who were to be restored to the Church’s fellowship from which they had been separated through sin. In course of time the Church came to recognise that, by careful keeping of these days, all Christians might take to heart the call to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel, and so grow in faith and in devotion to our Lord. I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Lord to observe a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and mediating on God’s holy word.

Let us pray for grace to keep Lent faithfully

COLLECT

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

HYMN

THE LITURGY OF PENITENCE

Let us now call to mind our sin and the infinite mercy of God.
Hear these commandments, which God has given to his people and take them to heart:

I am the Lord your God: you shall have no other Gods but me.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength.

You shall not make for yourself any idol.
God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth

You shall not dishonour the name of the Lord your God
You shall worship him with reverence and awe.

Remember the Lord’s day and keep it holy.
Christ is risen from the dead: set your mind on things that are above, not on things on earth.

Honour your Father and Mother
Live as servants, honour all people, love your brothers and sisters in Christ.

You shall not commit murder.
Be reconciled to your brother and sister and overcome evil with good.

You shall not commit adultery
Know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit

You shall not steal
Be honest in all that you do and care for those in need.

You shall not be a false witness
Let everyone speak the truth

You shall not covert anything that belongs to your neighbour.
Remember the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Love your neighbour as yourself, for love is the fulfilling of the law.

Lord have mercy on us and write these your laws in our hearts.

God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth
have mercy on us

God the Son, Redeemer of the world
have mercy on us.

God the Holy Spirit, Giver of life
have mercy on us.

Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, three persons in one God,
have mercy on us.

Father eternal, giver of light and grace,
We have sinned against you and our neighbour,
in what we have thought, in what we have said and done,
through ignorance, through weakness,
through our own deliberate fault.
We have wounded your love and marred your image in us.
We are sorry and ashamed and repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your son Jesus Christ,
who died for us,
forgive us all that is past;
and lead us out of darkness to walk as children of light. Amen.

Almighty God
who forgives all who truly repent,
have mercy upon you,
pardon and deliver you from all your sins,
confirm and strengthen you in all goodness
and keep you in life eternal
through Jesus Christ our Lord . Amen.

PRAYER

This year we cannot meet in the church for the imposition of ashes. So may this image or symbol remind us that from dust we are made and to dust we shall return.

LENTEN PROSE

sung by Billy Dewar Riddick

PRAYER

Lord, as we begin this Holy Season of Lent, grant us a change of heart that we might turn away from sin and follow your Son’s Gospel. By your grace, may our lives become more deeply rooted in prayer, self-sacrifice and a willingness to share. Let us walk with you this Lent as we face our own limitations and seek to be your presence in the world. Create in us clean hearts that we might know, love, and serve you better through our service of others. Amen.

PROCLAIMING & RECEIVING OF SCRIPTURE

JOEL 2 verses 12 & 13

Yet even now says the Lord
Return to me with all your heart
with fasting, weeping and mourning;
rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.

SILENCE

PSALM 51 A.Beagrie

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.

Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts ;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.
Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,

and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.
In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.

Then there will be righteous sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings to delight you;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

GRADUAL HYMN

GOSPEL READING

MATTHEW 6: 1-6, 16-21 read by Reverend Janice Aiton

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Matthew chapter 6 beginning at verse 1

Glory to Christ our Saviour

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. “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. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Concerning Prayer

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. But 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.]
When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious Gospel
Praise to Christ our Lord

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT

An Italian newspaper recently carried a story about a young couple in Milan who seemed particularly devoted in their worship. The priest at a cathedral there reported that the pair spent an hour or more on a regular basis sitting before a statue of the Virgin Mary. Naturally, he assumed they were praying.

Turns out, this young couple was recharging their cell phone. They had noticed a stray electric cable sticking out of the wall behind the statue of the Virgin Mary. Whenever their phone’s power supply dwindled, the young couple came to the church and re-charged it from the cable behind the Virgin Mary.

We talk about coming to church to “re-charge our batteries,” but this is ridiculous. What looked to the unobservant eye like an act of piety was actually a self-serving ploy to save money. This young couple was using the church for their own needs. And we’re shocked, shocked, I tell you–until we realize that we may be guilty of the same mistake.

In our Bible passage for today, Jesus asks us to examine our own motives for our seemingly pious acts. What’s our real reason for doing the things we do? The reason for doing the things we do is often self-interest motivated. What’s in it for me? How do I benefit from this? Human beings are naturally self-centred. This trait manifests itself early in life. Infants and toddlers expect, even demand, to be the centre of attention. In fact, someone has written an amusing list that they have titled the “Toddler Rules of Ownership”:

  1. If I like it, it’s mine.
  2. If it’s in my hands, it’s mine.
  3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
  4. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
  5. If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
  6. If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
  7. If it looks just like mine, it’s mine.
  8. If I think it’s mine, it’s mine.

Social commentators tell us that more and more people are judging laws, social policies, careers, and the like by this one question: What’s in it for me? As the world seems more complex and threatening, we are turning our focus inward. Fear causes us to focus on ourselves. Self-centredness also stems from a lack of love. First John 4: 18 reminds us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” Whatever the reason, no one can argue that much of our society chooses to “look out for number one.” And this attitude eventually spills over into our worship of God.

We want some return on our investment here! If we are going to pray, we want others to praise our eloquent speech. If we give money, we want a mention in the newspaper or a nice plaque in the entryway. If we fast, we want folks to point to us as a good example. What’s wrong with a little pat on the back now and then? Then Jesus challenges to a better lifestyle-a richer and more fulfilling one, a life that does not give in to the shallow temptations of the world: a life that realises that man does not live by bread alone and a life that Jesus refers to later in Matthew’s gospel about earthly treasures. “Do not store up treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

What’s he saying here? Jesus is telling us that it is possible to do all the right things for all the wrong reasons. He is telling us that if we strive for praise in this life, we will lose an infinitely greater reward in Heaven. He is challenging us to get real about our faith: are we self-centred or God-centred? Can we in this season of Lent confront Jesus’ suffering, humiliation, and death on our behalf and still remain self-centred?

Self-centredness was not something Jesus gave in to. Jesus said “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” In his darkest hour, Jesus wasn’t thinking about himself. He wasn’t asking, “What’s in it for me?” He had all the powers of heaven and earth at his disposal, and yet he laid them aside in order to fulfil his mission. Jesus knew what was in store for him- suffering, humiliation, torture and death. Yet he faced it all on our behalf. He faced it all selflessly. He wasn’t in it for himself but for God and others.

What about us and about how we face things—can we move beyond the mentality of what is it in it for me and instead look at the wider picture of God and neighbour, and seek quietly and humbly to store up treasures in heaven by our kind words, our humble acts of service, our reaching out to the lonely and the needy – serving others not for our sake but for God’s sake and in so doing storing up treasures in heaven that will last. Amen

PRAYERS

(Adapted from Prayers from New patterns of Worship)

In the power of the Spirit let us pray to the Father through Christ the Saviour of the world.

Hear us as we pray for your holy catholic church
Make us one, that the world may believe.

Grant that every member of the church
may truly and humble serve you
that the life of Christ may be revealed in us.

Strengthen all who minister in Christ’s name
give them the courage to proclaim your Gospel.

Inspire and lead those who hold authority
in the nations of the world
guide them in the ways of justice and peace.

Make us alive to the needs of our community
help us to share each other’s joys and burdens.

Look with kindness on our homes and families
grant that your love may grow in our hearts.

Deepen our compassion for all who suffer from sickness,
grief or trouble.
in your presence may they find their strength.

We remember those who have died
Father into your hands we commend them.

We praise you for all your saints
who have entered your eternal glory.
bring us to share in your heavenly kingdom. Amen

HYMN

BLESSING

May Christ give you grace to grow in holiness, to deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow him; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

Article written by

Every service held in St Johns involves the use of artistic expression spanning thousands of years of Church history. Some of the events we run however specifically seek to experiment with new forms of artistic expression and to embody the tradition we have received to express it in fresh and creative ways.

Examples of this have been using the whole building (rather than just the sanctuary) for worship, changing the seating arrangement and sit in a circle with the communion table at the center, collaboratively working on banners seeking out you tube clips and popular music and, well many more examples can be found on this page.